The Future of Medicine: Listen to Your Gut Microbiome

From “All disease begins in the gut” 2500 years ago, through the misguided antibiotic era, and on to the discovery of the gut microbiome in the 1990s – Medical Cannabis Dispensary South Africa takes a deep dive into one of the most fundamental and overlooked components essential to human health and tells you what you need to do (and not do) in order to protect your wellbeing. We also touch on the effects of medical marijuana on the microbiome, GI tract, and beyond.
Apr 05, 2022
Health, News

It’s time to take a very deep dive and explore a hidden world – or at least it was until recently. Before we begin, let’s set the tone. MCDSA is not anti: doctors, modern medicines, establishments, big pharma, etc. We are simply pro natural medicines, knowledge, choice, and safety. In fact, if we had our way, the benefits of medical cannabis would be more widely acknowledged by medical practitioners and used hand-in-hand with conventional medicines.


Antibiotic-Microbiome War
The Modern Chemical World
Cannabis and the Microbiome
Take Home Message

The Antibiotic-Microbiome War

Did you know that you have an entire ecosystem of non-human microbes living on and inside you and that their healthy balance is fundamental to your wellbeing? If you haven’t at least heard of the gut microbiome by now, everyone you talk to is either blissfully healthy or you’re living under a rock. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut”. Fast-forward 2500 years and we’re now only beginning to scratch the surface as to why this is so deeply and fascinatingly true.

Human beings have a habit of labelling things as either “good” or “bad”. Unfortunately, for those of us who’ve lived during the antibiotic era (the past 75 years or so), the medical industry has unwittingly been waging war on an essential component to human health. The message was clear, “Kill the bacteria!”, hence the birth of the age of antibiotics. However, this medical logic was about as inherently flawed as drilling holes in people’s heads (“trepanation”) to release evil spirits, performed until only a few centuries ago. Interestingly though, “craniotomies” are a neurosurgical technique still practised to release fluid and relieve pressure on the brain today. Back to the point.

What the antibiotic war didn’t account for was that bacteria are essential to human health. Not only would bacteria mutate and become more resistant to treatment, but we are not meant to live in a sterile world at all, which can even compromise our natural immune function. In fact, every human being relies on a symbiotic, harmonious relationship with around 100-trillion microbes of all sorts living in the gut alone. Wrap your head around that number for a second. Effectively, the genome inside our guts exceeds that of our own human genome by more than 100-fold. The gut microbiome is essentially a biome (ecosystem) of foreign (non-human) microbes living in the gut. It was not generally recognized to exist until the late 1990s.

The National Human Genome Research Institute defines the microbiome as “the collective genomes of the microbes (composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside and on the human body”. According to the University of Washington, the microbiome is “essential for human development, immunity and nutrition”, and these microbes aren’t invaders but beneficial colonizers. These microbes are fundamental not only to digestion but also human health in general; they synthesize essential vitamins, expand energy harvested from food, strengthen the gut-blood barrier, and strengthen and regulate the immune system.

Antibiotics wage war on the microbiome, compromising the gut-blood barrier, leading to leaky gut and disease.

Yes, you heard correctly – bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even parasites are fundamentally essential to human health. But wait, there’s more. Your skin, hair, and every surface you can see and touch is literally crawling with life. This is the way nature intended and it should not be any other way. Now, that’s not to say that microbes are all “good” – some cause aggressive illness and a general shift in their populations can lead to gut dysbiosis and cause all sorts of disease – from chronic fatigue to Alzheimer’s. Nor is it to say that antibiotics are all “bad” – there is a time and place for them. Rather, we’re saying that the concept of attempting to sterilize our delicate guts and other parts of ourselves with antibiotics is deeply misguided.

Along with any bacteria labelled as “bad”, bacteriocidal medicines are killing off entire species of fundamentally beneficial bacteria too. If these are not replaced with sufficient probiotics (e.g., from cultured foods, rather than inadequate over-the-counter supplements), we start to create an unbalanced ecosystem and a shift towards disease, which can be very hard to come back from. Not to mention the mutations of pathogenic bacteria leading to antibiotic resistance in recent times.

Life in a Modern Chemical World

Our guts provide a fragile, protective barrier between our bloodstream and the outside world. Nowadays, we are constantly playing a delicate game with every food we eat and medicine we take. It’s become the norm to eat foods riddled with chemicals. Processed foods are full of preservatives, numbers and letters, and words you can’t pronounce. Just plain foods, like meat and veggies, are filled with antibiotics, hormones, and fungi/herbi/pesticides.

Sadly, in fact, we’re doing the same thing to the food we eat and the land upon which it’s nurtured as we’re doing to our guts, destroying the fragile balance of healthy, living ecosystems. Natural and organic principles aside, we cannot hide that we’re committing microbiome genocide. While simple natural, “organic” food and nothing else is almost stigmatized as being for the rich and famous. Not that there’s a simple organic farming solution – money is hard to come by for all these days, as farmers seek solutions to keep up with the world’s alarmingly expanding population, as it heads towards being unsustainable.

We’re simply living in an age of contamination without condemnation. Even drinking water is becoming an issue. Chlorine and fluoride are common sterilizing agents, while the presence agricultural chemicals is not uncommon. Pharmaceutical medications can be found in the tap water of big cities around the world. Bottled water contains endocrine-disrupting microplastics and is forming an island of garbage in the ocean. It’s questionable if many of us would even tolerate the microbe-containing, natural drinking water of our ancestors, with our compromised modern gut communities.

Just as with human habitation and colonization around the globe, we are interfering with another ecosystem, taking away essential components and introducing alien species. Except this time, it’s inside us and the consequences are affecting every one of us. We are either directly becoming sick with all kinds of weird and wacky diseases or being indirectly affected via those we love falling ill. The medical solution? Sadly, rather than taking away that which makes us sick, we entrust with our medical guardians that the way forward is taking in more unnatural, chemical medicines.

How Cannabis Affects the Microbiome

Perhaps the most famous gastrointestinal effect of cannabis is that of appetite stimulation or “the munchies”, thanks to the intoxicating cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Due to the interaction of marijuana compounds with the endocannabinoid system (ECS, which you can read more about here) it’s also able to affect nausea signalling, the control of tissue homeostasis, intestinal sensory and motor activity, and epithelial barrier function. These support the existence of a ‘gut-endocannabinoid axis’, which is massively significant and shouldn’t be discounted.

You’ll find CB1, CB2, and other ECS receptors throughout the gut. Healthy epithelial barrier function is vital to control the passage of compounds into the bloodstream – allowing nutrients and vitamins through while preventing unwanted immune-triggering compounds. When this barrier is compromised, the pathological intestinal permeability is termed “leaky gut”, which can lead to an array of health complications, like autoimmune disease.

The gastrointestinal tract and microbiome are influenced in fascinating ways by medical cannabis.

Boosting hunger and reducing nausea are gamechangers for many conditions, not least cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy and dealing with its induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). Tissue homeostasis is fundamental to the health of every single cell in the body. Nerve signalling between the gut-brain axis (from gut to brain via the vagus nerve and vice versa) and within the gut itself is also an important potential target of medical cannabis, with an obvious example being speeding up or slowing down gut motility.

As far as the 100-trillion strong microbiome itself goes, there are an unimaginable number of variables at play. Each microbe is likely to be affected in a unique way by cannabis. To extrapolate into the broader GI microbial community, the compound needs to be matched to the underlying cause of your condition. It’s possible that your unique microbiome might be uniquely affected by different compounds, such as THC and CBD (cannabidiol), compared to someone else with a similar condition. We can only use scientific and anecdotal evidence to determine if medical marijuana is right for you.

In general, cannabis has shown to exhibit antimicrobial activity in vitro. Some patients find cannabis provides relief from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (UC). Leaky gut is associated with inflammation and autoimmunity, which can be relieved to some extend by CBD oil, which may also help reduce insulin resistance and control blood sugar in diabetes. CBD can also be a viable alternative for conventional antianxiety, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory medications – the latter which can significantly damage the gut.

Obesity, autism, anxiety, depression, and neurodegenerative diseases are all associated with an unhealthy, imbalanced microbiome. THC has shown an ability to shift the microbiome away from obesity and its associated health problems (not least cardiovascular disease), while both CBD and THC are neuroprotective. Clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana compounds, particularly CBD, help improve the quality of life of persons living with autism spectrum disorder. THC-rich cannabis also serves as a replacement therapy for recovery from addiction to opiods, other prescription drugs, and alcohol, which can significantly shift the gut microbiome towards dysbiosis and damage the gut lining, amongst other tissues and organs.

We are not promoting medical marijuana as a cure-all for gut disease. Science doesn’t have all the answers and neither do we. Though it’s benefits should certainly not be ignored. It’s fair to say that medical cannabis has a systemic influence on the human body and is able to treat or support the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders either through direct, targeted therapy, or indirectly, by reducing inflammation and supporting sleep, for example. You can learn all about its therapeutic potential for many conditions in our treatment guidelines or simply contact us to find out if medical cannabis can help treat your condition or symptoms.

Key Message: You are a Rainforest

While this article might not change the world, it might just change your world, or the world of someone you love – be they heartfelt human, furry feline or canine companion. The message is clear, we are not separate from the biosphere around us, but rather one with it. So, look after the natural rainforest living inside, on, and all around you. Take care of the eyes that let you see the sunrise, and don’t pollute your ocean-deep mind or exploit the finite natural resource that is your life.

At this point, we must reiterate, MCDSA is not anti antibiotics, doctors, or conventional medicine. There is a time and a place for them. We’re just saying there’s a big problem out there and it’s up to each one of us to make conscious health choices in our lives. The benefits of natural medicines are undeniable and there’s a place for pharmaceutical medicines too, but it shouldn’t be the norm that people are prescribed medication without trying natural solutions first. This is especially true when decisions are made based on assumptions of mental health conditions, when the underlying cause may lie elsewhere – like your microbiome. Self-doubt is a disease of its own. Listen to your gut.

Rather than allowing medical gaslighting to cause you to doubt your own intuition and chow down on prescription pills, only to end up with more drugs to treat the side effects of other prescriptions, which may have failed to address the true underlying cause(s) of your ailments, trust your intuition. Seek holistic advice first, before you identify with potentially false labels bestowed upon you, such as depression and anxiety disorders actually rooted in inflammation. The benefits of medical marijuana are so profound that it is becoming an irrefutable part of science-based modern medicine, for all kinds of challenging health ailments.

Medical cannabis provides a natural solution to many modern ailments and conditions, for which the medical solution is often unnatural and causes further, unnecessary chemical/toxic burden on your body. We simply aim to provide you with knowledge that might make you question your perspective and make informed health choices of your own volition. Contact us to find out if it may be right for you, and we’ll help you kickstart your healing journey today.

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All information on this page is subject to MCDSA’s disclaimer.


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