Treating Anorexia And Bulimia Nervosa With Cannabis

1 december 2019

People with an eating disorder (such as anorexia) have a disturbed or less active endocannabinoid system. By stimulating this system with the cannabinoids from weed, such diseases can be tackled at the cause.

Eating Disorder

Eating is a pleasant activity for most people. After all, we are made to experience euphoria when we eat something tasty. Yet it is not a pleasure for everyone. And however crazy it may sound for some, there are people who experience fear and nerves when they eat.

Patients with anorexia nervosa (Latin for ‘lack of appetite due to nervous circumstances’) often find themselves too fat. Despite the fact that they eat almost nothing and lose an extreme amount of weight. As a result, people with anorexia are always busy counting calories, dodging food and weighing themselves.

Of course, the heavy eating and exercise pattern they adopt is not always sustainable, so patients sometimes get a bite to eat. After that they often feel guilty, bad and anxious to gain weight. This fear is so prevalent that people want to limit the damage by vomiting, laxative tablets and/or exaggerated sports.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric condition that is characterized by an abnormal aversion to food, poor eating habits with extreme weight loss and a poor self-image. Many patients with this eating disorder also suffer from anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCS/OCD) and depression.

The disease occurs mainly among adolescent girls, but also in adults and men. Many experts believe that anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are caused by an imbalance between certain substances in the brain. This would then affect the neurotransmitters (signalling substances) of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Depending on the clinical symptoms, in other words the state of the body, most patients are treated with dietary therapy, anti-depressants and cognitive behavioural therapy. However, anti-depressants are not always effective and are often highly addictive and harmful to the body. This is why there is a need for a natural and less harmful drug that could tackle this disease at the cause.

ECS and eating behaviour

The receptors of the ECS are spread throughout the body and fulfil organ-specific physiological roles. Cannabinoids specific to the body, such as 2-Arachidonyl-glycerol (2AG) and anandamide, stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS and thus help the body to function normally.
These endocannabinoids play a major role in regulating various processes in our bodies, including feelings of hunger and body weight, by acting on the CB1 receptors in the brain.

CB1 receptors are associated with food intake behaviour, stimulating hunger and regulating its feedback signals. The ‘I’m full’ signal is a good example of this.
Primary brain structures such as the hypothalamic nuclei and nuclues accumbens are very sensitive to endocannabinoid action. The activity of these areas therefore varies depending on the nutritional situation and eating behaviour.
Endocannabinoids increase the motivation to eat through the reward system and through a euphoric feeling after eating. The substances modulate energy metabolism and storage. The nucleus accumbens is also associated with the perception of emotion and memory.

ECS against anorexia

On the basis of this information, the link was quickly established. The endocannabinoid system affects mood and also our response to food. Anorexia patients may suffer from a less active ECS, so the pleasure of eating is not experienced. Since the pathogenesis of the disease, its development, is related to the nucleus accumbens and the reward system, behavioural disorders are also inevitable in anorexia.

The treatment of anorexia or other eating disorders, weight regulation and obesity should therefore ideally focus on endocannabinoids. Then the disorder is tackled by rebalancing the underlying cause, the emotional behaviour it causes.

Cannabis in case of eating disorders

It is not only cannabinoids in the body that influence the ECS receptors. Phytocannabinoids known from the cannabis plant (phyto = plant) can also stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Like 2-AG and anandamide, they can help us achieve homeostasis and maintain optimal eating habits, energy metabolism and body weight.

It has been scientifically proven that THC, the best known of these phytocannabinoids, stimulates CB1 receptors where taste and odour are perceived. Its use therefore ensures a higher level of dopamine and the induction of feelings of hunger. THC thus gives you a euphoric reward feeling after you eat something. In this way, eating cannabis can become an enjoyable activity for patients with anorexia, while at the same time relieving anxiety and depression. In short, cannabis can help you on your way if you suffer from it. For more information, click here.

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