Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses (or doesn’t) glucose, or sugar. Most people that suffer from diabetes fit into one of two categories, type 1 or type 2. While type 1 is an autoimmune disorder (a result of your immune system attacking its own cells, insulin-producing beta cells in this case), we find type 2 in people who have become insulin resistant. Both types result in the inability to process sugar. Cells in your body want to take sugar in and turn it into energy, but they are unable to do so without insulin. Think of it like parking your car in your garage. Your car (sugar) belongs inside the garage (the cell), but the garage door is closed (the receptor) until you open it with your garage door opener (insulin). When your body can’t process sugar, it results in a plethora of dangerous health issues.
How CBD Can Help
Sadly, we don’t know the endocannabinoid system’s role in insulin production and management. But what we do know is CBD’s effect on some of the symptoms of diabetes. So while we can’t confirm that there’s any direct effect on diabetes, we can say for certain that it will help with the dangerous side effects that come with it.
Atherosclerosis and Hyaline Arteriolosclerosis
The first two diseases that CBD could benefit are a result of non-enzymatic glycation. When sugar cannot enter the cells it accumulates in the blood and gathers around proteins and lipids leading to issues dealing with blood flow.
Atherosclerosis – Proteins and lipids covered in sugar will initiate a response from the immune system leading to inflammation. This response damages the cell walls, allowing LDL’s (bad cholesterol) into the walls of the arteries, triggering more inflammation and oxidation leading to plaque built inside the walls. Chronic complications of atherosclerosis include coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke, and retinopathy.
CBD’s modulatory effect on the immune system is well documented. Inflammation, the immune systems way of recruiting help, often becomes what is called a positive feed-back loop. While this is necessary for some physiological functions, it does leads to chronic inflammation and other diseases that are problematic. CBD has the ability to stop this feed-back, allowing the body to heal and decreasing oxidative stress.
Hyaline Arteriolosclerosis – Regarding the sugar coated proteins and lipids, this time they find themselves in tiny arteries that deliver blood to organs. They stick to the walls resulting in a narrower path for the blood to flow through leading to damaged organs. When found in the glomerulus (where the blood is filtered in the kidneys) they are called Kimmelsteel Wilson Nodules, and this can lead to chronic kidney disease.
CBD’s effect on the cardiovascular system is well known. It relaxes arteries so that blood may more easily flow through. It won’t help prevent the buildup of these nodules, but it may help minimize the effects.
Osmotic Cell Death
So let’s review what insulin does. Insulin is released when your body detects sugar in the blood. Insulin attaches to receptors on the cells that then allow sugar to enter the cell. But that’s not all, there’s also special physiological processes inside the cell that are initiated when insulin activates its receptor. These are required to metabolize the sugar inside the cell. Now, there are specific cells in the body that actually don’t require insulin to let sugar in, but those physiological processes that are initiated inside the cell are still needed. Without that initiation, sugar is allowed inside the cell and is not metabolized. This is problematic because sugar loves water (ever get thirsty after a sugary dessert?). This means that water gets pulled inside the cell drowning and killing it. This happens in; 1) the lens of the high leading to blindness, (2) in the kidney causing nephropathy, and most importantly for us (3) in the cells of the nervous system leading to neuropathy.
CBD cannot save the cells from being drowned. But where it will help is in the nervous system. Your nervous system has one of the highest concentrations of endocannabinoid receptors in your body. Its effect on neurodegenerative diseases and neuropathic pain are among the greatest benefits CBD has to offer us.
Overall Digestive Health
When we look at the body on the whole and understand that everything is connected, it isn’t hard to see how other factors can play critical roles in processes where they aren’t so apparent. Too often we look at the parts and pieces of our bodies and how they operate individually, but neglect how the body operates as a whole. Do you think you can properly digest food if you are stressed out? We live in a time like no other, where our nervous system is being overstimulated and runs on all cylinders 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. We are in constant “fight or flight” mode.
The evidence is clear when our minds are on high alert our bodies are unable to properly digest nutrients. The endocannabinoid system is the “phone operator” of our entire bodies. It regulates and modulates communication where it needs to. You are not only what you eat, but what you absorb. And like a sponge, you cannot soak in anything if other systems of your body are overloaded. CBD can help quiet our nervous system and immune system to the constant stimulation from the outside.
The Future of CBD and Diabetes
As mentioned before, we can’t be sure what the endocannabinoid system’s exact role in the production and management of blood sugar or insulin is. However, there is hope yet. We know that there are endocannabinoid receptors located in the pancreas. We know that enzymes that break down endocannabinoids (FAAH and MAGL) can be synthesized in the pancreas. Researchers have found endocannabinoids in the pancreas of rats (not humans yet).
Where there is smoke there is fire. We know the ECS plays some kind of role because all the tools are there, we just don’t know the exact part it plays. New research is being done every day to help us understand this beautiful, complicated system we call the Endocannabinoid System.
Doctors advise caution against cannabis if you have diabetes. Their concern lies in THC’s effect on appetite (if you have diabetes you don’t want less self-control over what you eat). We offer CBD products that contain no THC, and other products that only have trace amounts of THC, so there is little concern for appetite stimulation. However, always consult your physician before adding CBD to your regiment if you are or are in danger of becoming diabetic.