How Do CBD and Other Cannabinoids Affect Our Immune System
When our immune system breaks down, it can have devastating effects on our health. Research has shown that CBD and other cannabinoids have immune modulating properties that help our bodies fight against harmful diseases. Read on to find out more.
Ah, the wonderful immune system. Without it, how else would our bodies fight against infectious organisms?
When we think of what we can do to improve health, we think of taking measures that will boost our immune system so that we can be more resistant to sickness and disease. A healthy diet with the right vitamins, minerals and supplements is very important in boosting immunity.
Recent research has shown that cannabinoids can also help to boost our immune system. Find out more about why this may be true.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is a system in the body that’s made up of a network of cells tissues and organs. It works to protect the body against any foreign substances (antigens) they detect as being harmful.
When the body detects an antigen, white blood cells call lymphocytes produce antibodies to fight the antigens. These antibodies stay in the body so that if they encounter that antigen again, they will know what to do.
That’s why a person often doesn’t get sick from the same disease, or same strain of a disease, twice.
But antibodies don’t work alone. They need the aid of T cells who are involved in signaling other cells to help get rid of the harmful cells.
Antibodies can also neutralize toxins produced in the body.
Problems with the Immune System
Although the immune system should function to protect the body against sickness and disease, sometimes it doesn’t work the way it should. Disorders of the immune system fall into four categories:
- Immunodeficiency Disorders: These happen when a part of the system is missing or not working properly. Individuals can be born with an immunodeficiency and sometimes it can manifest later in life.
- Autoimmune Disorder: These occur when the body mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues because they recognize them as harmful.
- Allergic Disorders: Allergic disorders happen when the body overacts to antigens in the environment.
- Cancers of the Immune System: These occur when cancer cells grow in the immune system.
The Immune System and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS), is a network of cannabinoids that are naturally occurring in the body. It regulates most functions in the body and one of its important roles is that of an immuno-cannabinoid modulator.
Although it’s not entirely clear how the ECS works in this capacity, researchers suspect that neurotransmitters that exist in the system work as signaling mechanisms to provide instructions to the machinery involved in the immune response. These instructions tell the body when to get into defense mode, how to engage it and how strongly to engage it.
Some researchers also feel that it may notify the body of incorrect autoimmune responses which occur in autoimmune diseases.
When cannabinoids enter the body, they work with the ECS to provide results which have different effects on the immune system. Read on to find out more.
CBD and the Immune System
There are several ways CBD works with the ECS to boost immunity. Here are some examples:
Suppresses the Immune System: In autoimmune diseases, the immune system sees cells within the body as being harmful and attacks them. CBD works to suppress the immune system so that it is not as likely to have this response.
Although more research is needed to determine exactly how CBD works in the immune system to produce this response, it is thought that it slows down T-cell production and suppresses immune system memory to cut down on autoimmune attacks.
It may also increase the expression of genes that deal with oxidative stress so that it may reduce cell damage caused by autoimmune attacks.
Another way CBD works to suppress the immune system is through its abilities as an anti-inflammatory.
Inflammation is a normal body response to any external threat or infection. It helps us to locate, isolate and trap infected or damaged areas to leave other parts of our bodies unharmed.
When inflammation works in this capacity, it protects the body and is a beneficial response.
In the cases of autoimmune diseases, the system goes haywire and the body is attacked through excessive inflammation. The constant activation of the immune system can lead to chronic inflammation which can cause headaches, anxiety, fatigue and more.
CBD works to reduce inflammation keeping autoimmune diseases in check and reducing the chances of individuals with AI exhibiting these symptoms.
Because CBD is so effective in treating autoimmune diseases, it is becoming a promising medical solution in the treatment of:
Boosts Immunity: While CBD works as an immune system suppressor, it can also work to boost immunity.
CBD has been shown to kill harmful cells in diseases like cancer and MRSA.
Those with cancer have a weakened immune system. Normal cells will self destruct when they age. Cancer cells, on the other hand, expand and proliferate quickly because they have lost their ability to self regulate and self destruct.
Studies have found that CBD has the ability to tell cancer cells to commit suicide through apoptosis. This action reduces tumor growth.
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a condition caused by a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to most antibiotics. Recent studies have shown that CBD and other cannabinoids can be effective in fighting bacteria and were particularly effective in treating certain strains of the disease.
So, how can CBD work to both boost and suppress the immune system? Well, research shows that it is actually neither a suppressor or a stimulator but a modulator. It acts as a regulating tool to bring an over or under reacting immune system back into balance. It’s capacity as a modulator can help to fight AI and infections and bacteria in the body.
CBD as an Antioxidant: It is also important to acknowledge CBD’s role as an antioxidant in its ability to fight disease.
Free radicals are uncharged molecules with an unpaired valance electron. They can occur naturally in the body or they can be generated from external factors like stress and toxins.
The unpaired electron in the free radical attracts another electron from a healthy molecule triggering a chain reaction that leaves us with a bunch of deteriorated molecules that can speed up the aging process and make us more vulnerable to sickness and disease.
Antioxidants are natural substances that inhibit oxidation, the chemical reaction that produces free radicals. Many say that CBD is a powerful antioxidant that can fight free radicals and the diseases that result from oxidative stress.
Although more research is needed to determine how effective CBD can be, science has taught us that it has the potential to fight free radicals to provide an antioxidant and protective effect throughout our lifetimes.
THC and the Immune System
CBD is emerging as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can provide several health benefits including its ability to modulate the immune system.
Another well known cannabinoid, THC, can also provide several health benefits although it also offers psychoactive effects. But how does it affect the immune system?
Research has shown that, like CBD, THC can also work as an immune system suppressant. One animal study involved mice who were injected with THC. Results showed that these mice showed an increased number of myeloid derived suppressor cells which lead to immune suppression.
However, the study also found that these same cells can hinder cancer therapy and promote cancer growth making THC a double edged sword when considering the ways it can boost the immune system.
Contrary to this evidence, many other studies have shown that THC actually slows the growth of cancer cells. It has been shown to work as an immunosuppressive only at very high doses. At lower doses, it can work as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
Its ability to activate CB2 receptors may down regulate T cell function to decrease the harmful effects of immune cells.
THC is also often given to cancer patients for the treatment of nausea and loss of appetite which can be a side effect of chemotherapy.
It is important to note that, when smoked, THC delivers the same harmful substances to the body that are found in tobacco smoke and could be cancer causing when used in this capacity.
Other Cannabinoids and the Immune System
THC and CBD are two of the most well known cannabinoids but there are many other cannabinoids that exist.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is one that also exhibits anticancer activity. It can also be useful in the treatment of IBS related conditions like Cron’s and Celiac Disease and MSRA.
CBC (cannabichromene) has antimicrobial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.
CBN (cannabinol) is also known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Our immune system is our most valuable weapon in the fight against disease and infection. When it breaks down, it can seriously affect our health and quality of life.
CBD and other cannabinoids are emerging as promising treatments that can help regulate the immune system to protect us from disease. Individuals should feel encouraged to further explore how these compounds can aid us in increasing wellness and maintaining health throughout our lives.