CBD Cheat-sheet: Anorexia

CBD and Anorexia

Medication with leptin, ghrelin, and endocannabinoids

Current literature reviews show that leptin may have therapeutic potentials to promote the restoration of menstrual cycles in weight-restored patients. It can prevent osteoporosis in chronic patients, and reduce motor restlessness in patients who are severely hyperactive.

  • Endocannabinoids and ghrelin exert orexigenic effects which may help facilitate nutritional restoration.
  • Leptin and the endocannabinoids may have anxiolytic effects as well as ant depressive actions.
  • For safety and to prevent the refeeding syndrome, the serum levels of leptin should be monitored.


Anorexia nervosa is commonly referred to simply as Anorexia. This is an eating disorder that is characterized by the intense fear of gaining weight, an abnormally low weight, with a distorted perception of body weight. This is a psychiatric disorder with the highest mortality rates. Those suffering from this condition place a very high value on controlling their shape and weight and result in taking some extreme even harmful methods to do so. This often tends to significantly interfere with their life. The evidence to manage this condition is still limited.

The exact causes of anorexia are unknown. Researchers have come up with several reasons to explain why this condition occurs in some people. The exact cause may be a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors.

  • Psychological factors

Some of the people with anorexia may have traits of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  These make it easier, to stick to strict diets and even forgo food when hungry. They also may have an extreme desire for perfectionism. This drives them to think that they are not thin enough. Also, they may have high anxiety levels and restrict eating to manage this.

  • Biological factors

There may be a genetic predisposition to this condition, although the exact genes involved may not be known yet. There are people with a genetic tendency toward perfectionism, perseverance, and sensitivity. All these are traits that have been associated with causing and maintaining anorexia.

  • Environmental

Due to the emphasis on thinness by modern western culture, peer pressure may influence people to want to be thin using all means. This particularly happens to young girls. Thinness has been associated with success, and worth, especially among women. It is for this reason that there are more females with this disorder.

Risk factors for this disorder are more common in girls and women. Boys and men, however, have started developing eating disorders too. It is more common among teenagers, as their bodies are undergoing changes in puberty, although people of any age can develop the disorder. Other risk factors include genetics, dieting and starvation, and transitions in life such as a new school or moving.


There are physical symptoms, complications, behavioral and emotional issues that result from this condition. Physical signs are usually associated with starvation. These symptoms, however, may be difficult to recognize at times. They include thin appearance, fatigue, insomnia, abnormal blood counts, dizziness and fainting, absence of menstruation, extreme weight loss, constipation, dry yellowish skin, intolerance to cold, low blood pressure, dehydration and irregular heart rhythms, excessive exercising, severe restriction of food intake and self-inducing vomiting to get rid of food, irritability, flat moods and avoiding eating in public. This list is inconclusive as there are many more symptoms.

Traditional Treatment

This is done using a team approach. Hospitalization may be necessary if there are severe complications. The primary care doctor will provide medical care, and monitor the gain in weight and calorie needs. A psychologist or mental health professional can work with you to develop behavioral strategies to regain normal weight. A dietician offers guidance to get back to regular eating habits. Your family will be more involved in supporting you and ensuring you maintain normal eating habits.

The role played by endocannabinoids in eating disorders

The endocannabinoid system has been known to be a modulator of several physiological functions, among them hedonic aspects of feeding. Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors are expressed widely in brain regions that control food intake, energy balance, and reward. Studies show that CB1 agonists have orexigenic effects, enhance appetite and increase the reward value of food. It has been hypothesized that the endocannabinoid system defects are key in these eating disorders, as well as obesity. Therefore the clinical development of a drug that modulates the endocannabinoid system is expected to achieve results in eating disorders treatment.

Cancer cachexia and cannabinoids

Cachexia is extreme muscle wasting. Anorexia and cachexia have been diagnosed in about two-thirds of cancer patients with advanced disease. These are independent risk factors for mortality and morbidity. The more significant inhibiting factors to quality of life in cancer patients has been described to be anorexia, vomiting, and nausea. These are even considered worse than pain. In 1986, THC was licensed to be used as an antiemetic drug, in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Clinical studies of THC have also shown a significant stimulation in appetite in cancer and HIV positive patients, and an increase in body weight.

The appetite-stimulating effects of cannabis itself have been well documented in circumstantial doses. It has also been noted that cannabis is better tolerated than THC alone, due to the fact that it contains other cannabinoids, which antagonize the psychotropic effects of THC. They, however, do not inhibit the appetite stimulation by THC. This has necessitated the need to compare the effectiveness of whole plant extracts and THC.


Share this article