Can Cannabis Improve Blood Sugars in Type 2 Diabetes?
Doctors visits, blood tests and more medications. This is the norm when you’re living with type 2 diabetes.
Life becomes a new routine of pricking your finger, worrying if the food you ate is going to spike your sugars and becoming nervous at every little tingle in your fingers and toes.
You have to deal with conflicting advice about what you should and shouldn’t eat (hint: diabetic foods are definitely not a good choice).
Is it any wonder that there is a higher risk of depression for type 2 diabetics. What if there was a natural solution that might help your mood and your blood sugar control?
What are Cannabinoids?
This plant goes by so many names, marijuana, maryjane, weed and is the most widely used illicit drug worldwide. What you might not know is that cannabis has a wide range of medicinal benefits.
To understand the medicinal uses of cannabis we first need to look at how it works in the body. Our body has it’s own cannabinoid receptors, called the Endocannabinoid system. The system helps regulate a number of processes including appetite, memory, mood, pain, metabolism, blood flow and cell immunity.
The active ingredients in cannabis are called cannabinoids, they can act on the endocannabinoid system which is where the medical benefits come from.
Cannabis contains around 80 different cannabinoids most of which have not been widely researched as yet. The most well known cannabinoid contained in cannabis is THC.
Cannabis: the old kid on the block
Actually, humans have been cultivating and using hemp (the plant the cannabis comes from) for over 10,000 years. Evidence shows it is the first agricultural crop our ancestors farmed.
Cannabis has also been used medicinally for nearly as long, with Queen Victoria using it regularly. It is the THC component of cannabis that makes it psychoactive and has led to cannabis being criminalized. Cannabis use remains controversial and illegal in many countries.
It is the medicinal uses of cannabis that has prompted some states and countries to change their stance on the psychoactive plant.
Cannabis and Diabetes
There are a several of studies that show cannabis helps improve blood sugar control and helps with weight loss. Yes, it is well known that cannabis does cause an increase in appetite – ‘the munchies’ but cannabis seems to positively affect the metabolism so weight gain does not appear to be an issue. Cannabis appears to improve carbohydrate metabolism in users.
Researchers still aren’t totally clear on what is causing the change in metabolism amongst cannabis users but note from previous work that drugs that block cannabinoid receptors have positive impact on carbohydrate metabolism.
The editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Medicine, Joseph S. Alpert, M.D., made his opinion clear in the editorial alongside the study: “I would like to call on the NIH and the DEA to collaborate in developing policies to implement solid scientific investigations that would lead to information assisting physicians in the proper use and prescription of THC in its synthetic or herbal form.”
This study, ‘The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults,” was published in the American Journal of Medicine in July 2013.
“Of the participants in our study sample, 579 were current marijuana users and 1975 were past users. In multivariable adjusted models, current marijuana use was associated with 16% lower fasting insulin levels and 17% lower HOMA-IR (insulin resistance). We found significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”
Cannabis and Neuropathy
There are conflicting studies in the use of cannabis in treating neuropathic pain. There is evidence that cannabis increases nerve growth factor and has antioxidant properties that may help with pain relief.
In a small randomized study of 30 subjects they found a reduction in pain scores but they were small in comparison to placebo.
An important discovery from this study however was the impact of state of mind has on pain levels. The researchers found that depression had a marked negative impact on pain scores.
Cannabis and Depression
Type 2 diabetics do have a higher risk of developing depression. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that cannabis improves mood and reduces stress.
However research backs that conclusion. This study was focusing on endocannabinoids – they are chemicals we naturally produce and are similar to the active components of cannabis. They found that chronic stress reduces their production and links to depression.
Senior researcher Samir Haj-Dahmane said: “Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression. Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”
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