According to a new study, exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-like substances, which as a result, reduces chronic inflammation and could potentially help treat certain conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.
In a new study, published in Gut Microbes, experts from the University of Nottingham found that when people with arthritis exercised, they could reduce their chronic inflammation and lower levels of inflammatory substances called cytokines. It also increased levels of cannabis-like substances produced by their own bodies, called endocannabinoids. As a result of exercising, it altered gut microbes.
What is inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can cause many diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and heart disease; however, exercise has been known to decrease inflammation, but it is relatively understudied on how it does this.
Inflammation that is not chronic can often be helpful as it protects the infection, trauma, or other causes of harm and starts the healing process. It does this by increasing blood flow to damaged tissue to deliver essential blood cells and proteins whilst washing away unwanted products and debris. However, inflammatory diseases often attack the body without an external insult. This can cause enlargement and loss of kidney function, swelling and loss of blood vessel function, and swelling and loss of muscle function. Inflammation can be short term or last several months or years, resulting in lasting damage to the affected area or organ.
Studying the impact of exercise on chronic inflammation
A group of scientists, led by Professor Ana Valdes from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, tested 78 patients with arthritis. The participants were split into groups to test the theory of whether exercise can reduce their pain and understand further benefits. 38 individuals carried out 15 minutes of muscle-strengthening exercises every day for six weeks, and 40 did not exercise at all.
At the end of the study, participants who did the exercise intervention had reduced their pain and produced more microbes in their gut, which were the variety that produces anti-inflammatory substances, lower levels of cytokines, and increased levels of endocannabinoids.
The increase in endocannabinoids was strongly linked to changes in the gut microbes and anti-inflammatory substances produced by gut microbes called SCFAS. In fact, at least one-third of the gut microbiome’s anti-inflammatory effects were due to the increase in endocannabinoids.
“Our study clearly shows that exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-type substances, which can have a positive impact on many conditions. As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know that simple lifestyle intervention like exercise can modulate endocannabinoids,” commented Doctor Amrita Vijay, a Research Fellow in the School of Medicine and first author of the paper.