Body has its own cannabis, exercise can trigger it to fight inflammation

After millions of years of physical evolution, modern humans have a body millions died for -- quite literally. However, these days most urbanites are sitting on office chairs for long hours, leading to a sedentary lifestyle our bodies were not designed for.
Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with several health concerns. Image courtesy: IANS

London: Exercise increases the body's own cannabis-like substances, which in turn helps reduce inflammation and could potentially help treat certain conditions such as arthritis, cancer and heart disease, according to a new study.

The study led by experts from the University of Nottingham showed that exercise by people with arthritis, did not just reduce their pain, but it also lowered the levels of inflammatory substances called cytokines.

It also increased levels of cannabis-like substances produced by their own bodies, called endocannabinoids. Interestingly, the way exercise resulted in these changes was by altering the gut microbes.

For the study, published in the journal Gut Microbes, a group of scientists, led by Professor Ana Valdes from the School of Medicine at the University, tested 78 people with arthritis. Thirty-eight of them did 15 minutes of muscle-strengthening exercises every day for six weeks, and 40 did nothing.

At the end of the study, participants who did the exercise intervention had not only reduced their pain, but they also had more microbes in their guts of the kind that produce anti-inflammatory substances, lower levels of cytokines and higher levels of endocannabinoids.

The increase in endocannabinoids was strongly linked to changes in the gut microbes and anti-inflammatory substances produced by gut microbes called SCFAS.

In fact, at least one-third of the anti-inflammatory effects of the gut microbiome was due to the increase in 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 Amrita Vijay, a research student at the varsity's School of Medicine.

"As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know those simple lifestyle interventions like exercise can modulate endocannabinoids," Vijay added.

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