If you stay current on the latest and greatest wellness trends, you’ve probably noticed a lot of buzz surrounding the importance of a healthy gut- specifically how important it is to be taking care of our gut for a healthy mind and body. Probiotics and prebiotics are trending hotter than Timothee Chalamet these days. But… why?
When it comes to dealing with your gut issues, it can feel like a really confusing million-piece puzzle (“like, is it my diet, lack of sleep, or stress levels that’s making me like this??” However, when it comes to dealing with your gut microbiome, there might be one treatment that you haven’t considered yet: CBD.
In this article, we’re diving into how CBD can help improve and maintain your gut health, and outline some of the additional ways that you can improve your gut microbiome.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
First of all let us explain what your gut microbiome is:
Our bodies contain trillions (yeah, that’s not a typo!) of different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Of the approximately 38,000,000,000,000 microorganisms in our bodies (that’s 38 trillion, if you were confused by all the zeros), and the majority are found in our gut- there are about tens of trillions of these little guys in our gut, alone!
This vast, microscopic ecosystem is collectively referred to as the gut microbiome.
Over the course of millions of years, our bodies have evolved to live, and thrive, in tandem with these microbiomes. During this evolution, microbes have come to play a very, very important role in the health and wellness of the human body.
Our gut microbiome affects things like our immune system, genetics, weight, mental health and emotions. Basically, our gut microbiome helps define who we are, and how our bodies function- (or don’t, as the case may be) if you’re suffering from an unhealthy gut.
While the gut is commonly referred to as our “second brain”, in some circles it’s actually considered our first brain, since it’s far more ancient than the advanced parts of the human brain, and its influences on the rest of the body are so incredibly profound.
As it turns out, our gut and brain actually communicate with each other- mostly via the crucial highway of the vagus nerve, but also via the body’s endocannabinoid system (or ECS). If you’re unfamiliar with the ECS, head over to this blog post to learn more about the Endocannabinoid system.
The Connection Between the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) & the Gut Microbiome
Scientists and researchers are realizing that there is a crucial link between the Endocannaibinoid system and our gut microbiome.
In the late 80s, it was discovered that there are cannabinoid receptors- CB1 and CB2- in every organ system of the human body. Not long after, they discovered that our bodies naturally produce our own cannabis-like compounds (aka endocannabinoids) and enzymes that interact with them.
If you combine all these elements together, you get the Endocannabinoid System- a complex system that is just as important as our nervous or digestive system.
Our ECS can help us respond to stress by modulating endocrine function, regulating “fight or flight”, and supporting a healthy inflammation/immune response. Given that our gut health seems to be interconnected with many, many other systems in our body, it makes sense that the ECS can affect our gut microbiome as well.
Studies show that microorganisms in the gut can control levels of endocannabinoids by influencing different parts of the endocannabinoid system (including the CB1 receptor) and the enzymes that breakdown AEA and 2AG.
Changes in the gut microbiome via high-fat diets, prebiotics, probiotics and antibiotics can also alter the endocannabinoid system in various ways- for example, by altering endocannabinoid levels.
It’s apparent that the gut microbiome and the endocannabinoid system are linked in some way, though more research needs to be done to figure out exactly how- and studies are already underway to the importance of this symbiosis.
What Are the Signs of an Unhealthy Gut Microbiome?
Unfortunately, there are many aspects of our daily lives (especially in today’s society) that can contribute to an unhealthy gut microbiome. High stress levels, too-little or poor quality sleep, diets high in processed or sugary foods, and taking antibiotics- these can all throw our gut microbiome into a complete and total funk. It’s a delicate system.
When there is discord it can negatively impact other aspects of our health. An unbalanced, unhealthy gut can manifest itself in a variety of different ways.
Here are some of the most common signs, according to Healthline:
- Stomach issues: nausea, gas, diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux and constipation are all signs of gut imbalance.
- Unintentional weight gain/weight loss: An unhealthy gut microbiome will have trouble with normal processes- like the absorption of nutrients and calories- leading to unintentional (and seemingly random) weight fluctuations. Too much bacteria can lead to weight loss, while too little may lead to weight gain.
- Sleep issues or chronic fatigue: A large amount of serotonin production comes from the gut, which is the hormone responsible for helping us fall, and stay asleep. When there is an imbalance, it provides the perfect breeding-grounds for constant fatigue and tiredness.
- Skin breakouts/irritation: Research has found that acne isn’t so much a condition of the skin, but really more a condition of our gut. Many doctors and dermatologists often miss the fact that skin issues are often caused by an overactive immune system- usually the consequence of gut imbalance.
- Food sensitivities/intolerances: This happens when your digestive system has trouble digesting certain foods. Research suggests that this may be due to a lack of “good” bacteria in the gut.
If you’re experiencing any of these (especially a combination of these symptoms) it might be time to call your doctor or naturopathic practitioner to help get your gut back on the right track.
The practice of using cannabis and hemp in the holistic wellness movement couldn’t have come at a better time. As more and more Americans are struggling with gut imbalance as the result of their stressful lifestyles, we need a better solution.
So, millions of patients are turning to CBD to aid their microbiome and improve their gut health.
Can CBD Improve Gut Health?
There are many ways in which CBD shows promise in promoting gut health. Whatever gut issues you may be facing, it’s highly likely that one of your biggest problems is inflammation.
When one of your bodily systems becomes inflamed, it can lead to a range of complications. Here’s where cannabis comes in; CBD has been proven to help reduce inflammation. Researchers have noted that there is significant interaction between the body’s immune system and gut bacteria, and that a huge portion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract.
With most types of GI imbalance, the immune response goes into “overdrive” which is one of the reasons that inflammation is so common in gut imbalance. The body attacks what it believes to be “invaders”, but there are some “good guys” in there as well- sending the whole GI system into a frenzy.
CBD has been shown to suppress some immunological endpoints in a way that’s beneficial- basically, it may regulate immune response to tamp down a hyperactive immune system. Not only does that provide one more way to reduce inflammation, but it can also improve immune-related processes like handling toxins and allergens.
By making a significant difference in how these processes are handled, particularly in the gut, CBD may help relieve the symptoms of conditions that are affecting our digestive system.
In addition to potentially lowering inflammation and improving immune response, CBD oil may play a role in helping those with gut problems to deal with the emotional aspect as well.
Regulating anxiety, stress, and anxiety/depression is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to a healthier gut; the microbiome is constantly sending messages to the brain, and vice versa. Stress and other psychological factors can affect the GI tract, making existing inflammation worse, and can even make you more prone to infection and disease.
Although more research is needed into the effects of CBD on anxiety and the ramifications that it has where gut health is concerned- preliminary evidence is promising, and many people in the healthcare field have strong anecdotal basis for recommending CBD to their patients suffering from gut issues.
Additional Tips to Improve ECS Balance and Gut Microbiome Health
Lower Stress Levels for a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Stress is hard on your entire body- but especially on your gut. Try to make it a habit of lowering your stress daily. Some simple ways that you can do this might be by hiking or walking, getting a massage or manicure, spending time with friends or family, limiting caffeine intake, practicing yoga, praying, or meditating.
Also, consider using CBD for your stress and anxiety. One study stated that “existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely.”
If you’re looking for some more ideas, here are some tips from Rosebud’s founder on managing stress.
Eat Cultured or Fermented Foods for Gut Health
Make sure to add cultured or fermented foods to your daily diet (think kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, beets, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, miso…) or take a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement daily. Cultured foods are jam-packed with prebiotics and probiotics that help aid digestion and nutrient absorption. Eating fermented foods can also boost the number of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, found in your gut.
Get Enough Sleep to Improve Your Microbiome
Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality rest, can have serious implications for your gut health- which just ends up creating more sleep issues as a result. Try to prioritize getting at least 7- 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If you’re having trouble sleeping naturally, CBD may be able to help. With it’s proven ability to reduce anxiety and pain, the answer may be as simple as adding CBD to your bedtime routine for a healthy night of zzzz’s.
Stay Hydrated for a Healthy Gut
Drinking the daily recommended amount of water has been shown to have far-reaching benefits- specifically for its ability to balance the good bacteria living in our gut. Staying hydrated is an easy, practical way of promoting a healthy gut.
Love Your Gut
One of the best, naturally-derived methods of improving your gut health is by incorporating CBD into your wellness routine.
If you’re new to the CBD scene, here are a few articles that will help you get started on your road to better health!