With the rise of probiotics and fermented foods, you’ve probably overheard how important it is to maintain a healthy gut for your mental and physical wellness. It’s no longer uncommon to see someone making homemade kombucha or adding a side of kimchi to their dinner to “feed their microbiome.” But what does this mean, and why is it so important?
Our gastrointestinal (GI) system does much more than digest and can have a huge impact on our energy, mood, sleep, digestion, metabolism, inflammation, and immunity. When this system is unbalanced, it can negatively influence these other areas as well – causing you to feel fatigued, irritable, and just “off” in general. Here we explore the mechanisms by which cannabidiol (CBD) works with our GI system and the results we can expect to benefit from.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Your gut microbiome is a complex little community that encompasses the majority of the 38 trillion microbes living within you. Though this may sound unsettling, these friendly microorganisms work hard to:
- Break down and help us absorb vital nutrients that our bodies cannot digest alone
- Produce essential vitamins and metabolites that we need for function
- Trains your immune system to recognize foreign microbes and keep pathogens and “bad” bacteria at bay
- Degrade compounds that the body doesn’t need nor want
With so many functions, your microbiome has an immense impact on your body beyond just digestion. In fact, most of our serotonin (our happy chemical) is supplied by the bacteria in our gut – with only 5% being made in the brain! Discoveries like this made us realize that our gut microbiome balance and composition can affect areas we’ve never even thought of – such as our mental health, metabolism, and chronic disease.
Mind-Body Connection: the GBA and ECS
We’re more connected to our gut than we think. Lined with over 100 million neurons and with 50+ different pathways connecting it to our brain, the two are in constant communication with via the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA) and is considered a brain itself – often called our ‘second brain.’
Our endocannabinoid system (ECS) also plays several key roles in our gut health and digestion. It notably helps stimulate gut mobility and regulate inflammation often associated with conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The ECS also sustains a complex relationship with our gut microbiota, as these ‘friendly’ microbes release endocannabinoids such as anandamide (known as the ‘bliss molecule’) and 2-AG which, in turn, supports regulatory function of our ECS.
Researchers are now finding that our ECS receptors are highly concentrated in both our gut and brain, bridging communication and balance within the two systems. We can often feel this connection when we get butterflies or stomach pain in nerve-racking situations. This connection enables both to maintain communication with each other and work together to regulate our homeostasis.
CBD for Gut Health
With so many connections between the gut, your ECS, and your brain, it’s no surprise that supporting our systems with phytocannabinoids like CBD from hemp is showing promising results for those experiencing digestive, inflammatory, and even mental concerns.
If you’re new to CBD, this small molecule is a phytocannabinoid derived from hemp plants. Much like our own endocannabinoids, CBD works with our ECS to regulate homeostasis in our biological pathways such as sleep, pain perception, mood, and more. CBD is mainly used for its potent anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and mood-stabilizing capabilities.
As inflammation is a key-factor in many gut-related disorders, it’s no surprise that CBD may help alleviate both the associated chronic pain and root cause of conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Moreover, the ECS’s close relationship with our microbiota allows CBD to help population control of harmful bacteria and maintains the ideal pH in these organs for our healthy bacteria to thrive. By optimizing our microbiome, these microbes can function at their best to help us digest key nutrients, discard unwanted substances, and keep a regular flow of neurotransmitters essential to our happiness, motivation, and productivity.
These are exciting times as we learn more about the ECS-gut connection and the many ways we’re able to support these systems when out of balance. By nurturing our gut and supporting our ECS together, we’re able to see promising results with natural solutions such as CBD for whole-body wellness.