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5 Ways Cannabis Can Make Life Easier for Persons with Diabetes

Diabetes is a lifelong medical condition that occurs when the amount of glucose, also called blood sugar, in the bloodstream becomes too high. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy and is present in almost every kind of food we eat. To help glucose be absorbed into the cells and be used for energy, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. When the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body isn’t capable of using insulin properly, the glucose doesn’t reach the cells and stays in the bloodstream.

The presence of excess blood sugar isn’t the actual danger, but rather the host of health problems that can develop over time. These conditions include kidney and nerve damage, heart disease and stroke, gum and dental problems, and even partial or complete blindness. As of now, there is still no cure for diabetes, although there are certain steps that a person with diabetes can take to help manage their condition.

Research And Studies Show That Cannabis May Be Able To Help With Diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

The three most common types of diabetes are Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. This type of diabetes can appear at any age, although this is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes have to take insulin every day, typically through an injection under the skin, vein, or muscle. The cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown, although it has already been proven that having parents and/or siblings with type 1 diabetes increases your chance of having it as well.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, occurring most often in middle-aged and older people although it can also develop at any age. This condition is caused by the body not being able to make enough insulin or use insulin well enough. Those with type 2 diabetes usually take maintenance medications such as metformin, glipizide, glimepiride, and repaglinide. Type 2 diabetes can be caused by an accumulation of several factors, including obesity, physical inactivity, genetics, and other pre-existing medical conditions like hypertension.

Gestational diabetes sometimes develops in pregnant women and goes away after the baby is born. There is usually no need to medicate gestational diabetes; proper diet is usually enough to keep the condition at bay. It’s important to note, however, that having gestational diabetes increases a woman’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. In fact, there are cases when gestational diabetes is actually type 2 diabetes that was “triggered” during pregnancy.

How Cannabis Can Help with Diabetes Management

Keeping your blood sugar levels at the recommended range can be quite challenging, as it involves several aspects, chief of which are dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise, and proper medication. However, there is one thing that can help you manage all these details at once: cannabis.

A research paper released by the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) in 2005 highlighted several ways that cannabis -- and its derivatives like cannabis oil -- can help persons with diabetes. These include the herb’s anti-inflammatory properties, neuroprotective effects, and vasodilatory and anti-spasmodic actions.

Since then, the scientific community has continued to explore cannabis and its positive effects on diabetes. Here are a few of the most promising results.

1. Regulating or Minimizing Risk Factors for Diabetes

Cannabinoids -- the naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis -- have been found to be helpful in controlling the body’s blood sugar levels. The study observed that people who regularly smoke cannabis (colloquially referred to as “tokers”) had better carbohydrate metabolism than those who did not use the herb. Tokers also appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body, thereby helping them maintain a normal blood sugar level. Finally, the study also discovered that marijuana users have lower body mass index (BMI) and are less likely to be obese -- one of the major contributing factors of developing diabetes.

This means that incorporating cannabis into their actual diet may actually be more helpful for diabetes patients than smoking or vaporizing, as eating cannabis distributes the cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream, rather than through the lungs. Cooking with cannabis oil also ensures that the patient gets the correct dosage of cannabinoids every single time. In addition, eating cannabis is also a more socially acceptable way, not to mention more palatable, to treat younger patients with diabetes.

Among the most popular cannabis strains to use for cooking include Trainwreck, a sativa-dominant hybrid that has a lemony, spicy flavor that induces a happy, cerebral effect; White Widow, an easy-to-grow and high-yield sativa-dominant hybrid with a refreshing nutty pine aroma and taste; Bubba Kush, a strain with a high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content that’s also full of essential oils, making it a popular choice of cannabis oil and cannabutter makers; and Orange Crush, a sweet, citrusy strain with high THC that lends it smell and flavor to any dish you cook.


2. Appetite Regulation

One of the most difficult parts of diabetes management is portioning, especially to those who are not used to this practice. Thankfully, cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) can act as appetite suppressants. Therefore, in carefully measured doses -- which can be achieved by using cannabis oil, pills, or tablets -- cannabis can help regulate a person’s food intake. What’s even more interesting is that CBD was also shown to have no effect to the level of enjoyment of eating food, even if it helped decrease consumption.

Persons with diabetes who want to control their appetite should look for the so-called “skinny weed” or “skinny pot” strains, which are high in appetite-suppressing cannabinoids like CBD and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). These strains include XJ-13, a THCV-high strain that results in a cerebral buzz that triggers creativity, with a stress-relieving side effect; Durban Poison, a pure sativa breed with a sweet aroma and a rather uplifting kind of high; Cannatonic, a hybrid that’s famous for its citrusy flavor and anti-spasmodic and analgesic effects; and ACDC, with an astounding CBD:THC ratio of 20:1 ensuring calmness and relaxation without any of the psychoactive effects of THC.


3. Ease the Pain of Neuropathy

One of the most common consequences of diabetes is neuropathy or nerve damage. High blood sugar affects the ability of the nerves to transmit signals to the brain and also weakens the capillaries that supply the nerves with necessary nutrients and oxygen. Prolonged exposure to high levels of glucose also damages delicate nerve fibers and sometimes even causes these nerves to swell.

Numbness is among the most common symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, but some patients experience tingling or burning sensations, cramps, or even increased sensitivity even with the slightest pressure. This is where the pain-relieving properties of cannabis come in handy for diabetes patients. What’s more, both THC and CBD have also been shown to have neuroprotective properties that help preserve neural health and reduce the rate of neuronal loss over time.

Those looking for pain relief may turn to cannabis strains like Blue Dream, a cross-breed between Haze (a sativa) and Blueberry (an indica) with a mildly sweet flavor that is favored by many smokers; Jack Herer, a potent hybrid that is a popular pain-reliever that is also prescribed as a treatment for depression and fatigue; SuperBud, famous for its high levels of terpenes (or flavor molecules) especially the musky, mango-esque myrcene, making it popular for those who like to cook with cannabis; Sour Tsunami, which produces an almost perfect balance of THC and CBD that’s ideal for pain-relief for inflammatory conditions like arthritis; and Harlequin, a sativa-dominant strain with a CBD:THC ratio of 5:2 that makes it an effective treatment for both pain and anxiety.


4. Lower Blood Pressure Over Time

Another effect of diabetes is hypertension or high blood pressure, due to the damage and inflammation caused by high blood sugar levels to a patient’s arteries. There are also cases when a diabetes patient’s blood thickens, putting undue stress to the veins and arteries conveying blood throughout the body. If left untreated, long-term hypertension can lead to heart failure, coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

The ability of cannabis, specifically THC, to reduce inflammation due to atherosclerosis can therefore be beneficial in helping lower a diabetic individual’s blood pressure. In fact, another study has shown that the body’s naturally occurring version of THC called anandamide helps relax blood vessels and thus allows blood to flow more freely.

Some strains to consider for lower blood pressure are Northern Lights, a popular strain with 18% THC content that is valuable for relaxation and treating anxiety and depression; Purple Kush, an indica strain recommended by most dispensaries  for stress relief and relaxation; Girl Scout Cookies, a hybrid strain known for its high THC levels (sometimes reaching up to 28%) that makes it ideal for night time consumption for an overall relaxing, pain- and stress-relieving experience; NYC Diesel, which is a sativa-dominant hybrid that has potent analgesic and anxiolytic effects without the drowsiness; and AK-48, another sativa-dominant hybrid between Ice and Jock Horror that relaxes and uplifts, perhaps helped along with its citrusy sweet flavor and aroma.


5. Helps the Body Process Sugar

The cannabinoid THC is particularly valuable to type 1 diabetes patients, because of its capability to suppress autoimmune attacks, resulting to a lower insulin requirement to process glucose. In addition, CBD has been found to be able to reduce the inflammation of pancreatic cells and improve the body’s sugar metabolism, while THCV has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and increase insulin sensitivity for type 1 diabetes patients. THCV is also known to have a positive impact on weight loss, one of the most common health goals of persons with diabetes.

Those looking to reap these benefits of cannabis can look to strains like Doug’s Varin, a rare sativa breed with 15% THCV content, bred mostly in California; Malawi Gold, another rare strain of pure landrace sativa that makes its origin country a tourist destination, and which delivers a clear-headed and energizing effect; Black Beauty, a gorgeous strain with deep purple, sometimes even black, flowers that contain a 2:1 THC:THCV ratio, perfect for an uplifting experience that also delivers pain relief; Pennywise, a cross between Jack the Ripper and Harlequin, producing an even 1:1 CBD:THC ratio that’s best for both relaxation and mental clarity; and Harle-Tsu, a hybrid of Harlequin and Sour Tsunami with a CBD content 20 times higher than its THC content, bringing pain relief without any psychoactive effects.

With the wealth of research and recent medical breakthroughs on diabetes and its treatments, it’s tempting to ask “Why is there no cure for it yet?” But this is the reality that we’re living in right now -- diabetes patients need to regularly take their medications and choose healthy lifestyle practices in order to keep their disease at bay. What is comforting is that even the simplest habits -- like learning how to relax and avoid stress -- can help with the management of this lifelong medical condition. Cannabis is a big help in this regard, because not only does it have medical benefits that address diabetes symptoms and complications, it also helps promote a happier, more relaxed state of mind.

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