Diabetes is a condition on the rise. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over 12% of the country’s adult population have diabetes and warn that, if the increase rate continues at its current pace, there could be as many as 1 in 3 Americans with diabetes by 2050. It is a life-long condition with no known cure currently, and it can have serious repercussions for your long-term health. Diabetics are more likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes and even go blind.
Treatment currently focuses on helping to alleviate the condition and help those afflicted live as normally as possible. Science is now showing that CBD appears to be an excellent option to help with this. CBD’s properties seem to fight against the causes of diabetes and help users regulate their blood sugar levels. This article looks closely at what diabetes is and how CBD can be helpful in its treatment. Please note, before you continue reading, it is extremely important to consult with your primary physician before deciding to go down the CBD route.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious, chronic (meaning life-long) condition which causes your blood sugar levels to be too high. There are two main types: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, there are also other, rarer types, such as gestational diabetes, which affects pregnant women.
The human body requires sugar, or glucose, to function. It is what gives us our energy. Our bodies get glucose by breaking down the carbohydrates in food or drink and releasing the resulting glucose into our blood. Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which is crucial to this process. Insulin acts as a key, allowing glucose to enter our cells, thus fuelling our bodies. What normally happens is that your pancreas can tell when glucose has entered your bloodstream and releases the correct amount of insulin to ensure the glucose can enter your cells. For people with diabetes, this system doesn’t work correctly.
What has gone wrong depends on which type of diabetes you have. With Type 1, for reasons currently unknown, your body’s immune system attacks the part of the pancreas that produces insulin, destroying the cells. The end result is that your body can’t make any insulin at all. With Type 2, your body can produce insulin but you either can’t produce enough, or it isn’t effective and the body’s cells don’t react to it. Type 2 is much more common.
All types of diabetes cause a build-up of glucose in your blood. This causes a whole host of different problems which results in the symptoms of diabetes. These include:
- Urinating a lot, particularly at night.
- Feeling incredibly thirsty.
- Feeling very tired.
- Slow healing cuts or wounds.
- Weight loss.
- Blurred vision.
- More infections, such as thrush.
After a long period of time, high blood sugar levels can do serious damage to you, leading to complications of diabetes. These include:
- Foot problems.
- Eye problems.
- Nerve damage.
- Kidney problems.
- Heart attacks.
- Related conditions, such as cancer.
Treatments for diabetes
As diabetes is a lifelong condition, it currently can never be completely cured. There are treatments to try and combat it, though. The most common are:
- Insulin injections – No matter what type of diabetes you have, you will have to take insulin. It is a simple concept: Diabetes is caused by not enough insulin, so the best way to counter it is to increase the insulin in your body. The most common method is injecting the hormone under the skin where it soaks into your blood vessels and thus enters your bloodstream. Any of seven main different types of insulin may be used, each with different properties such as how long they take effect for and when they should be injected.
- Insulin pumps – Another option to up your insulin levels is a pump. This is where you have a tube inserted under your skin and a battery-powered device provides you with regular insulin, giving a better control of your blood sugar levels. This does require you to carry out more tests of your blood sugar levels though and the pump must be constantly attached too.
- Medication – There are a number of medications to help with diabetes. They work in different ways and have different side effects for each type of medication. Not all treatments are suitable for everybody though, meaning some may not work at all on certain individuals. Your doctor will be able to recommend the best medication for you.
- Islet transplant – This is only suitable for Type 1 diabetes, where the islet cells of the pancreas which produce insulin have been destroyed. The operation involves removing islet cells from a deceased donor’s pancreas and implanting them in the patient’s liver. This does help, but it isn’t a cure. You may be free from insulin injections for a short period of time, but most transplant patients continue with insulin therapy.
- Bariatric surgery – This is surgery intended to make you lose weight, which can help with the management of Type 2 diabetes. Research shows that obesity surgery aimed at losing weight can directly affect how our bodies use insulin. There are a variety of different procedures used including removing parts of the stomach or surgically altering the digestive system’s route to miss the stomach completely. Again, it is not a cure, but can be very helpful, with some diabetics even going into remission.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – An essential for anyone, but especially those with diabetes. Your diet can make a huge difference in helping your body out. You should aim for a diet with plenty of dairy, fruit and vegetables, starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta and bread, and high protein foods like meat, eggs and nuts. As well as this, you should also look to avoid salt and food high in sugar and fat. Getting active with regular exercise is the other key component of a healthy lifestyle, as exercising helps the body regulate insulin more efficiently and lowers blood sugar levels as muscles use up glucose for energy.
How can CBD help with diabetes?
CBD is derived from cannabis, which is associated with the famed ‘munchies’ effect. With keeping a close on eye on your weight being one of the key ways to combat diabetes, it might seem counter-intuitive to use cannabis-derived treatments. Interestingly enough, research suggests that being both overweight and a cannabis user is not as common as you might think. Those who suffer from obesity and Type 2 diabetes often have an endocannabinoid imbalance, which could be why they find it hard to lose weight. Our endocannabinoid system plays a part in the regulation of energy homeostasis, especially in the intra-abdominal adipose tissues. If the endocannabinoid system is over-regulated, it can cause a build-up of excessive visceral fat around the stomach. This causes a reduction in the amount of adiponectin (a protein responsible for the regulation of glucose levels) released from the tissue. Less adiponectin in the body can cause insensitivity to insulin, which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Cannabis acts upon our endocannabinoid system. The main two active compounds in cannabis are THC and CBD: THC is what gives cannabis its psychoactive effects that make users feel “high”; CBD does not have these effects and, on the contrary, actually suppresses THC’s effect. If you use CBD treatment, instead of experiencing the THC-induced munchies effect, your appetite will actually be suppressed. Furthermore, CBD can help users re-balance their endocannabinoid system by increasing mitochondria activities and fat breakdown, promoting metabolism and decreasing fat storage. All of this combined means it is an excellent way to help Type 2 diabetics alleviate their condition. Using CBD will lead to less blood sugar fluctuations, meaning you can regulate your blood sugar levels with less medication.
With regards to Type 1 diabetes, CBD reduces the inflammation of pancreatic cells, again leading to a decreased need for insulin injections, meaning it will make your condition more manageable. CBD could help more than this though. One groundbreaking study has suggested that CBD has the potential to reduce the occurrence of Type 1 diabetes and delay the onset of the condition, thanks to CBD’s anti-autoimmune abilities. Scientists used CBD to successfully reverse an autoimmune disease in mice suffering from the early stages of Type 1 diabetes. CBD saved the insulin-forming cells from being damaged, ensuring glucose metabolism can occur as normal. They are now working to transfer this into treatments for humans and, if successful, they hope CBD could one day be a solution for Type 1 diabetes.
Studies into CBD’s effectiveness against diabetes
As outlined above, CBD is proving to be one of the most promising avenues of research for scientists looking for a cure for type 1 diabetes. As well as this, there have been studies which show how it can be an effective treatment in helping manage and alleviate both Type 1 and Type 2. Here are the details of a couple:
- One correlation study* compared large amounts of cannabis users with non-users and found that the cannabis users had a lower tendency to be diabetics. They also found that the marijuana users had 17% lower insulin resistance and 16% lower levels of fasting insulin. On top of this, the cannabis users had lower waist circumferences on average and a higher level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, a.k.a. “good cholesterol.” These exceptional findings all show how cannabis can benefit Type 2 sufferers.
- Another study exposed obese rats to cannabis extract and observed that they lost a significant amount of weight whilst also experiencing an increase in pancreas weight. This pancreatic weight increase indicated that the rat’s insulin producing cells in their pancreases were protected, suggesting cannabis can be used to help sufferers of Type 1 diabetes.
Final thoughts on CBD for Diabetes
As we currently have no cure for diabetes, the main aim of treatments is making the lives of those afflicted better. Having to ensure your insulin levels are maintained constantly is one of the most stressful and demanding aspects of suffering from diabetes. It is unpleasant to have to inject yourself multiple times a day. Most diabetics are keen to look at ways to reduce the amount of insulin boosts they need, and to allow themselves to live a life more similar to everyone else. Research shows that CBD may be able to do this.
CBD helps regulate blood sugar levels, meaning it can reduce how much extra insulin is needed. Another bonus is that CBD is generally taken in a more pleasant manner than insulin, such as holding oil in your mouth or eating a tasty, infused candy. This is definitely preferable to having extra injections or even a constant pump into your body set up. CBD also has other properties which are helpful in the fight against diabetes, such as suppressing appetite and being an anti-inflammatory. There is even hope for the future that it could be used as a very effective medication for Type 1. For now though, it definitely seems to be a worthwhile option for diabetics who want help controlling their condition and help to decrease their dependence on insulin boosts.
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