cbd treatment for type 1 diabetesDecember 15, 2021
With Junella Chin MD.
Another potential benefit of CBD for diabetics? It can help improve diabetic neuropathy, says Dr. Chin. Diabetic neuropathy is a painful type of nerve damage that is caused by high blood sugars damaging nerves through the body. Patients often feel this in their feet or legs, and CBD can help relieve some of that discomfort and pain.
When you use CBD, it’s the ratio between THC and CBD that makes the difference. Hemp-derived CBD contains less than 0.3 percent THC while marijuana-derived CBD contains 5 to 30 percent THC.
What is CBD?
Most of the CBD oils on the market are labeled “full-spectrum,” which means that they’re rich with almost all of the health-friendly compounds within the cannabis plant that are also not psychoactive. These include flavonoids (which are polyphenols and antioxidants), other cannabinoids, and terpenes (therapeutic compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic effects). In other words, “full-spectrum” CBD contains natural compounds that can help boost your overall health and support your diabetes management regimen.
Reducing inflammation and disease activity requires a holistic approach, of course. Beyond using CBD, you’ll want to ensure you’re using your prescribed medications correctly, managing your stress levels, eating a colorful, anti-inflammatory diet (think veggies, fruits, and healthy fats), and exercising very regularly. All of these behaviors work together to reduce inflammation and help establish more balanced hormone levels.
CBD may also improve insulin resistance and pancreas health. In a study on animal subjects with non insulin-treated type 2 diabetes, it was found that subjects who received CBD at 100 mg twice daily (as well as other treatments like tetrahydrocannabivarin, a phytocannabinoid), saw significantly decreased fasting plasma glucose and improved pancreatic health.
According to UCLA Health, “We now know the endocannabinoid system is involved in a wide variety of processes, including pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function. Endocannabinoids are arguably one of the most widespread and versatile signaling molecules known to man.”
According to Dr. Chin, CBD should be used as a long-term tool, not something you take here and there. “It’s best for long-term use because of its relatively safe profile and cumulative effects. Day one will be different from day 30. If you give it time, you may be able to turn the volume down on your inflammation.”
CBD is generally sold in the form of tinctures or oils, supplements, extracts, and gummies. It is also found in pain-relieving and calming gels, lotions, and bath salts. It’s not usually smoked.
How does CBD work?
According to Rory Batt MSc, who studies the connection between the endocannabinoid system, CBD and type 2 diabetes, CBD may help boost pancreatic health in humans as well. “CBD can also help to protect the pancreas from becoming destroyed by overactive immune cells. Effectively, this means someone may be able to keep producing insulin themselves for longer. However, unless they ultimately change their diet as well, they will inevitably end up with a pancreas that cannot produce insulin—but CBD could significantly extend the time until that happens.”
Dr. Chin believes that CBD helps to treat some of the core issues behind diabetes, and that it can help improve overall diabetes lifestyle management. It’s not that CBD magically corrects insulin sensitivity right away, but rather that it can be helpful as part of a larger holistic regimen.
The American Journal of Pathology found, “CBD was able to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, cell death, and vascular hyperpermeability associated with diabetes,” noting that “oxidative stress and inflammation play critical roles in the development of diabetes and its complications.”
Marijuana, on the other hand, contains much more THC and is a controlled substance. It is what produces a high or euphoric feeling.
What does the research say about CBD?
But how does it all work? CBD targets something called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Dr. Chin says these are some of the largest receptors in our bodies, playing a diverse role in bodily functions.
For a lot of people, CBD’s association with marijuana is enough to scare patients away from considering it. This can certainly cause anxiety if you are concerned about getting high, feeling cognitively impaired, or using an illegal product. CBD — as helpful as it’s shown to be — is still misunderstood. So, let’s dive into some of the facts around what CBD is and what it isn’t.
People who want the health benefits without the high (which includes many patients with chronic diseases and pain) will purchase hemp CBD oil that contains less than 0.3 percent THC or is entirely THC-free.
To understand why CBD works, it’s best to understand how . First, CBD works with your endocannabinoid system, which is designed to promote homeostasis — or harmony — within your body. In fact, endocannabinoids are actually cannabis-like molecules made naturally within your body. When you use CBD, it influences or activates these receptors. It has also been found to influence non-cannabinoid receptors as well.
CBD has even influenced the creation of certain drugs. In fact, in June 2018, the first CBD-based drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to help treat severe epilepsy.
Its status as a supplement makes things tricky, too. Because CBD is not regulated by the FDA, creators of these supplements often make claims about its effectiveness based on little—or no—evidence. It’s hard to know what you’re getting. The amount of CBD in any product varies widely. The FDA has warned that in some products, lab tests have shown no CBD at all. Under the FDA’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, manufacturers of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are banned from marketing products that are tainted or misbranded.
CBD—short for cannabidiol, a part of cannabis (marijuana)—has gotten a lot of attention lately. With changes in the legal status of cannabis, CBD has gone from a criminalized substance to being called a miracle drug. You can find CBD oil supplements, as well as foods, drinks, and lotions in stores and pharmacies across the U.S. and worldwide. However, research on the effects of CBD on the body is still limited and so far no CBD products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Although CBD is well tolerated by most people, there are side effects. It can suppress immune responses, raise eye pressure (which may worsen glaucoma), and increase blood levels of certain medications, such as the blood thinner Coumadin, which can lead to serious bleeding. Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking of trying CBD.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding CBD oil and diabetes. There is no noticeable effect on blood sugar (blood glucose) or insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers continue to study the effects of CBD on diabetes in animal studies.
CBD sits in a gray area. While used as a medicine, it’s also a natural compound. Many effective medications are derived from compounds found in nature, but a lot of work goes into identifying the specific, active compound and determining what dose is safe and effective. Researchers aren’t close to that yet with CBD oil.
Find Out More.
Along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is the major element of cannabis. But CBD does not cause the “high” that many feel from using cannabis. For decades, CBD was considered inactive, but last year, the FDA approved it under the brand name Epidiolex for a rare form of childhood epilepsy (at a much higher dose than is available in supplements). Researchers are in the very early stages of exploring other potential uses for CBD, including relieving anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and inflammation.
Although many claims continue to be made about CBD oil, there is little evidence of any benefit. It’s certainly not an alternative to traditional diabetes management. The safety of CBD is also unknown—it may have dangerous side effects that we won’t know about unless further research is done. But there is a great deal of interest in CBD research, so we should learn a lot more in the coming years about what exactly CBD can and can’t do. In the meantime, it’s best practice pursue optimal health and diabetes management with treatments that have evidence to show they are safe and effective.
What to Know.
However, it has only been legal for scientists to conduct human trials with CBD since 2015, so the research is preliminary and there’s a lot still to be learned. Here’s what we know—and don’t know—about CBD and diabetes.
In turn, that can reduce the symptoms of:
For some people with diabetes, managing the illness causes stress and anxiety. In turn, stress and anxiety can worsen the symptoms of diabetes.
The Benefits of CBD for Diabetics.
But before the scientific and medical communities can make definitive statements about the health benefits of CBD, they need more thorough and long-term research about the compound and how it affects the body and brain.
Some things to consider include:
Living with diabetes can be difficult, and it’s natural to want to seek out any and all treatment options that can make your life a bit more comfortable and healthful.
In fact, some research shows CBD might help control blood sugar, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost cardiovascular health, all of which are important for people with diabetes. Other studies indicate that CBD could possibly help prevent diabetes.
While CBD could potentially have promise in controlling blood sugar levels and may even help prevent diabetes, the research is preliminary. Healthcare providers don’t fully understand the benefits or the drawbacks of CBD for most conditions, including diabetes.
Tinnakorn Jorruang / EyeEm / Getty Images.
Even though it is a “natural” product, CBD can still interact with other medications. In fact, research indicates that cannabis-derived products, including CBD, can interact with 139 medication, and can be dangerous for people on 57 medications, including:
If you live in a state that has cannabis dispensaries, it may be worth buying CBD products in person. The people who work at dispensaries are generally knowledgeable about the effects of CBD and can guide you to a product that does not contain the psychoactive ingredient THC.
Because CBD is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is not a thorough understanding of its benefits and risks, which is information that would come from FDA testing and approval.
If you need to be drug-tested for work or other reasons, the THC present in full-spectrum CBD can show on a drug test.
Other Conditions Related to Diabetes.
There are a few important things to consider when taking CBD.
Nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, is a common complication from diabetes. Symptoms can include pain and burning sensations, especially in the hands and feet.
CBD can have a therapeutic effect on the brain without causing hallucinations or the psychoactivite effects that most people associate with the “high” from cannabis. Because of this, CBD has a lot of potential for therapeutic uses.
CBD can cause diarrhea, which many people with diabetes already struggle with. This is why it's important to speak with your healthcare provider about whether CBD might make the condition worse and what you can do if it does.
CBD is the nonpsychoactive chemical compound in cannabis.