Ever had a gut feeling or felt butterflies in your stomach? That was probably your guts way of telling you something. Also referred to as your gastrointestinal system or your digestive tract, the gut is a highly sophisticated system that spans across 12 major parts of your body, and, in addition to enabling necessary digestive functioning, it also has massive repercussions on our mental health, immune system, and heart health.
Bacterial cells outnumber human cells in and on our bodies by a whopping 10 to 1, and the main reason why the gut has such a massive influence on our mental and physical health is that most of these cells are located in a region called the gut microbiome. For those who skipped biology class, microbiomes are collections of microbes that exist throughout our body, but the gut microbiome is particularly significant because it holds the highest concentration of bacteria in or on the body. Microbiome research has exploded in recent years, and these microscopically tiny critters are now being recognised for playing an intricate role in many of our bodily processes and our overall health. These bacterial cells play critical roles in our body, and the balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria can determine the difference between good and bad health.
So, with this in mind, it’s no surprise that keeping your gut in check is the key to unlocking a healthy body and mind, CBD has been proven to dramatically improve gut health because of the beneficial relationship between the digestive and endocannabinoid systems. So, in this article, we’re going to be looking at the different functions of the gut and its special relationship between the endocannabinoid system, to explore how CBD and other botanical extracts can improve digestive function and lead to a more balanced and healthier self.
What role does the gut play?
The gut’s primary function is to break down food matter so nutrients can be more effectively absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered throughout the body, and since we need these nutrients to survive and prosper, this process is pretty integral to our overall wellbeing. When the gut is in a poor condition and is not able to function in this way it can lead to common digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain, or even issues with your sleep like insomnia.
Aside from this key function, the gut is also responsible for maintaining a delicate balancing act between healthy and pathogenic types of bacteria, as the beneficial types of bacteria can multiply when threatened by more harmful types. When this is achieved successfully, the dangerous bacteria are kept in check, an equilibrium is achieved, and conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis are less likely to occur. Additionally, the interactions between the brain and the gut, dubbed the ‘gut-brain axis’, allows the brain to influence intestinal activities and, reciprocally, means the gut can also massively influence mental activity like cognition and our mood.
The endocannabinoid system and the gut
Discovered in the late 1980s, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system comprised of endocannabinoids, CB1 and CB2 receptors, and enzymes. These receptors are present throughout every organ on the body including areas such as the immune system, the central nervous system, and of course, the digestive system. When CBD is consumed, it helps the endocannabinoid system to work more effectively and this promotes a variety of beneficial processes in the gut. These beneficial processes include the lowering of inflammation and the regulating of motility, which refers to the stretching of muscles that control the movement of food through the digestive tract.
The different ways CBD improves gut health
Improving general digestive function
A host of CB1 and CB2 receptors are actually located throughout the gut, the ECS actively helps to increase the efficiency of gastrointestinal function. Cannabinoids like CBD help to reduce the bloating of the gut or any pain that is being felt in the region by lowering levels of inflammation as the ECS is understood to safeguard against inflammatory damage, and it’s mechanisms are furthered when stimulated by cannabinoids.
CBD is also effective at improving the general comfort of the gut by reducing symptoms of nausea or heartburn that can be caused by slow digestion, or disproportionately high levels of stomach acid. CBD acts in this way by helping the ECS to effectively regulate motility in the gastrointestinal tract. With the help of CBD, the overstimulation of CB1 receptors is lowered, and this decreases the release of the chemical acetylcholine (ACH), which in turn, lowers muscle contractions and improves gastrointestinal flexibility which leads to a smoother and more efficiently functioning gut.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a long term digestive condition that can cause bouts of cramping, bloating and diarrhoea. By influencing similar mechanisms that allow CBD to improve general digestive function in regulating motility and lowering inflammation, CBD is also able to improve the symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS.
Because of CBD’s ability to lower inflammation, it helps it to counteract the pain and swelling that can often be synonymous with IBS, helping to soothe the symptoms and relax the gastrointestinal area. Also, because CBD has been shown to influence the neuro-immune axis, the pathway between the nervous and immune system, the cannabinoid can improve the immune response without increasing inflammation, which encourages the body to fight off the symptoms of IBS by itself.
Lowering risks of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
CBD has also been understood to lower the risks of Crohn’s disease, which is a condition that affects the lining of the digestive tract, leading to poor nutritional intake and in some cases diarrhoea, as well as ulcerative colitis, which is a long term condition where the rectum and colon become inflamed. The chief way that CBD can improve the symptoms of these conditions is through regulating inflammation of the digestive system, and this is achieved by the cannabinoid increasing the stimulation of CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are responsible for regulating inflammation levels of the gut.
CBD also lowers inflammation of the gut by making the ‘capsaicin receptor’, which is responsible for inducing inflammation of the mucous membranes within the gut, less sensitive and therefore less prone to triggering inflammation. These processes subsequently lower the inflammation in the brain and the blood-brain barrier, and this increases the propensity for the body to absorb vitamins while slowing down the digestive process and regulating irregular stool. This improves the nutritional intake and decreases symptoms of diarrhoea for those suffering from Crohn’s disease, and it also reduces the inflammation of the rectum and colon that is associated with ulcerative colitis.
Alleviating symptoms of a ‘Leaky gut’
Leaky gut is an issue associated with many autoimmune or chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome, but it can also be caused by a poor diet or chronic stress. Its symptoms can include poor immunity, chronic diarrhoea and bloating, and nutritional deficiencies.
CBD has been understood to help the condition of leaky gut because it can maintain gut integrity by modulating the expression of tight junctions, which in simpler terms means the lining of the gut can be strengthened, keeping out harmful bacteria and pathogens that worsen the condition of leaky gut. In addition to this, because of CBD’s and other phytocannabinoid’s ability to promote healthy inflammatory responses, this response can also be very effective in healing a leaky gut.
Decreasing anxiety and elevating mood
Because of the gut and the brain’s interdependent relationship, the healthy function of each organ is often understood to affect the other. For instance, as this Harvard study has shown, stress and other psychological impacts can greatly affect the function of the gastrointestinal tract, and anxiety has also been shown to increase alongside poor gut functioning, so this interplay can often form the start of a vicious cycle of poor mental and gastrointestinal health. This link is widely understood to be due to the vagus nerve that runs between the brain and the gut, as the more successful this nerve is at relaying information back and forth between these two areas, the more effective gut probiotics are at reducing levels of anxiety and improving general mental health symptoms.
Therefore, because of CBD’s ability to stimulate this crucial vagus nerve and the cannabinoid’s indirect effect in balancing out the distribution of healthy and bad bacteria, it may stand as a useful tool for interrupting this negative feedback loop between the gut and the mind.
How the use of botanicals can further improve your gut health
Okay, you’ve probably got the picture by now, CBD can do a lot of great things for your gut health. But cannabidiol isn’t only the beneficial botanical extract out there, in fact, there’s a lot of natural allies that can help you balance out the good and bad bacteria in your gut and promote healthy and regular digestive function, and lots of them also prove to be particularly effective when used alongside CBD.
Many botanical herbs like ginger, turmeric, peppermint, horehound, green tea and dandelion root, are very effective in naturally lowering inflammation in the gut which can lower the chances of someone developing gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS. The presence of these botanical herbs is also great at fighting off invading pathogens which reduce our chances of getting ill, as well as generally enabling smooth digestion so more nutrients can be absorbed into our bloodstream.
Certain prebiotic botanicals, such as dandelion greens, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are especially useful when combined with CBD because of their ability to increase the stimulation of CB2 receptors in the parts of the ECS in the gut. This compounds the benefits that CBD can have on the area of the endocannabinoid system located in the gut, and this subsequently improves the health of the gut as well as lowering anxiety in the mind.
How can I boost my gut health with CBD and botanicals?
If we’ve successfully convinced you that CBD and other botanicals hold the key to improving your gut health, you’re probably wondering about where is best to get your fix - and luckily, you don’t need to look any further. Here at Botanic Lab, we sell a range of botanically based products that are designed to give a fresh new approach to looking after your physical and mental wellbeing.
We sell 100% natural, broad-spectrum CBD oil which is perfect if you’re looking to take cannabinoid products for medical reasons like looking after the healthy functioning of your gut. Our Take Five CBD oil is particularly effective when ingested sublingually because it has the highest rates of bioavailability and takes effect much faster than other methods.
We also sell a selection of mouth-watering botanically infused drinks that harness traditional ingredients that have been aiding the health of humans for centuries. Our drinks include a range of beneficial botanicals like green-tea and cannabidiol that in addition to tasting deliciously refreshing, also encompass a variety of properties that help to look after the crucial functioning of your gut.