This natural and federally legal extract of the Cannabis plant has been turning up in products from sold in establishments ranging from drugstores to restaurants. Athletes have been touting its benefits for pain and healing. You might also know someone who swears it helped their anxiety, arthritis, insomnia, or a host of other things.
But what about eating disorders? If you’re living with one, will taking CBD help or hurt? Could it be a new way to help those in need?
CBD does show great promise in both scientific research and consumer experience. But for a serious condition like an eating disorder, it’s not to be taken lightly. So here’s a quick rundown of the evidence regarding CBD and eating disorders.
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Why It Might Help
Neurochemistry: CBD and other active ingredients in cannabis work with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps to regulate mood, inflammation, memory, cell production, and other physical functions. It also plays a role in digestion and appetite.
Research from the last few years indicates that people with eating disorders have an underactive ECS. So getting the system back online might play a previously undiscovered role in treatment.
There are also quite a few personal testimonies stating that cannabis use helps anorexia in particular. It’s said to increase appetite while also mellowing the mind so that the prospect of eating doesn’t seem so threatening.
Psychological benefits: CBD might be able to help the underlying stresses and traumas that can contribute to eating disorders. Experiments indicate that it can relieve anxiety and help people sleep if they’re struggling with insomnia.
CBD can also aid with emotional memory processing; so that past experiences may have less of a grip on us. This effect can help with both the painful memories of post-traumatic stress syndrome and the euphoric memories of substance abuse.
Many people feel that it gives them an overall sense of well-being.
Safety: Unlike whole cannabis, CBD is not psychoactive or addictive. It also does not appear to have the bad side effects some people experience with marijuana, such as paranoia and impaired functioning. In fact, studies have generally found it safer than some of the standard psychiatric drugs.
Why It Might Not
You may be missing the important part: The mind-altering ingredient in cannabis is THC, and it might actually be the most beneficial for eating disorders. The “munchies” that marijuana smokers get come from THC and the mellowing effect is stronger with both ingredients.
Perhaps for that reason, one of the few cannabis-related studies involving actual people with eating disorders used dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC. This human-made compound did lead to modest weight gain, but it’s not clear how it would have worked with CBD on board.
You might actually burn fat faster: Some people actually use CBD to lose weight, saying that it reduces their appetites. While this hasn’t been studied directly in humans, some participants in CBD trials for other reasons said that it affected their appetite, but indecisive as to whether it went up or down.
There’s also reason to believe that the ECS helps convert fat into heat, or eliminating it as waste. This response probably explains why pot smokers usually aren’t fat, despite the munchie effect.
Every person is unique, and so is every experience of an eating disorder. CBD is no substitute for a treatment program, but it may help supplement one by providing a calming, stabilizing psychological influence.
Because of its uncertain effects on appetite, it’s probably best for the dangerously underweight to avoid it, or to take it in combination with THC if possible. CBD can offset some of the negative effects of THC, without totally canceling it out.
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The best way forward is to consult your physician or therapist about trying a CBD regimen, or any form of cannabis treatment for that matter. They should know best how it might fit in with your particular journey.
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