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How Cannabis Helps with Diabetes - Article From TheDiabetesCouncil.com

Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System:   

One unique factor that separates Cannabis from other illegal drugs is that the human body is equipped with an innate brain system that reacts to the THC and CBD enzymes. This system is called endocannabinoid system (also known as EC system); it is responsible for many body functions which includes cognition, emotions, motor coordination and movements, appetite, and reaction to responses. And unlike other illegal chemicals that creates active damages to the neural receptors (for example, LSD literally burns a hole in the brain by damaging neurons and brain cells that can be shown in x-rays photos), the cannabinoids are natural and have no physical damage to the human brain and body. In fact, human breast milk naturally contains many of the same cannabinoids found in Cannabis. These chemicals are actually extremely crucial for development such as induce nutrition intake, stimulate brain cell formation, and protect body cells from harmful bacteria, virus, and even cancer formation.    

Importance of Cannabidiol (CBD)  

In the past, the THC cannabinoid enzyme has been the focused in many health studies concerning marijuana. Although THC is known to have some healing properties, recent studies have shown that it is the cannabidiol enzyme (CBD) and its precursor enzyme CBDa (CBD exists as CBDa before the heating or extraction process) that carries much more medicinal value for many diseases ranging from psychological disorders, neuroprotective effects, rejuvenating properties, to anti-cancer healing abilities.    

Can Cannabis Help Manage Diabetes?    Direct Benefits for Type 2 Diabetic Patients:    

Cannabis is very well known for the unstoppable ‘Munchies’ urge it induces. Most people would think that an increased caloric intake would result in a higher BMI. It would also be logical to assume that marijuana users tend to be overweight and prone to diabetes. Surprisingly, these two assumptions do not seem to apply to marijuana users. In order to determine whether or not the assumptions stand, an early medical correlation study was conducted to examine the effects of Cannabis use on blood glucose level and insulin level. In the study, 579 subjects out of 4657 total participants were marijuana users. These 579 participants showed a lower tendency to have diabetes than non-marijuana users. What is even more intriguing is that the Cannabis users exhibit 16 % lower levels of fasting insulin and 17 % lower insulin resistance than subjects who do not use Cannabis. The marijuana users were also found to have lower waist circumference and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (commonly named as the “good cholesterol”). This discovery answers how exactly Cannabis can benefit type 2 diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals.  For individuals who suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes, endocannabinoid imbalance may be one of the reason why certain people have a hard time losing weight. It has been found that the endocannabinoid system has a role in regulating energy homeostasis especially in the intra-abdominal adipose tissue. When the endocannabinoid system is over-regulated, it may lead to excessive visceral fat accumulation in the stomach area and reduced adiponectin release from the tissue. Adiponectin is a protein that is responsible for regulating glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown. The decreasing amount of adiponectin in the body can lead to insulin insensitivity and increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. This chain reaction can turn into a vicious cycle of insulin resistance, further endocannabinoid system activation, greater increase in appetite and food-seeking behavior, and additional body weight and fat gain.  Unlike THC that creates the munchies effect, CBD can help to suppress appetite and help individuals to re-balance the endocannabinoid system by increasing the fat breakdown, increase the mitochondria activities and promote metabolism, and decrease fat storage. In a way, CBD changes the white-colored fat storage cells to beige-colored fat cells for energy making. So not only is the fat much easier to be burned off, the beige-colored fat cells also improve glucose tolerance by decreasing insulin resistance in the muscle and liver cells. Although it may not completely treat diabetes, CBD can alleviate the condition so that diabetic individuals can suffer from less blood glucose fluctuation and manage their blood glucose level with less medication.  Another factor that CBD is a suitable treatment option for type 2 diabetes is that insulin resistance is a great contribution to the disease. The anti-inflammatory ability can improve the body’s sugar metabolism, suppress the short inflammation reaction to sugar ingestion, and provide many other health benefits to prevent complications that result from type 2 diabetes.  Aside from CBD, THCV can also be a weight loss aide for type 2 diabetes individuals who are obese and need to lose weight to better control their blood glucose level and prevent complications from arising.    

Direct Benefits for Type 1 Diabetic Patients:  

The researchers demonstrated the potential of (CBD) to reduce the occurrence and delay the onset of Type 1 diabetes. It was found that CBD exhibits anti-autoimmune abilities. Even though some non-specific immunosuppression medication have shown to be successful in preventing diabetes, they are not an ideal alternative. Suppressing the immune system in a general fashion for an extended amount of time would present a dangerous treatment. Moreover, these drugs indicated to be working only temporarily in the clinic until resistance was acquired. The marijuana and diabetes research is a lot more promising. In fact, clinical studies have shown that CBD can save insulin-forming cells from damage so that normal glucose metabolism can occur. At the moment, scientists have successfully use CBD to reverse the auto-immune disease in mice that suffer from early stage of type 1 diabetes. They are in test trials to transfer this knowledge into treatments for human patients so that CBD can be a cure for type 1 diabetes.  Although Cannabis cannot cure type 1 diabetes currently, the THC enzyme can suppress the autoimmune attacks so that less insulin is needed to lower the blood glucose levels. At the same time, CBD has found to reduce the inflammation of pancreatic cells and THCV has shown to improve glucose tolerance and increase insulin sensitivity for type 1 diabetic individuals so that there is a possibility that less insulin is needed for the management and the fluctuation of the blood glucose level is more manageable. To confirm these findings, another research was conducted in 2012 where obese rats lost significant weight and experienced an increase in pancreas weight after exposure to organic Cannabis extract. The increase in the weight of the pancreas indicates that the insulin production pancreatic cells (known as beta cells) are protected by the presence of cannabinoids in type 1 diabetes.  For many type 1 diabetes patient, stress and anxiety are a common problem that can aggravate the blood glucose level fluctuation. CBD and THC can help make stress much more manageable while boost the overall energy level.    

Direct Benefits for Pre-diabetic Patients: 

In general, many prediabetic patients have similar problem as type 2 diabetic individuals; they are very likely to suffer from obesity, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise. Diabetes is associated with high levels of fasting insulin and insulin resistance and a low level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. A 5-year studies that include 4,657 participants have found that regular Cannabis users have 16% lower fasting insulin levels than individuals who have never used Cannabis. The Cannabis users also have 17% lower levels of insulin resistance and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. These at-risk individuals may benefit from the health benefits offered by Cannabis products. Many research studies have found that the average regular Cannabis users tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-Cannabis users. They also have a smaller waist circumference than non-Cannabis users. At the same time, they have lesser chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those who do not use Cannabis. This study suggests that Cannabis can not only help control diabetes but also prevent the onset of diabetes.    

 Insulin resistance: 

(IR) is a condition that makes body cells reject the normal functioning of insulin, a pancreatic hormone that is essential to the regulation of glucose metabolism. Type 1 diabetic individuals are unable to produce insulin. Unlike type 1 diabetes, the insulin production is unaffected in type 2 diabetes individuals. However, their body cells are ineffective at processing insulin or are unable to process it. When cells become insulin-resistant, they are incapable to absorb the glucose needed to supply the cells with energy. This reaction causes the unused glucose to build up in the bloodstream. If left untreated, this causes a downward spiral of chain reaction that consequently causes hyperglycemia. A study conducted in 2013 has found that Cannabis users have a mean insulin resistance of 1.8 whereas non-users have a mean of 2.2 insulin resistance. Current cannabis users are also discovered to have lower blood glucose levels compared to past users and non-users. These current Cannabis users have a mean blood glucose levels of 99.7 mg/dL. On the other hand, past users have a mean blood glucose level of 100.6 mg/dL, and past users a mean level of 103.5 mg/dL. These conclusion highly suggest that Cannabis can help suppress insulin resistance and help type 2 diabetic individuals in managing their blood glucose level. However, more research is needed to better understand how exactly does Cannabis help with this problem and whether it is THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids that actively helps in reducing insulin resistance.    

Cardiovascular Complications:  The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) has suggested that Cannabis has the ability to suppress arterial inflammation and prevent diabetic individuals from developing cardiovascular diseases. The cannabinoids also have the ability to keep blood vessels to dilate so that circulation can be improved in the process. This can be a great prevention for individuals who are prone to swelling of the feet due to poor circulation. It can also help with spider veins, varicose veins, night cramps, restless leg syndrome, blood clots, ankle swelling, lipodermatosclerosis, and panniculitis.    

Skin Complications:  

One of the most common problems that diabetic individuals face is skin sensitivity and irritation complications. The cannabinoid inflammation suppression properties can help with skin inflammation problems. For those who have a tendency to suffer from foot sores, rashes, and other skin irritation problems, Cannabis can alleviate the complications and speed up the healing process. As a matter of fact, several science studies have found THC to be beneficial to skin cancer. Other studies have documented the anti-aging and intense moisturizing properties of cannabinoid. The sedation and pain relief properties can also help alleviate the uncomfortable sensations from the skin irritation. Without constant scratching and rubbing on the irritated area, the skin can heal faster to lessen the chance for further complications.    

Neuropathy:  

Neuropathy refers to nerve damages caused by certain diseases or disorders. It is found in 60 to 70 percent of all individuals with diabetes. To be more specific, there are 4 types of diabetes-related neuropathy: •peripheral neuropathy (nerve damages that are located in the hands, arms, legs and feet), •autonomic neuropathy (nerve damage that affects the nerves that regulate blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and the heart functioning), •focal neuropathy(nerve damage to the head, torso, and legs specifically), and •proximal neuropathy (it is sometimes referred to as diabetic amyotrophy; it is usually concentrated on one side of the body in the hips, thighs, and buttocks regions).  It is simply one of the worst complications for diabetic individuals. Although there are several treatment options available, none of them are sufficient in preventing neuropathy let alone reversing the complications. While opioids and anticonvulsants do work as short-term treatments, they plateau at a 50% efficacy in pain reduction and are associated with severe side effects and addiction problems.  Several studies have shown vaporized Cannabis to reduce pain and slow the advancing nerve damage of all four types of neuropathy. In some types, there was more than a 30 percent improvement without any significant impact on daily functioning or cognitive abilities  The anti-inflammation property does not just stop there. The CBD and THC chemicals can also prevent nerve over-sensitivity and inflammation problems. Some health researchers have also suggested that the cell growth acceleration ability can even reverse the neuropathy damages.    

Diabetic Retinopathy:  

Just like neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy is another common complication that makes life so much more difficult for diabetic individuals. It has been shown in several studies that cannabidiol can work as a multi-tasker to protect the eyes from growing an excess of leaky blood vessels (the number 1 symptom of diabetic retinopathy) and prevent retinal cell death. There are even some researchers who suggest that CBD may even have cell growth ability to reverse the damage done by diabetes.    

High Blood Pressure:  

High blood pressure is often a complication of Type 2 diabetes. Although medical marijuana does lower blood pressure, it also briefly raises heart rate after consumption. As a result, Cannabis is not recommended for those individuals who have pre-existing heart conditions. Having said that, there are medical studies showing that prolonged marijuana users can develop a tolerance for this side-effect and they do not suffer any negative effects from the brief episode of quickened heart rate.

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