Exercise promotes the production of the body’s own cannabis-like compounds, which consequently aids in reducing inflammation and potentially holds therapeutic benefits for conditions like arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.
A recent study conducted by experts from the University of Nottingham and published in Gut Microbes revealed that exercise intervention in individuals with arthritis not only alleviated their pain but also resulted in decreased levels of inflammatory substances known as cytokines. Moreover, exercise led to increased levels of endocannabinoids, cannabis-like substances produced internally by the body. Interestingly, these changes were attributed to alterations in the gut microbiome.
Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to various diseases, including cancer, arthritis, and heart disease. However, the mechanisms through which exercise reduces inflammation remain largely unknown. To shed light on this, a group of scientists, led by Professor Ana Valdes from the School of Medicine, conducted a study involving 78 arthritis patients. Among them, 38 individuals engaged in 15 minutes of daily muscle strengthening exercises for six weeks, while the remaining 40 participants did not undertake any exercise regimen.
At the conclusion of the study, the exercise group exhibited not only reduced pain but also an increased presence of gut microbes associated with the production of anti-inflammatory substances. Additionally, they demonstrated lower levels of cytokines and higher levels of endocannabinoids. Notably, the rise in endocannabinoids showed a strong correlation with changes in the gut microbiome and the anti-inflammatory substances produced by the gut microbes, specifically short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Remarkably, at least one-third of the gut microbiome’s anti-inflammatory effects could be attributed to the increased production of endocannabinoids.
Dr. Amrita Vijay, a Research Fellow in the School of Medicine and the first author of the study, emphasized that their findings clearly demonstrate how exercise boosts the body’s own cannabis-like substances, which can positively impact various conditions. She further emphasized the importance of recognizing that simple lifestyle interventions such as exercise have the potential to modulate endocannabinoids, particularly in the context of increasing interest in cannabidiol oil and other similar supplements.