What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that’s triggered when sufferers eat gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When the body of an individual with celiac disease detects gluten in their digestive tract, it results in damage to the villi, small fingerlike projections in the lining of the small intestine. When the villi become damaged, the absorption of key nutrients is limited. This can lead to weight loss and other nutrient deficiency-related problems.
The symptoms of celiac disease include stomach pain, problems with digestion, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, weight loss and bloating. Though you can control the symptoms by avoiding gluten, celiac patients can still experience flare-ups when their food is cross-contaminated with gluten-containing foods. This can happen more often than you think—at restaurants, your friends’ homes and so on.
How Can Cannabis Help Celiac Disease Sufferers?
A 2013 study by the U.S. National Institute of Health found that cannabis may help treat celiac disease by activating the endocannabinoid system in the body. The research was conducted by the University of Teramo in Italy, and it looked at the expression of cannabinoid receptors in the body by observing their transcriptional and transitional levels in the duodenal mucosa, the lining of the portion of the small intestine that leads to the stomach.
Researchers looked at these levels in untreated celiac patients, celiac patients who had been gluten-free for 12 months, and a control group of patients without celiac disease. The study found that cannabis has a high therapeutic potential for targeting the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the stomach, showing that cannabis can have a direct effect on the overall well-being of the intestinal tract, rather than just help with general pain relief for celiac patients.
Cannabis Provides Symptom Relief for Folks With Celiac Disease
A fair amount of anecdotal evidence is available to support the findings of the University of Teramo study. Cannabis has a long history of being used to treat gastrointestinal disorders because it can act as an anti-emetic and an analgesic. Medical marijuana can help decrease nausea, promote appetite and ease abdominal cramping, all of which are common symptoms of celiac sufferers when they encounter gluten.
Researchers reported that for patients “who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad spectrum relief not found in any other single medication.” Cannabis can work on the endocannabinoid receptors found in the stomach lining to ease pain and reduce inflammation in patients with celiac disease.
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