For those who suffer from stomach issues, both hot peppers and pot can help.
If the gut were to attack all foreign bodies to enter it, you’d get both sick and suffer from malnutrition. Conditions like celiac, an autoimmune disorder that makes sufferers intolerant to gluten, and ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, happen when the gut treats food like an invader, rather than a necessary source of nutrition.
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that anandamide, also called the “bliss molecule,” a naturally occurring endocannabinoid or chemical compound resembling those found in cannabis, can help treat immune disorders.
When immunologist Pramod Srivastava from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine exposed the immune cells of mice to hot temperatures, he found that they became activated and started working better. He explains that certain calcium cells activate in the nerves when they’re exposed to hot temperatures, and those same calcium channels notified the immune cells in the Petri dishes that they were getting warm.
Srivastava then found that capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat, could also activate immune cells in the same way actual heat does when applied directly. But when the mice ate capsaicin, the immune cells in their guts (rather than in a petri dish) cooled down. He also found that when he fed the mice capsaicin, the immune cell CX3CR1, which suppresses immune reactions in the gut, was also activated.
However, Shrivastava realized he needed to look outside chili peppers for these effects. Like capsaicin, he found that anandamide also binds to the same calcium channel for the same desired effects.
The body makes anandamide, which resembles the chemicals in cannabis, on an as needed basis. When it’s running low, the body should make more. But for higher amounts of anandamide in the body, weed helps. So does capsaicin, which can stimulate anandamide production.
The second most prominent chemical compound in cannabis, CBD, or cannabidiol, inhibits the enzyme FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), which breaks down anandamide. When CBD keeps FAAH from breaking down anandamide, it accumulates in the body.
Hence, since anandamide and capsaicin had the same effects in mice, cannabis may theoretically boost those effects.
While Srivastava hasn’t performed any studies on humans, his research fits with anecdotal evidence from people who suffer from irritable bowel disease and use cannabis for relief. Now he hopes to work with public health regulators in Colorado to see if legalization has had any positive effects for colitis patients who eat cannabis edibles.