Exercise boosts production of anti-inflammatory cannabis-like substances
Research continues to shine a light on all the surprising ways that exercise can benefit the human body, and that includes altering the composition of our gut microbiome and tempering inflammation. A new study has explored this phenomenon in sufferers of arthritis, and shown how the cannabis-like substances produced by the body play an important mediatory role and drive a large portion of the anti-inflammatory effects.
The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990s through research into the way cannabis works in the brain. This showed that the human body produces its own version of the active constituents in cannabis, called endocannabinoids, and subsequent studies have shown how they can play a role in depression, weight loss and reducing inflammation.
For this new study, scientists at the University of Nottingham set out to further explore the mechanisms through which exercise can decrease chronic inflammation, and what role the endocannabinoid system might play by influencing the gut microbiome.
To do so, the researchers enlisted 78 arthritis patients, around half of which were subjected to an exercise regime involving 15 minutes of muscle-strengthening workouts every day for six weeks. The other half of the group were made to do nothing. Those that exercised benefitted from a reduction in pain, and also exhibited more microbes in their guts that produce anti-inflammatory substances, as well as higher levels of endocannabinoids.
According to the team, this rise in endocannabinoids was strongly linked to the observed changes in the gut microbiome, along with the production of anti-inflammatory substances called short chain fatty acids. In all, the team says at least a third of the anti-inflammatory effects conferred by the exercise regime was due to an increase in endocannabinoids.
"Our study clearly shows that exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-type substances," says first author of the study Amrita Vijay. "Which can have a positive impact on many conditions. As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know that simple lifestyle interventions like exercise can modulate endocannabinoids.”
The research was published in the journal Gut Microbes.
Source: University of Nottingham