Exercise has been found to increase levels of endocannabinoids – cannabis-like substances produced by the human body – which in turn reduces inflammation and could potentially help treat certain conditions, such as arthritis, cancer and heart disease.
A team of researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK, led by Professor Ana Valdes from the School of Medicine, tested 78 people with arthritis.
Thirty-eight of them carried out 15 minutes of muscle-strengthening exercises every day for six weeks, and 40 did nothing.
Increase in ‘good’ gut bacteria
Those involved in the exercise intervention had not only reduced their pain, but they also had more microbes in their guts of the kind that produce anti-inflammatory substances, reduce levels of cytokines in the body and increase levels of endocannabinoid.
The increase in endocannabinoids was strongly linked to changes in the gut microbes and anti-inflammatory substances produced by gut microbes called Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs).
The study found that at least one-third of the anti-inflammatory effects created by changes in the gut microbiome were due to the increase in endocannabinoids in the body.
Natural cannabis-type substances
The findings were published in a report titled The anti-inflammatory effect of bacterial short chain fatty acids is partially mediated by endocannabinoid, and published in the journal Gut Microbes.
Doctor Amrita Vijay, a research fellow in the School of Medicine and first author of the paper, said: “Our study clearly shows that exercise increases the natural secretion of the body’s own cannabis-type substances, which can have a positive impact on many health conditions.
“As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know that simple lifestyle interventions, such as exercise, can also modulate endocannabinoids.”
While the secretion of endocannabinoids by the body is a natural metabolic process, the use of medical and recreational cannabis is known to suppress the natural secretion of endocannabinoids by removing the need for the body to produce it, making people more dependent.