Gut diseases are on an alarming rise in India and across the world. The gut, or the gastrointestinal system, comprises the colon, stomach, intestines, and trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses of over 200 species in the large intestine, referred to as the gut microbiome.
There is no specific definition of gut health. However, researchers and medical professionals generally refer to a healthy gut as having a proper function, a diverse and robust ecosystem of microorganisms, and little to no digestive symptoms.
A 2021 global study showed that more than 40% of people worldwide suffer from functional gastrointestinal disorders, which affect their life quality. In Europe, such conditions are responsible for over a million deaths yearly in people of all ages, and the burden of such digestive diseases is likely to increase significantly as the population ages.
Meanwhile, East Asian countries like South Korea, China, and Japan also see a rise in gut diseases as they modernize, adopt Western diets, and widely prescribe antibiotics and other harmful drugs.
A 2021 projection study examined the increase in the prevalence of IBDs in Asia and Iran and predicted that such cases may increase by nearly 1.5X in East Asia, 2.5X in Iran, and over 4X in India!
A recent survey found that over 7 out of 10 people in urban India suffer from gastrointestinal issues. It indicated that nearly 60% complain about digestive problems every week, and 12% experience them daily. In addition, close to 60% of the people suffering from gut health conditions also face mental health challenges like poor memory, anxiety, mood swings, and lack of energy.
All this is because the gut impacts the body’s complete functioning, including immune response and mental health. An unhealthy gastric tract can lead to various lifestyle diseases, especially conditions like digestive disorders (IBS, IBD, Constipation, Chronic Diarrhea, GERD, etc.) and Type-2 Diabetes.
Let us look at some of the crucial facts on gut health and discover how Vijaya (medical cannabis) can prove helpful in assuaging them naturally.
Why Is Gut Health Essential?
The gastric tract digests the food consumed by the body, absorbs its nutrients to support bodily functions, and removes metabolic waste. If it is unhealthy, the body will struggle to eliminate toxins. But the gut is responsible for much more than that.
Nearly 70-80% of the immune cells in our body are present in the gut, thus making it a crucial determinant of comprehensive well-being. An imbalanced digestive tract will cause the immune system to start attacking different regions of the body, leading to various acute and chronic illnesses, like inflammation, joint pain, obesity, brain fog, autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, etc.
Medical experts have found that when the intestinal microbes are disrupted, the gut walls become more porous and allow metabolic toxins to enter the bloodstream. It can lead to conditions like fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
Intriguingly, gut bacteria also affect heart health and can lead to chronic cardiometabolic diseases in case of an imbalance. A study shows that these intestinal microbes are vital in promoting good HDL cholesterol, lipids, and triglyceride levels in the blood. Bacteria like Lactobacilli can reduce cholesterol levels when consumed as a probiotic and, thus, prevent hypercholesteremia and reduce the risk factors for heart diseases.
Certain unhealthy microorganisms in the gut’s ecosystem can produce trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which can block arteries and lead to heart attacks or strokes. Some of these bacteria can convert nutrients like L-carnitine and choline (both found in animal-based foods, especially red meat) into TMAO and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Studies have found that the Endocannabinoid system, expressed throughout the body, plays a major role in regulating gastrointestinal health, homeostasis, and other functions like inflammation, motility, weight, appetite, intestinal barrier, etc.
The gut and the brain constantly communicate with each other through various dynamic nerve pathways in the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is responsible for nutrient absorption, bowel motility, intestinal muscle contractions, etc.
As a result, the ECS in the brain communicates with the gut’s ECS through this connection to ensure a healthy and balanced internal environment.
Indications Of an Unhealthy Gut
Some of the common signs that indicate poor gastrointestinal health include-
- Sleep disturbances
- Chronic pain
- Poor concentration and memory
- Digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
- Mood swings
- Getting frequently ill, especially with infectious conditions like common cold or viral fever
What Causes Poor Gut Health?
The gut’s microbial ecosystem can be affected by various factors, such as:
- Excess stress
- Insufficient sleep
- Consuming too many processed and preserved foods
- Lack of physical activity
- Smoking and alcohol consumption
Side effects of certain hard drugs and conventional medications, especially prolonged use of antibiotics and antacids, can also adversely impact the gut microbiome. They reduce B12 in the gut, which is crucial for brain function, cell production, and energy.
Medical Cannabis for Gut Health
Vijaya, or medical cannabis, is found to be one of the most effective herbs for enhancing digestive health. On consumption, its cannabinoids activate the cannabinoid receptors in the gut’s ECS, allowing the herb to modulate digestive processes in the system. This activation helps inhibit peristalsis (involuntary contraction and relaxation of the circular muscles in the digestive tract), reduces gastric acid secretion, and enhances food intake.
As per a study, the herb significantly improved IBD symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, etc., and enhanced the quality of life. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements showed that Vijaya can act as a probiotic and increase the abundance of A Muciniphila, a gut bacteria responsible for strengthening the intestinal lining and preventing infections and inflammation.
By activating the cannabinoid receptors, medical cannabis can alleviate gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS. It can help patients ease IBD-related inflammation and reduce the need for conventional medication.
A recent American study showed that various IBD patients reported significant symptom relief and life quality improvements on consuming Vijaya. A majority of IBD patients use it to relieve their symptoms of pain, appetite, nausea, and overall mood. This herb’s usage can also reduce the fasting colonic in IBS patients and decrease their inpatient healthcare utilization.
Vijaya leverages the gut-brain connection and activates the ECS in both regions to achieve digestive and psychological balance. This allows it to manage and ease mental health conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety, thus preventing their harmful effects on the gut physiology (motility, permeability, bacterial ecosystem, intestinal blood flow, etc.)
Learn more about how you can benefit from this invaluable herb and boost your gut health by getting the best Ayurvedic consultation from Hempstreet.