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2023 Study: Medical Cannabis for Gut Health in Advanced Cancer

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Medical Cannabis for Gut Health in Advanced Cancer. An October 2023 study entitled "Supporting Gut Health with Medicinal Cannabis in People with Advanced Cancer: Potential Benefits and Challenges" that was published in the British Journal of Cancer explored the potential efficacy of cannabis for improvement of GI conditions in cancer patients.


Does Medical Cannabis Help Mucositis?

The research outlined "a rationale for how, based on its already documented effects on the gastrointestinal microenvironment, medicinal cannabis could be used to control mucositis and prevent the constellation of symptoms with which it is associated."

A schematic of a man suffering gut problems.
Does cannabis help cancer?

The scientists explained how there are many negative side effects of chemotherapy, one of the common cancer treatments. "Of the many documented side effects of chemotherapy, the breakdown of the mucosal barrier of the gastrointestinal tract ('mucositis') is one of the earliest and most common. Mucositis is initiated by rapid and extensive DNA damage in highly proliferative stem cells throughout the gastrointestinal mucosa," reported the study.


"Of the many documented side effects of chemotherapy, the breakdown of the mucosal barrier of the gastrointestinal tract ('mucositis') is one of the earliest and most common."

The researches noted that mucositis produces sometimes severe inflammation that, in turn, results in fever, cognitive impairment, and fatigue. "As such, the destructive changes in the gastrointestinal microenvironment position mucositis as a catalyst for a range of secondary complications, and a key player in a range of symptom clusters."

A schematic depicting the expression of ECS cannabinoid receptors in the human body.
Expression of cannabinoid receptors

Medical Cannabis for Gut Health in Advanced Cancer Conclusions

The study reported the following conclusions from the data that it captured and analyzed:


"Soon after the discovery of its chemical structure and ability to obtain various compounds from the plant in the late 1900s, as well as the description of the cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system in the 1990s, cannabis use for medical purposes has increased significantly with a steep rise in the last few years.


"In cancer care, self-reported cannabis use is prevalent, however, the evidence base is lacking due to inconsistencies in study design and outcomes."

"It is evident that the majority of this use results from illegal access, however, this has been recognised and laws are in a fast-changing phase with several products approved and several others on a registered unapproved list. This provides new opportunities for users and prescribers to access MC products in a legal manner. In cancer care, self-reported cannabis use is prevalent, however, the evidence base is lacking due to inconsistencies in study design and outcomes.


"Moving forward, it is critical that research efforts integrate appropriate pharmacokinetic and mechanistic sub-studies to understand cannabis biology in the context of cancer and investigate its efficacy in a more holistic sense by considering its impact on clusters of related symptoms. In the context of mucositis, this is a compelling approach given the numerous symptoms that occur secondary to mucosal barrier injury and the already documented benefits medicinal cannabis has on gastrointestinal physiology, inflammation, and dysfunction."


View the original study.

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