Can I Treat My Autoimmune Disease Symptoms with CBD?

CBD (Cannabidiol) could be used to treat some symptoms of autoimmune disease.

An auto immune disease can be difficult to treat but CBD is being considered as an aid to current treatment as well as a major alternative. Image Credit: Koplik, Henry, 1858 on flickr

According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, there are 50 million Americans currently struggling with autoimmune diseases and the symptoms and physical challenges they present — which can range from chronic pain to nausea to difficulty walking. Typical treatments and remedies for these conditions include inflammation-reducing drugs (like NSAIDS, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which, while they calm an overactive immune response, can come with an array of unpleasant side effects. But good news may be on the horizon for autoimmune disease sufferers who want to branch out or supplement traditional medications. Emerging research shows how CBD, a powerful cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp, can relieve the symptoms of patients struggling with autoimmune issues. For some, it’s just the type of remedy they’ve been hoping for; for others it’s an alternative free of the downsides of other treatments. So how does it work? To understand CBD’s impact on these afflictions, we must first understand the basics of an autoimmune disease.

What Are Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune issues arise when the body’s immune system mistakes healthy, positive cell growth for bad, foreign cells. When your body reacts to foreign pathogens, it creates antibodies which tell the immune system to destroy cells connected to certain tissues. Unfortunately, the targeted cells are healthy cells. Every autoimmune disease tends to target different areas of the body: in rheumatoid arthritis, the body attacks the joints; in lupus, it attacks the lungs and blood cells (among other areas); and in multiple sclerosis, it attacks nerve cells. While the body’s busy doing all this extra work, a few cold or flu bacteria could quickly proliferate and spread, causing additional health problems. With an autoimmune disease, the body’s focus on destroying “foreign” cells opens the door for bad cells to grow and for other issues to pop up along with it.

How CBD Engages The Immune System
While most people think that cannabis is mainly a psychoactive herb, it actually has a complex chemical and enzyme composition. By separating the cannabinoid THC from the rest of the plant, psychoactive capabilities are eliminated, while retaining many beneficial compounds like CBD, or cannabidiol.

According to a medical report from 2010, an important benefit of CBD is its ability to combat inflammation and stimulate appetite. With most pharmaceutical painkillers, the side effect of suppressing pain and inflammation is that the gastrointestinal system can be disrupted. People can become nauseous, develop diarrhea, or just have difficulty eating after taking them. CBD helps autoimmune diseases by allowing relief from pain and discomfort without disrupting sleep or eating cycles. Without a good diet and the restorative impact of sleep, it can be hard for the body to recover after an autoimmune disorder event.

Autoimmune Disorders with Proven CBD Benefits

Not all autoimmune disorders can be treated with CBD — or, at the very least, research is currently too minimal to prove out its effectiveness — but scientific data on the following conditions is promising, if not definitive.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes stems from when the immune system attacks the pancreas which then can’t produce insulin. CBD oil’s anti-inflammatory capabilities can help combat these attacks. One study even provides evidence for CBD oil slowing the development of diabetes or diabetic complications.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating condition whereby the body’s immune system attacks the cartilage in joints, doing irreparable damage as a body ages. CBD oil is able to slow down the aches and pains of arthritis while stimulating the receptors in cells that are needed to aid in cell growth and cartilage repair. In addition, treating arthritis pain with CBD comes with less risk and negative side effects than pharmaceutical painkillers.

Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a combined brain and gut disease that can manifest in discomforting ways. People suffering from Crohn’s require powerful anti-inflammatory and pain relief medication, yet patients have additionally shown positive results when using CBD oil. This could be a useful substitute for traditional treatment routes because CBD oil doesn’t upset a patient’s gut bacteria. Crohn’s sufferers respond well to CBD because their brains have shown to be low in endocannabinoids, neurotransmitters that are vital for human health. Even for a condition challenging to manage as Crohn’s disease, CBD oil has been shown to manage symptoms effectively.

Fibromyalgia
This autoimmune disease affects one in every 50 Americans, causing them severe pain and fatigue. The most common symptom is to have inflamed connective tissues which can prevent people from getting rest due to constant pain, which in turn can increase the likelihood of insomnia. By administering CBD, patients have reported a reduction in pain and better sleep, while a plethora of studies can speak to CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects.

Celiac Disease
As more people are adopting a gluten-free diet, awareness of celiac disease has increased, though only one percent of the population is formally diagnosed. Many celiac sufferers become anemic or experience severe vitamin deficiency due to the effect of gluten on their digestive system and a coinciding inability to properly absorb nutrients. CBD oil’s anti-inflammatory and antiemetic qualities have been shown promote nutrient absorption and heal damage within the digestive tract, improving overall health. And, since CBD oil targets and treats problems in the immune and gastrointestinal systems, it also has positive implications for illnesses that impact these systems, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).

Science Says: CBD Oil Can Help Treat Your Autoimmune Disease

The main takeaway of recent and long-term research is that CBD oil can be an effective treatment for an array of autoimmune diseases, revealed as an effective remedy for a variety of symptoms, including reducing inflammation and pain and promoting better appetite and nutrient absorption. With CBD, autoimmune diseases can be treated in a safe way without the unwelcome effects of prescription painkillers and major disruption to one’s daily life. If you’re interested in learning what benefits CBD might hold for you and your autoimmune disease, consult your doctor.

The content on cannabisMD is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Megan Solga
Megan Solga
Megan Solga is an international educator and mental health advocate with a background in medicinal cannabis research. She enjoys whiskey, bluegrass, and life in the mountains.

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