Overview of Chronic Pancreatitis/ Inflammation

While inflammation is an essential response by the body’s immune system to injury, bacteria and viruses, at times the inflammatory response is called upon unnecessarily. When called upon appropriately, the inflammatory response effectively removes the infectious or damaging stimuli so that the body can initiate the healing process. However, when called upon unnecessarily, in the case of autoimmune diseases, the immune system reacts as if tissues are infected or abnormal when in actuality they are normal. As a result, the body causes damage to its own tissues.

Acute inflammation that comes and goes as necessary to deal with injuries and diseases represents a well-balanced and effective immune system. With chronic inflammation, however, the immune system is essentially “out-of-wack” as it won’t shut off the inflammatory response.

Examples of diseases that are associated with inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease that causes joint destruction, deformity and loss of function, psoriatic arthritis, which causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling, as well as red patches on the skin, Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel diseases where the digestive tract becomes inflamed, atherosclerosis, the inflammation of arterial walls that can limit or block blood flow and cause heart attacks and stroke, and some cancers.

Treatment of inflammatory diseases typically involves anti-inflammatory and pain medications and the modifying or avoidance of particular activities that stress the inflamed area. In certain cases, surgery is required.

 

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Chronic Pancreatitis/ Inflammation

Medical marijuana has been found to be effective at both reducing chronic inflammation and at curtailing the pain associated with inflammatory-related diseases, thanks to its two major cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Both THC and CBD have demonstrated success at reducing inflammation related to a variety of conditions. Studies have shown that THC is able to reduce the development of atherosclerosis, the chronic inflammatory disease and a major risk factor of heart attacks and strokes, and at reducing airway inflammation related to the flu virus (Fimiani, et al., 1999) (Buchweitz, et al., 2008). CBD has been found to have the capability of reducing joint inflammation and has demonstrated effective at inhibiting the disease’s progression (Sumariwalla, et al., 2004) (Nagarkatti, et al., 2009). CBD has also shown to effectively reduced edema (Costa, et al., 2004). In terms of Crohn’s disease, cannabis is able to lower the digestive track inflammation and has even demonstrated it can improve the chances of reaching complete remission (Naftali, Mechulam, Lev & Konikoff, 2014) (Nagarkatti, et al., 2009). Studies also suggest that the cannabinoids in marijuana may be beneficial in certain types of cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation (Nagarkatti, et al., 2009).

While both THC and CBD have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effectiveness, the way each goes about it varies. Both cannabinoids decrease the production and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decrease the activation of the LPS-induced STAT1 transcription factor, a key factor in some of the pro-inflammatory process. CBD, however, also reduces the activity of the NF-kappaB pathway, a primary pathway regulating pro-inflammatory genes, and upregulates the activation of the STAT3 transcription factor, which induces anti-inflammatory events (Kozela, et al., 2010). CBD also assists in anti-inflammation efforts by suppressing fatty acid amidohydrolase activity, which results in an increased concentration of the anti-inflammatory endocannabinoid, anandamide (Burstein & Zurier, 2009).

Inflammatory pain is a common symptom of a number of chronic inflammation diseases, such as sickle cell disease and cancer, but cannabis has proven helpful in pain management. The cannabinoids in cannabis act upon the cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1, CB2), which are involved in the mediation of pain associated with inflammation (Clayton, Marshall, Bountra & O’Shaughnessy, 2002) (Elikottil, Gupta & Gupta, 2009). Studies have also found that CBD is effective in reducing neuropathic pain by reducing the inflammation causing sciatic nerve construction (Costa, et al., 2007).

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