Inflammation is the body’s response to injury and infection and a way of signalling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue. Inflammation also defends the body against viruses and bacteria.
Cannabis and Inflammation
Inflammation is a vital physiological response and without it our wounds would not heal and infections could become deadly. However, if inflammation occurs for an extended period of time it may become problematic. Chronic inflammation is a precursor to many diseases such as heart disease, stroke and autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
What Is Acute Inflammation?
Acute inflammation is the body’s response to an acute injury such as a scraped elbow or sprained ankle. According to the National Library of Medicine acute inflammation occurs localized to the injury site and may include redness, swelling, heat, pain and in more extreme cases, loss of function.
Cytokines are released by the damaged tissue in response to acute inflammation. These cytokines trigger immune cells, hormones and other systems to act on the damage and heal the body. In cases of infection the body fights off foreign invaders by raising the body’s core temperature to kill viruses and bacteria.
Another physiological process that occurs is vasodilation and increased blood flow to the inflamed area. This increased blood flow helps tissues to heal more quickly and can also lead to warmth and redness that is associated with inflammation.
Acute inflammation subsides quickly once damaged tissue is healed and the body returns to normal. If acute inflammation does not subside it can lead to chronic inflammation.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
Researchers are continuing to work at discovering what mechanisms cause chronic inflammation to occur and the resulting implications on the body, although they do know that chronic inflammation plays a role in the development of many disease processes.
Unlike acute inflammation chronic inflammation affects the whole body and is not localized to one specific site. It is commonly low-grade inflammation that is present at all times.
As a response to chronic inflammation white blood cells are released by the immune system to fight a perceived threat. When there is no threat to fight the white blood cells may start attacking healthy tissues and internal organs.
For example, chronic inflammation increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. When inflammatory cells remain in the blood vessels for a lengthy period of time they contribute to the build up of plaque. The immune system perceives this plaque build up as a threat and inflammation occurs to block of the plaque from the rest of the blood vessel. If the plaque becomes unstable or gets knocked loose it can cause a clot to block blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke.
Diagnosing Chronic Inflammation
Diagnosis of chronic inflammation is difficult due to a lack of outward symptoms, but a medical doctor can test for elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. If CRP levels are elevated it signals chronic inflammation in the body which may lead to different disease processes down the road.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
When it comes to chronic inflammation, diet is key. Ximena Jiminez, a Miami-based nutritionist stated “anti-inflammatory food components, such as omega-3 fats, protect the body against the possible damage caused by inflammation”. The anti-inflammatory diet is similar to a mediterranean diet and includes increased intake of fish, fresh vegetables, nuts and healthy fats. The diet includes very little red meat intake and encourages drinking red wine in moderation.
According to the University of Wisconsin, foods that promote further inflammation include red meats, foods high in saturated fats and dairy products. Additionally, individuals who suffer from chronic inflammation should limit intake of refined foods high in sugar, such as white bread and pasta.
Pharmaceutical Treatments for Chronic Inflammation
While there are no specific drugs that target chronic inflammation there are many pharmaceuticals which treat acute inflammation in the body. These include non-steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAIDS) such as aspirin and naproxen.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another common medication given to relieve pain related to inflammation although it does not directly reduce inflammation.
Corticosteroids, such as prednisone may also be prescribed for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma. These powerful drugs may act to reduce inflammation but also carry the risk of significant side effects including weight gain and fluid retention.
The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health lists several naturopathic products which may also help reduce inflammation including devil’s claw, turmeric and willow bark. Golden milk, a preparation of turmeric, milk, and black pepper, is gaining popularity as a natural inflammatory drink in the naturopathic world.
Cannabis for Inflammation
A 2010 study titled “Cannabinoids As Novel Anti-Inflammatory Drugs” demonstrated the effectiveness of cannabinoids as a treatment for inflammation. The research showed that cannabinoids act on both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the immune system to decrease the production of cytokine and chemokine which contribute to chronic inflammation. The study concluded that “cannabinoids suppress inflammatory response and subsequently attenuate disease symptoms. This property of cannabinoids is mediated through multiple pathways such as induction of apoptosis in activated immune cells, suppression of cytokines and chemokines at inflammatory sites and upregulated of FoxP3 regulatory T cells”.
More research on the role cannabinoids play in inflammation is needed, and with the recent legalization of cannabis those studies should be forthcoming. Subjective reports indicate that individuals who use cannabis for pain and inflammation find that their symptoms are reduced after using cannabis.
Apollo Clinics Can Help
Apollo Cannabis Clinic is an evidenced based clinic who has been conducting observational research on medical cannabis and conditions since 2014. The staff includes health care professionals to assist patients of all ages and backgrounds.
In order to access Apollo’s services, begin by visiting apollocannabis.ca to fill out an intake form. Once the information has been submitted and reviewed an Apollo representative will contact you to book an appointment with one of our doctors.
During the initial appointment individuals will disclose their medical history and past cannabis use, and the doctor will determine an appropriate treatment plan with regards to cannabis. It is important to be honest and open with the doctor as it will provide them the best chance at helping individuals manage their condition with cannabis.
Book your consultation today