Exercise increases the body’s production of endocannabinoids, which in turn reduces inflammation and pain in conditions like arthritis. The corresponding study was published in Gut Microbes by researchers led by the University of Nottingham in the UK.
While researchers have known for some time that exercise reduces chronic inflammation, which aids conditions like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, how exactly it does this has remained a mystery.
Nevertheless, some research suggests that the gut microbiome and exercise are interconnected to regulate metabolism and homeostasis independent of diet. Other research has shown that certain gut microbes regulate the expression of cannabinoid and opioid receptors in intestinal cells.
However, until now, researchers have not known the extent to which changes in the endocannabinoid system may affect inflammation in the gut. The researchers of the present study thus decided to investigate this issue.
To do so, they conducted a study on 78 people with arthritis. While 38 of these participants carried out 15 minutes of muscle-strengthening exercises every day for six weeks, the remaining 40 participants did nothing. The researchers collected blood, stool, and general measures such as height and weight from each participant at the beginning and end of the study.
In the end, they found that participants who engaged in exercise had reduced pain. They also had more anti-inflammatory microbes in their gut, lower levels of cytokines, and higher levels of endocannabinoids than those who did nothing. Further statistical analyses showed that at least a third of the anti-inflammatory effects on the gut microbiome arose from increased levels of endocannabinoids.
“Our study clearly shows that exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-type substances. Which can have a positive impact on many conditions,” said Dr. Amrita Vijay, first author of the study, “As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know that simple lifestyle interventions like exercise can modulate endocannabinoid.”