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Can CBD Help Treat Anorexia?

Posted by Lewis Olden on
Can CBD Help Treat Anorexia?

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CBD could potentially help with certain side effects of anorexia, however there are other cannabinoids that may be able to help in different ways.

In the United States over 30m people suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia. In the UK, it is estimated that 1.25m people have an eating disorder.  

Eating disorders can cause serious damage both mentally and physically to those who suffer from a condition like anorexia. This can primarily be attributed to the nutritional deficiencies that are caused by not eating properly.

When compared to other mental illnesses, anorexia has one of the highest death rates of all. It is vital that treatment for anorexia should address both mental and physical sickness. Pharmaceuticals are often not the answer for treating anorexia as there are many psychological factors that need to be considered. It is crucial that methods of increasing hunger levels and enhancing the desire to eat are found.

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia is a medical condition which causes sufferers to purposely limit their own energy intake to ensure that they do not gain weight. Anorexia is commonly associated with body dysmorphia, which is a mental disorder where the patient becomes obsessed with their perceived flaws in their appearance when in fact, they are non-existent.

It is very common for people who suffer from anorexia to have poor self-esteem and it is vital to bear in mind that the condition is far more complicated than it seems on the surface. 

Those who suffer from anorexia commonly have underlying problems that allow the condition to affect them, these include:

  • Distorted body image
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Severe fear of gaining weight
  • Isolated socially
  • A history of being abused

Anorexia often makes those who suffer from the condition to portray themselves as overweight, when they are in fact dangerously underweight and in some cases malnourished.

What are the symptoms of anorexia?

The symptoms of someone who is suffering from anorexia include:

  • Anemia
  • Dry skin
  • Severe fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Amenorrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver damage
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak immune system
  • Extreme weight loss

What are the risk factors for anorexia?

Anorexia is primarily a psychological disorder, and the root cause of the condition varies depending on the individual affected. Some common risk factors include:

  • Very low self esteem
  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Anxiety
  • History of abuse
  • Genetic variables
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

How is anorexia typically treated? 

As anorexia is a psychological condition, the primary treatments many doctors elect to deploy include therapy sessions, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. With the main goal being to treat the self-esteem issues that the individual is experiencing, this is especially pertinent if the sufferer has underlying mental health problems such as depression or severe anxiety. 

Can CBD oil help with anorexia?

There are several herbal products that are said to improve anorexia by increasing the body’s hormones that are involved in hunger and satiety. With one option being cannabis.

There is a well-known stereotype of those who use cannabis and that is that they eat a lot after using cannabis.

There are many cannabinoids in the marijuana plant that have been proven to increase hunger levels and the most notorious one is THC. However, as THC is the cannabinoid that causes a psychoactive effect, it is still illegal in the UK. Therefore, all CBD products that are sold in the United Kingdom must not contain more than 0.2% THC.

CBD oil has the capacity to help improve the user’s mood and a depressive mood is one of the main causes of anorexia. Many doctors choose to treat anorexia with antidepressants such as SSRI & SNRI.

Regarding the cannabis plant, the biggest impact on mood is caused by CBD which has been proven to provide relief to depressed animals

CBD & Appetite 

CBD doesn’t increase appetite and it can even have the opposite effect. CBD on its own has been found to inhibit appetite in users and this is why CBD isolate products may not be ideal for those looking to use CBD for anorexia.

However, CBD has been found to increase the effectiveness of THC which includes the increase in appetite.

Other cannabinoids like CBG (cannabigerol) have also been shown to increase appetite, so using a CBG product which is legal in the UK may be the best option to increase your appetite.

CBD Oil for Stress & Anxiety

CBD has been found to decrease anxiety, which can be really helpful for those suffering from anorexia. This is probably the aspect of anorexia that CBD can have the greatest effect on, as it can allow the sufferer to relax and not be constantly anxious about their body image.

Initial research suggests that an indication of 2:1 or 1:1 of CBD:THC could be ideal for treating anorexia.

Studies on THC & Anorexia

A phase 2 clinical trial that included 18 participants with cancer-related anorexia were treated with THC. The trial found that the THC treatment resulted in a significant improvement in appetite for 13 of the 18 patients.

There have also been other studies that have shown that THC is useful for improving the appetite in AIDS and cancer patients.

There is a decent amount of research that is available on the appetite stimulating effects of THC. However, THC can have anxiety inducing effects and it is vital that this is mitigated when prescribing to someone suffering from anorexia. 

How is cannabis best used to treat anorexia?

From the initial research that has been carried out on cannabinoids. It can be assumed that the optimal cannabinoid treatment of anorexia would be a formulation that contains both THC & CBD, as THC stimulates appetite and CBD increases the efficacy of the THC while providing an anti-anxiety effect.

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