How can CBD help treat celiac disease?

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Celiac disease is part of the autoimmune diseases and both diagnosis and treatment remain a challenge. Read on to find out how research on the role of the endocannabinoid system may hold the key to future treatments.

The rise in celiac disease (CD)

For those living with celiac disease, the presence of gluten, a protein found in food and medicine, triggers your immune system to start damaging the small intestine. Celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disease, making it difficult to identify the cause. Although there is still much to learn about the onset of autoimmune diseases, scientists are certain of one thing: Celiac disease cases are on the rise.

In the last 50 years, cases of celiac disease have increased considerably. It is estimated that 1 in 100 people are living with the disease, although many sufferers remain undiagnosed. Celiac disease shares some symptomatic similarities with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), making it difficult for clinicians to identify the disease. Celiac disease can be controlled by eliminating gluten, but unless you know gluten is the cause, undiagnosed symptoms can cause serious health consequences.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is the result of an adverse reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It may not sound like a complicated problem, but gluten is used in a large number of foods, as well as many medicines.

Among the characteristic symptoms of celiac disease are diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. When the immune system attacks the small intestine, it damages the organ’s ability to properly absorb nutrients. In more extreme circumstances where the disease has gone untreated for a long time, CD can severely damage the intestines and lead to long-term health problems.

People living with celiac disease can manage the disease by eliminating gluten from their diet, and this is currently the only long-term treatment – there is no cure for celiac disease. Unfortunately, celiac disease can develop at any age, and it runs in families, so a family history of CD means there is a higher chance of it. Keep in mind that some drugs can cause more problems than they solve, so researchers are looking for alternatives to treat the symptoms of celiac disease.

One of these alternatives could be the cannabinoid CBD, due to its interaction with enzyme production in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

A 2003 study on the difference between diagnosed and undiagnosed patients found that in the latter, CB1 and CB2 receptors were more significant. The researchers concluded that “improper regulation of the endocannabinoid system, both at the level of CBR and AEA, may be involved in the pathogenesis of celiac disease.”

The involvement of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) is important because higher levels of AEA have been found to reduce intestinal inflammation through a 2017 study by the Nottingham School of Medicine. This is where the potential role of CBD becomes apparent. CBD has been shown to have the ability to inhibit the production of FAAH, an enzyme that breaks down AEA. With higher concentrations of AEA in the gastrointestinal tract, it is possible that the inflammation and tenderness experienced by people affected by celiac disease may be reduced.

It is important to note that in both cases, the researchers recognized the need for further study. The aim of these studies would be to explore the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid system in patients who no longer respond to a gluten-free diet.

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Research on the effect of CBD on celiac disease is still ongoing

The specific role of CBD and the endocannabinoid system in the treatment of celiac disease is still being studied. Our intestines are a complex combination of enzymes, receptors, and microbial communities. It is essential that we understand how foods and substances such as gluten affect the balance of these elements, in order to better understand celiac disease.

In the future, it may be possible to influence cannabinoid receptors to reduce pain and inflammation in the gut, two symptoms of celiac disease. It is critical that we learn more about what causes celiac disease and how symptoms can be managed, especially with CD cases on the rise.

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