Inflammation is a necessary immune response to anything that can cause injury in the body. However, too much inflammation is unhealthy. Disease, medications and lifestyle choices can contribute to chronic inflammation, which is thought to be the leading cause of many health problems.
Treating inflammation can diminish acute symptoms. It may also be a target for combating lifelong medical conditions. Taking too many anti-inflammatory drugs can bring about a variety of side effects. CBD is a plant-based option for tackling inflammation and healing your body.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation occurs when the body targets a localized or general area that is experiencing some kind of harm. Have you ever wondered why a cut or sprain becomes swollen and red?
If you twist your ankle, the damaged tissue sends out cytokines. These chemicals are signalers that call in the emergency responders. Blood vessels expand, sending more nutrient-rich blood to the necessary spot. White blood sells cluster in the damaged body part to encourage healing.
Prostaglandins trigger clots to slow bleeding. These hormone-like compounds can also spark a fever, which inhibits the growth of infectious organisms and contains infection. The fever further hastens the body’s inflammatory response, stimulating disease-fighting antibodies.
This cycle is supposed to slow down as the body heals. Healthy tissue sends out fewer emergency signals, and the inflammation process diminishes as the body returns to homeostasis.
Inflammation can cause pain and discomfort while it’s happening. A fever can make you achy, fatigued and even delirious. Swelling can make you stiff and sore.
That’s why some people treat acute inflammation with medication. They’re trying to diminish the negative side effects of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications can cause health problems, though. If you’re suffering from pain caused by an immediate injury, CBD oil can minimize it as well as the associated swelling with few side effects. We’ll discuss its mechanisms for managing physical discomfort and acute inflammation later in this article.
A More Dangerous Type of Inflammation
Acute inflammation isn’t supposed to stick around. It should go away when your body heals, leaving you feeling better. This doesn’t always happen.
Sometimes, the immune system responds to perceived threats to your health instead of actual ones. Your body responds as it would if you had an injury or disease, setting off inflammatory processes.
White blood cells, which are supposed to attack invaders, can’t find their targets. Therefore, they begin to assault healthy cells.
Chronic inflammation can also be caused by pathogens that stay in your system. It comes on slowly and can stick around for years. Eventually, it damages healthy tissues, contributing to health problems.
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
Many factors can lead to ongoing inflammation, including your diet, chemicals in your environment, stress, genes and health conditions.
In 2007, researchers pinpointed the toll-like receptor 4, or TLR4, gene. This gene triggers the immune system to get rid of pathogens. In the absence of real threats, it responds to the normal bacteria in the gut. These microbes are constantly being replenished as you eat and drink. The TLR4 gene therefore sets up a constant cycle of inflammation.
Genes aren’t always to blame for chronic inflammation, though. Environmental factors can throw your body into an inflammatory state. One of the reasons that smoking causes cancer is that it triggers inflammation.
Experts don’t always know why the inflammation begins. This is often the case with autoimmune disorders. One of the main symptoms of any autoimmune disease is inflammation.
It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario, though; does inflammation cause this type of medical problem, or do autoimmune diseases trigger inflammation? It’s a little of both, and it can become a frustrating cycle. Once again, diminishing inflammation can help people treat autoimmune diseases and even slow their progression.
The way that you handle the chaos of life can even influence your inflammation. Stress operates in a similar manner as your immune system. It’s critical to survival. Stress amplifies signals that help you protect yourself in times of crisis. Those signals are supposed to balance out when the disaster is over.
Our modern culture perpetuates stress, however. Many people have stress hormones coursing through their bodies all the time. This leads to disease. Researchers are starting to realize that chronic stress causes illness by way of inflammation.
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The Importance of Treating Chronic Inflammation
Whether you’re trying to manage an acute injury or optimize your general health, you have to address inflammation. Some scientists believe that chronic inflammation is linked to cancer, irreversible damage to the central nervous system, cardiovascular disease and asthma.
Keeping inflammation at bay could prevent you from developing life-threatening illness. A 2012 study found that people who took aspirin regularly had a lower risk of developing cancer.
How do you know if this is a problem for you? Some signs of chronic inflammation include:
• Belly fat
• High blood sugar levels
• Digestive issues
• General fatigue or lack of energy
• Rashes, psoriasis or red skin
• Puffiness in the face
• Gum disease
• Mental illness or lack of clarity
• Erectile dysfunction in men
Why You Shouldn’t Overdo Anti-Inflammatory Medication
Now that you realize how dangerous and uncomfortable chronic inflammation can be, you might wonder what you can do about it. Medications can keep your inflammation down.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, neutralize an enzyme that’s associated with inflammation. They can reduce swelling as well as pain.
Even though NSAIDs are available over the counter, they can produce serious side effects if they’re taken in large quantities or for a long period of time. Some of the dangers associated with NSAIDs include:
• Stomach ulcers
• Gastrointestinal bleeding
• Worsening of asthma symptoms
• Kidney damage
• Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, can also relieve pain. This drug doesn’t act on inflammation, however. Therefore, it may be an appropriate remedy for people who want to diminish discomfort while allowing the body’s inflammatory processes to promote healing.
Corticosteroids are another type of anti-inflammatory medication. They also block certain mechanisms that are associated with inflammation and are often prescribed for people with arthritis, dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergic reactions.
Taking corticosteroids on a long-term basis can cause negative effects, such as:
• Weight gain
• Increased appetite
• Fluid retention
• Eye disorders
CBD as an Herbal Remedy for Inflammation
Because medications can cause detrimental effects, some people avoid them or seek out alternatives. Some herbal preparations can help with inflammation, including turmeric and ginger. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another plant-based product that can be helpful in treating inflammation.
CBD is one of the primary compounds in the cannabis plant. Different strains of the plant contain distinct levels of CBD. Scientists have discovered how to isolate the chemical so that it can be used in a variety of products in an unadulterated form.
You can find CBD oils, topical products, edibles, tinctures and vape liquids. All of these may be beneficial for regulating inflammation. Some are more effective than others. We’ll discuss the administration options for CBD later in this article.
A 2010 study referred to cannabinoids, the group of chemicals with therapeutic properties that are found in cannabis, as “anti-inflammatory drugs.” However, the government is careful about what can be approved as a drug. The regulation of dietary supplements is also strict.
CBD falls into a gray area. It’s not a drug or a supplement. However, as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, it is legal throughout the U.S. It’s a product that comes from a plant and provides many health benefits.
How Does CBD Reduce Inflammation?
In the past two decades, scientists have pinpointed the endocannabinoid system, a signaling network within the body, as one of the primary targets for homeostasis and maintaining good health. This system consists of receptors and chemicals that activate them.
One of those chemicals is anandamide. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that has a variety of benefits. It relaxes the cardiovascular system, offers sedative effects, improves cognitive function and improves the way that your respiratory system works. Anandamide also diminishes pain sensations and influences the brain regions responsible for feeling pleasure and reward.
Moreover, anandamide boosts your mood. Some refer to it as “natural cannabis” because it produces such positive feelings.
Many researchers have found that anandamide also reduces inflammation. It does so via the cannabinoid receptors as well as other receptors in the body.
Researchers are still identifying the mechanisms through which CBD works to deliver health benefits. They have found that it exerts its effects in part by enhancing anandamide signaling. CBD inhibits the reuptake of anandamide.
Neurotransmitters are constantly being secreted and reabsorbed. They’re usually released or synthesized as a result of a particular trigger. They work their magic while they’re circulating through the central nervous system. Eventually, the chemicals degrade and are reabsorbed, minimizing their activity.
CBD does not always work directly on the cannabinoid receptors. It does influence other neurotransmitters that are associated with the endocannabinoid system, including anandamide. CBD delays the reabsorption of this chemical. In doing so, it increases levels of working anandamide, allowing it to exert its effects for a longer period of time.
Anandamide has produced anti-inflammatory effects in a number of models. In a 2012 study, researchers found that anandamide reduced inflammation associated with gum disease. The chemical was effective even when the subjects were exposed to stress, which normally exacerbates the inflammatory process.
In 2016, researchers published a study that indicated that anandamide mediates a pro-inflammatory T-cell response that leads to skin rashes. It may also help improve wound healing.
CBD may influence inflammation in ways that don’t involve anandamide. One study found that CBD reduced the vascular inflammation that contributed to diabetic retinopathy, which is a primary cause of blindness in adults. In this model, CBD worked as an antioxidant to hinder oxidative stress. It also inhibited the reuptake of adenosine, another neurotransmitter with anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases. It’s marked by inflammation in the joints, which ultimately damages the tissues. As the disease progresses, patients may experience increased pain and reduced mobility. Symptoms may come and go. The disease can go into remission, but it is not curable.
Because people with rheumatoid arthritis are often in so much pain, they may live a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of exercise can make joint stiffness worse. It also contributes to obesity, another medical condition that has been linked to inflammation.
In 2006, scientists conducted the first clinical trial to assess the effects of cannabinoid medication on arthritis. They gave Sativex, a medication that contains THC and CBD, to participants for five weeks. The mouth spray was administered every night, and the results were observed in the mornings.
The volunteers that used Sativex had less pain when they were moving and at rest. They also slept better than the control group.
You don’t have to use cannabis orally to benefit from its anti-inflammatory effects. A 2016 study found that topical CBD reduces pain and inflammation. Because it bypasses the digestive system, it enters the bloodstream consistently. Applying it directly to inflamed joints may be the best way to use topical CBD.
CBD and Irritable Bowel Disease
Irritable bowel disease, or IBD, is the second most common ongoing inflammatory medical condition. It affects more people every year. People in industrialized countries are more likely to suffer from IBD than those in non-industrialized areas. Some inflammatory diseases that involve the intestines are Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis and celiac disease.
No treatment has been consistently effective in improving symptoms of IBD. However, CBD is just starting to gain traction as a remedy for this ailment. It may work in part because of its effects on anandamide.
Studies show that anandamide can reduce intestinal inflammation. Furthermore, patients with active IBD have been found to have elevated anandamide levels.
People with IBD often self-medicate with cannabis. Experiments show that there is a scientific reason that they feel better when they use marijuana. Cannabinoids counteract inflammatory responses in the gut, reduce hypermotility and diminish sensitivity.
Abdominal pain is a significant symptom of IBD. People with the disease may avoid enjoyable activities or even daily obligations because they’re in so much pain.
Cannabinoids have been associated with pain reduction. The reduced sensitivity to physical discomfort is especially notable in patients with gut inflammation.
CBD for Athletes
Although exercise is good for you, it is inflammatory. A moderate amount of movement can reduce inflammation. An intense workout can have the opposite effect, though.
Consistent, regular exercise is healthy over a long period of time, but acute exercise can produce immediate inflammation. This is especially true for athletes that train intensely.
Rigorous workouts damage muscle fibers. As your body repairs them, it also activates its immune response.
Athletes often integrate anti-inflammatory practices into their daily lives. They may use ice after a long run or take antioxidants. Many are on regular doses of NSAIDs.
CBD may aid in exercise recovery. Experts hypothesize that CBD’s benefits for athletes come from its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Topical administration might be especially effective for soothing sore muscles.
CBD and Stress
Because stress and inflammation go hand in hand, combating one may diminish the other. Many studies have been conducted to evaluate the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and stress. The endocannabinoid system is supposed to help your body maintain balance after a period of stress.
Research shows that chronic stress may impair the signaling that occurs within the endocannabinoid system. This further promotes the cycle of stress that exacerbates inflammation.
Activating the cannabinoid receptors can prevent cognitive dysfunction that stems from low-level, consistent stress. Although CBD may not act upon the cannabinoid receptors directly, it can increase the levels of the neurotransmitters that do. Diminishing constant stress may reduce ongoing inflammation.
One of the most significant findings regarding CBD and stress is that CBD has anti-anxiety effects. Using CBD regularly may facilitate the endocannabinoid signaling that is responsible for helping you feel calm even as you go about your busy life.
How to Use CBD for Inflammation
Even if you have not been diagnosed with an inflammatory disease, you may have inflammation from time to time. Chemicals in processed foods can inflame the digestive system. Toxins in the environment can cause damage to your cells. Treating inflammation before it becomes a problem may be one of the most effective ways to prevent disease.
There haven’t been enough studies to conclude that CBD is a miracle cure for inflammation. However, the experiments that have been conducted show that CBD is a promising treatment because it works on inflammatory pathways. It is also generally regarded as safe, which is not the case for prescription painkillers such as opioids.
CBD can be administered in a variety of ways. Dropping CBD oil under the tongue is one of the most popular ways to use it. However, oral administration comes with some downsides.
If more of the CBD is swallowed than absorbed by the mucous membrane, it could take a while to exert effects. Smoking it is more effective for delivering rapid results, but the effects go away more rapidly than with oral administration.
Topical use is promising because you don’t have to worry about metabolizing the CBD before it reaches its target. However, there are some questions about the amount that gets absorbed by the skin.
Because inflammation is often an ongoing, gradual problem, using CBD regularly may be the best option. You might want to keep a vape pen on hand for managing immediate pain. In the long term, though, administering CBD consistently might provide the most effective therapeutic effects on inflammation.