Improve Immunity Odds with CBD
With the added stress of a global pandemic on top of our regularly scheduled cold and flu season, is there a better time to power up our immune systems than now? Amidst the array of immune-boosting regimens out there, cannabidiol (CBD) is making strong headway in the seemingly endless benefits it offers, including immunotherapeutic properties. To better comprehend how CBD beneficially impacts our immune system, it is helpful to first understand the role of our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The endocannabinoid system was discovered during research into how properties of the cannabis plant affect the body. Up until recently, authorized research on cannabis was extremely limited due to legal restrictions. As a result, the endocannabinoid system took a much lengthier time to unveil. Just like the numerous other biological systems that help our bodies function, each one of us possesses an endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is distributed immensely throughout the body. While some of our biological systems have more specific jobs, the ECS acts as an overall regulation manager to the majority of our other systems. Subsequently, the endocannabinoid system helps regulate the immune system. CBD has been shown upon multiple studies to support endocannabinoid function with its overall balancing effects. Additionally, CBD activates receptors tied to a plethora of health conditions like mental well-being, pain, inflammation, and sleep. It only makes sense that the continual use of CBD products from natural hemp extract can help the body lift its immune system and maintain homeostasis.
With its many immunotherapeutic properties, many believe that CBD should be considered a serious candidate for assisting in treatments dealing with many viral and/or inflammatory conditions. There is, by no means, enough evidence to claim one should rely solely on CBD as a treatment for such conditions, but what research has been gathering offers some intriguing insight, especially in the middle of a viral pandemic.
While the findings of these studies are extremely enticing, it is important to keep in mind that research on this subject is still new and limited. While CBD has been found to possess many immunotherapeutic properties, there is a list of other well-known and medically-backed practices that are just as vital for preserving our immune systems. Perhaps, for the time being, the use of CBD should be viewed as a potential booster to complement those immune-building practices which have been studied at greater depth.
Next to social distancing, wearing masks, and washing your hands, some of the best strategies for preventing viruses like COVID-19 are as follows: 1) Get enough vitamin D; 2) Get enough sleep; 3) Exercise regularly to combat obesity; 4) Avoid ultra-processed foods, and 5) Stop smoking and limit alcohol. To understand the correlation each of these recommendations has in regard to combating the coronavirus, let’s break them down.
Vitamin D is Vital: Due to its production by the body in response to the skin being exposed to sunlight, vitamin D (technically a pro-hormone) is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D plays a number of roles in keeping us healthy, and research continues to find connections in which vitamin D protects against a multitude of health problems. Among such roles is the essential way vitamin D impacts our bone and immune health. A large majority of immune system cells are affected by vitamin D. In connection with COVID-19, vitamin D is known to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production and enhance anti-inflammatory cytokine production. One particular study has shown that patients who have low levels of vitamin D are nearly seven times more likely to die from COVID-related complications.
It is easy to become vitamin D deficient when recommended levels are not consumed and/or sunlight exposure is limited. The latter often happens during winter months when days are shorter. This is a large reason so many people become more prone to sickness during the months which encompass “cold and flu season.” Limited sun exposure can also be a result of living in northern latitudes, wearing modest clothing, working indoor jobs, or being homebound (hello effects of a pandemic). There are several other factors that contribute to decreased levels of vitamin D. While the use of sunscreen can be beneficial, the overuse inhibits vitamin D production. Individuals who have darker skin often have lower vitamin D levels due to the fact that melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make as much vitamin D. Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease affect the intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D found in certain food and drinks. And because vitamin D is extracted from blood by fat cells, obese individuals also rank among those more likely to have trouble sustaining recommended vitamin D levels.
While the most effective and natural way to get enough vitamin D comes from regular sun exposure, getting 10-30 minutes of midday sunlight multiple times per week is a great goal but may not be realistic for everyone. Fortunately, there are other ways in which we can obtain vitamin D. Foods which contain vitamin D include: salmon, cod liver oil, tuna, eggs, trout, ham, fortified milk and yogurt, sardines, oysters, shrimp, mushrooms, caviar, butter, and certain cheeses. Vitamin D is also offered as a dietary supplement.
Sufficient Sleep: To determine whether or not an adequate amount of sleep each night makes us more or less prone to sickness and infectious illness, one specific study evaluated the connection between sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sixteen healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 years old were first assessed on their sleep duration and continuity over seven consecutive days. Next, all 16 volunteers were quarantined and exposed to the rhinovirus through nasal drops. After being monitored for the five days that followed, those with shorter sleep duration (sleeping less than six hours per night) were found to have an increased probability of developing a clinical cold.
So how exactly does sleep help strengthen the immune system? Sleep has been linked to improving specific immune cells known as T cells. T cells help our bodies fight against virus-infected cells. In order for T cells to attack these virus-infected cells, T cells must be able to “stick” to the infected cells. While awake, our bodies typically undergo more stress than when we are asleep and, therefore, produce more stress hormones and pro-inflammatory molecules. Such hormones and molecules have a tendency to make T cells “less sticky” which leaves them less effective at combating cells hosting harmful pathogens. During more restful sleeping hours, our bodies are able to make T cells “stickier” and, thus, better equipped for strengthening our immune systems.
Exercise and Combating Obesity: Predictably, unhealthy lifestyle choices impair the way our immune systems function. Among a long list of modifiable lifestyle factors, obesity is one that increases our propensity to viral infection. It is not hard to see why so many severe cases of COVID-19 are so commonly found among obese patients. Fat has been found to release inflammatory cytokines. The more adipose (fat) tissue one carries, the more likely the individual is to struggle with chronic inflammation. Under this constant state of inflammation comes the constant state of stress upon the immune system. As a result, the immune system becomes compromised and leaves the body more susceptible to illness and disease. With an increasing number of jobs and academic classes being performed in front of a screen, implementing regular physical activity is more essential than ever.
Avoid Ultra-processed Foods: High-processed foods and high blood sugar levels have been linked to lowered immunity. We (in Western culture) are notorious for our destructive diets. For centuries, we have been overindulging in refined sugars, salt, fat, and genetically modified foods. Such an overabundance of these foods also leads to increased inflammation which we now know hinders the fighting functions of our immune systems. Additionally, cancer rates and risks for auto-inflammatory diseases escalate.
Stop Smoking and Limit Drinking: Containing over 7,000 chemical compounds, cigarette smoke seriously inhibits the function of our immune systems. Smoking makes it significantly easier for infection and disease to progress within our bodies. As if we need another reason why smoking is so detrimental to our health, would it come as a shock that COVID-19 patients who regularly smoke tobacco have a much harder time fighting off the virus? Not only does smoking increase respiratory infection, but it also increases the severity of respiratory diseases. Smokers are developing more severe cases of the coronavirus because COVID-19 is an infectious disease that profoundly attacks the lungs, and smoking is well-known to weaken lung function fueling for a disastrous combination.
When it comes to consuming alcohol, it has been found that properties of alcohol can damage specific cells (dendritic cells) which play an important role in the immune system. This could explain why vaccines are often less effective for people with alcohol addiction. The higher the consumption and continuation of drinking, the more likely one are to become exposed to viral and bacterial infections.
Maintaining recommended levels of vitamin D, getting enough sleep and exercise, and avoiding ultra-processed foods, smoking, and excessive drinking is not only a prescription to help prevent and combat COVID-19, but it is a lifestyle necessary for ensuring your immune system continues to function at its peak. In addition to these practices, the regular use of CBD could boost your immunity to a whole new level.
Since vitamin D is only found in a small quantity of food, it might be smart to consider taking a vitamin D supplement. CBD allegedly helps protect vitamin D levels, and it is believed that qualities of CBD can help accentuate similar qualities of vitamin D suggesting that together CBD and vitamin D could work as a dynamic duo.
When it comes to sleep, studies have strongly supported that CBD can help with falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting more restful sleep, overall. Using CBD as an aid for supporting great sleep habits is becoming more frequent.
As mentioned above, one of the greatest benefits CBD offers lies within its anti-inflammatory properties. With exercise comes the potential for sore muscles. CBD makes for a useful aid during post-workout recovery because of its ability to reduce muscle inflammation.
Among all of the immune system hijackers, stress is one of the biggest. When we become stressed, how often do we turn to “quick fix” bad habits like smoking, drinking, or overindulging in processed foods as a means to temporarily medicate our anxiety or worry? If CBD is known for one thing, chances are it is for its valued ability to relieve stress and anxiety.
Because CBD has been proven to interact with the endocannabinoid system, and the endocannabinoid system has been proven to help our bodies maintain balance by regulating biological systems such as the immune system, CBD should be considered a great addition to one’s immune-boosting regime.
Health Disclaimer: All information in this blog is provided for general and educational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional health advice. Before taking any action based upon the above information, it is strongly encouraged to consult with the appropriate medical and healthcare professionals.
Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash