“Anorexia” is a pretty well-known term. Many of us have been exposed to what we would consider “anorexic” behaviors, such as eating too little or dieting to the extreme. We may also have a family member or friend who tends to be extremely restrictive with food. CBD oil and anorexia might offer hope.
Even though anorexia is sometimes glossed over as simply over-dieting, the reality is that it is classified as a serious psychiatric condition involving much more than just weight loss.
Mental health plays a large role in anorexia, and because of this, many researchers have begun looking into natural compounds that help improve patients’ psychological state; one of which is CBD.
CBD has shown promising benefits in helping treat not only symptoms of anorexia, but perhaps even root causes like neurochemical imbalances and anxiety disorders. Here we’re diving into the research.
What is Anorexia?
Anorexia nervosa is a condition that involves self-starvation in order to lose weight or increase one’s body image. It often involves extreme weight loss due to restrictive eating and binge-purge behaviors, and can also feature an extreme lack of appetite.
To be clear, having Anorexia doesn’t mean you’re in complete abstinence from food – it can also refer to eating extremely low calorie (well below starvation levels) for an extended period of time, or binging on excess food for several days, then punishing oneself by eating barely anything for several days afterward.
How CBD Can Benefit Anorexia
CBD, or cannabinol, is the non-psychoactive (aka, won’t give you a “high”) compound found in the cannabis plant. One of the main reasons we see so many benefits with CBD and other cannabinoids is because our bodies not only contain cannabinoid receptors made just for cannabinoids, but also produce their own cannabinoids via our endocannabinoid system.
Cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids are found throughout our entire system, which is why CBD can have an impact on so many areas of our bodies. When it comes to anorexia specifically, CBD can help regulate our endocannabinoid system in ways that promote a sense of peace and also have an effect on neurochemicals that could be influencing the impulses behind anorexia.
Let’s take a closer look.
- Can increase appetite
A major aspect of anorexia is reduced appetite, especially as time goes on and your body becomes accustomed to lower calorie levels. CBD may actually be able to stimulate appetite, with one study on children with epilepsy finding 30 percent experienced significantly increased appetite. [*]
However, when using CBD for appetite stimulation, choosing a blend that contains THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana that may cause a high) could be a better option than just taking CBD alone. Studies on patients with advanced cancer given THC revealed the majority of patients experienced significantly increased appetite. [*]
- Can reduce stress and feelings of anxiety
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders commonly occur alongside anorexia. A 2004 study also reflects this, finding that “two-thirds of people with eating disorders suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and that around 42 percent developed an anxiety disorder during childhood, well before the onset of their eating disorder.” [*][*]
This is also one of the reasons why cognitive-behavior therapy is often used to help treat anorexia, in order to get to the root cause of anxiety surrounding body image from childhood.
CBD has shown extremely positive results in studies on anxiety disorders, which may give it credence as an alternative treatment to improve anorexia symptoms. Human and animal studies have found CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system and CBD receptors in our nervous system to help ease stress and feelings of anxiety. One found that people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) given CBD experienced overall reduced anxiety levels, while other animal studies have found that CBD reduces both behavioral and physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate. [*]
- Can act as an antidepressant
Along with anxiety, depression is another disorder that commonly occurs in cases of anorexia. After all, when someone suffering from anorexia, feeling as though your body isn’t matching up to your ideal can create feelings of sadness and depression.
While more research on humans is needed, animal studies show CBD interacts with certain neuro-receptors in our bodies (specifically 5-HT1A, which plays a large role in mood) that cause it to have an anti-depressant effect. [*]
- Can reduce addictive behaviors
In some cases of anorexia, the “reward” of extreme weight loss can become addictive. Each time a person suffering from anorexia gets closer to their goal weight or look by not eating, there may be a sense of euphoria similar to being addicted to a substance.
Although direct studies don’t yet exist, CBD has shown in studies to reduce drug-motivated behavior and withdrawal effects. It also showed in one study to reduce cigarette smoking significantly compared to placebo in smokers trying to quit. [*]
Again, more research is needed, but if anorexia is accompanied by addiction to “results” such as weight loss, CBD may provide some benefit.
Trying CBD for Anorexia
While there are no standard dosages for CBD, many studies dose in the 300-400 mg range in studies for anxiety. Your best bet is to start on the lower end and work your dosage up until you experience benefits.
When it comes to which method of ingesting CBD you should try, know that everyone is different; however, most studies are using oral dosing of CBD. This would make tinctures, capsules, and edibles something you may want to try, although there is no reason to exclude vaping or inhalation.
Whichever form you do try, make sure the company is reputable, third-party tested for purity, and, ideally, extracted from organically grown hemp to avoid chemical residues.
While there are no studies showing CBD is a cure for anorexia, the results suggest it may help with major symptoms. CBD and anorexia might be beneficial. If you or a family member are dealing with anorexia, consider giving CBD a go.