Natural high? Exercise reduces inflammation by creating the body’s own ‘cannabis’

NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom — Cannabis products are becoming an increasingly popular item among consumers looking for a natural pain reliever. However, a new study reveals the human body is actually capable of making its own cannabis-like substances that will ease your aches and pains instead.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham say exercise increases the production of endocannabinoids, which help to naturally reduce inflammation. Moreover, the study finds this substance could potentially treat a number of conditions, including arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.

Curing harmful inflammation starts in the gut

The study authors examined how exercising impacted the health of 78 people dealing with arthritis, 38 who engaged in 15 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises every day for six weeks. The other 40 volunteers did not work out during the study. Results show exercising not only reduced the participants’ pain, but also lowered the number of inflammatory substances called cytokines in the blood. Additionally, the study finds these helpful changes start in a person’s gut.

Researchers say the uptick in endocannabinoids from working out displayed a strong connection to gut microbes called SCFAS producing more healthy microbes and anti-inflammatory substances. The team discovered that at least one-third of the anti-inflammatory effects coming from the gut microbiome are the result of more endocannabinoids in a person’s system.

Previous studies have shown that exercise can play a key role in reducing inflammation, which in turn can lower a person’s risk of developing cancer, heart disease, or arthritis later in life. Until now, however, scientists were unsure about how the body cuts inflammation. Now, it seems our body’s “natural cannabis” plays a major part in this.

“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 interventions like exercise can modulate endocannabinoids,” concludes first author Dr. Amrita Vijay in a university release.

The study is published in the journal Gut Microbes.