Chilli Peppers and Marijuana May Heal The Gut
Chilli peppers are known for their ability to relieve pain associated with many different conditions including, arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve and lower back pain and certain gastrointestinal conditions. The magic ingredient of course is capsaicin. It turns out that chill peppers have a lot more in common with cannabis than we thought and it due to a chemical compound called Anandamide. When capsaicin binds to a receptor called TRPV1, which is found on specialized cells throughout the gastro intestinal tract, the cells make this chemical called anandamide. Anandamide is a compound chemically similar to, you guessed it, the cannabinoids found in marijuana. It is the anandamide that causes the immune system to calm down and by feeding mice this chemical directly the same gut calming effect is produced.
Researchers at the University of Connecticut discovered just that, when they fed mice capsaicin they found that these mice had less inflammation in their gastro intestinal tract. Mice with type 1 diabetes were actually cured of the disease by being fed chill peppers. Diabetes is strongly linked to Gastrointestinal inflammation. The brain equally contains receptors for anandamide and it is these receptors that react with cannabinoids found in marijuana that produce the high. Scientist have long wondered why the brain contains these receptors as they don’t seem to interact with vital bodily functions, but it is now becoming clear that the immune system and the brain actually communicate with each other. Researchers don’t know how or why anandamide might relay messages between the immune system and the brain, but they have found out the details of how it heals the gut. The molecule reacts with TRPV1 receptor to produce more anandamide and also reacts with another receptor to call in a type of macrophage, immune cells that subdue inflammation. The macrophage population and activity level increases when anandamide levels increase. The effects pervade the entire upper gut, including the esophagus, stomach and pancreas. They are still working with mice to see whether it also affects disorders in the bowels, such as colitis. And there are many other questions yet to be explored: what is the exact molecular pathway? Other receptors also react with anandamide; what do they do? How does ingesting weed affect the gut and the brain? If the epidemiological data shows a significant change, that would make a testable case that anandamide or other cannabinoids could be used as therapeutic drugs to treat certain disorders of the stomach, pancreas, intestines and colon.