Can medical cannabis help patients with diabetes? Read on to find out below. 

  • Over 37 million adults in the United States have diabetes, and one-fifth don’t know.
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult blindness.
  • In the past twenty years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease when the pancreas no longer makes insulin, or the body doesn’t use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows glucose from our food to pass from the bloodstream into the cells to produce energy. All carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the blood and then assisted by insulin to travel to blood cells. 

Being unable to produce insulin or utilize it raises blood glucose levels. Over time, high glucose levels can cause damage to the body and the failure of various organs and cause serious health problems like heart disease, kidney disease, or vision loss. There’s no cure for diabetes, but maintaining weight, eating healthy food, and being active can help manage the condition. 

3 Types of Diabetes

There are three common types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational. Read below to learn about the differences.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction that blocks the body from producing insulin. Approximately five to ten percent of people with diabetes have type 1. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes typically develop quickly. It is commonly diagnosed early in children, teens, and young adults. In living with type 1 diabetes, insulin is needed daily to survive. Currently, there is no cure or effective prevention methods for diabetes. 

Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes

In the United States, over one in three people have prediabetes, most of whom don’t know. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than usual but not high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The body doesn’t use insulin properly and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels with Type 2 diabetes. Around ninety to ninety-five percent of people with diabetes have type 2, which usually develops over many years, reaching a diagnosis as an adult. Symptoms are not always noticeable so having your blood sugar tested is essential if you think you’re at risk. 

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. Gestational diabetes typically goes away naturally after the baby is born. However, it increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. 

What Causes Diabetes?

The cause of diabetes has excess glucose in your bloodstream. The reason your blood glucose levels are high varies depending on the type of diabetes you have acquired.

  • Type 1 diabetes is an immune system disease. Your body attacks and kills insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Genetics, as well as virus triggers, can also cause Type 1 Diabetes to occur. 
  • Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes cause the body’s cells to block insulin from letting glucose into them, making the cells resistant to insulin. Because of this, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin to overcome the resistance, and glucose levels increase in the bloodstream.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women. Hormones produced by the placenta during pregnancy make the cells resistant to insulin, so again the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin, and glucose builds up in the bloodstream.

Risk Factors

Type 1 Diabetes Risk Factors include:

  • Family history of Type 1 diabetes
  • Injury to the pancreas
  • Presence of auto-antibodies
  • Physical stress, surgery, or illness
  • Exposure to diseases or viruses

Prediabetes & Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors include:

  • Family history of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander ethnicities are at greater risk. 
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Low HDL cholesterol and Hgh triglyceride levels
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Aged 45 or older
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • History of heart disease or stroke
  • Smoking Cigarettes 

Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

  • Family history of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes
  • African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian-American
  • Obese before pregnancy
  • 25 years or older

Common Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry Mouth
  • Numbness in limbs
  • Tingling in the hands/feet
  • Slow-healing sores and cuts
  • Significant Weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent infections
  • Weak and fatigued

Less Common Symptoms may include: 

  • Dry, itchy skin, frequent yeast or urinary tract infections in women
  • Decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, or reduced muscle strength in men 

Diabetes Treatments

Treatments for diabetes depend on the type, how well-managed blood glucose levels are, and existing health conditions.

  • Type 1 diabetes: You’ll have to check your sugar and take insulin daily.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Treatments can include medications, insulin, and lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthier food, and being more active.
  • Prediabetes: Treatments focus on treatable risk factors, such as maintaining a healthy weight and diet and exercising regularly. 
  • Gestational diabetes: The initial treatment might be modifying your diet and performing light, regular exercise.

Can medical marijuana help? 

The Texas A&M School of Public Health performed a 2022 data analysis study that examined national survey results from over 15,000 people. They found that female cannabis consumers who consumed substantial amounts of cannabis had a lower incidence of diabetes than females with little to no cannabis use. 

A 2016 trial in Diabetes Care found that THCv could present a new therapeutic option for glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes.

The authors noted that using THCV significantly impacts fasting blood glucose levels and improves pancreatic function. 

A 2013 study of around five-thousand adults found that marijuana use was associated with lower fasting insulin levels, insulin resistance, and smaller waist circumference. Cannabis use acts through the direct and indirect stimulation of cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. This cell-signaling system modulates the body’s central nervous system and helps maintain homeostasis.

Researchers have also found that CBD lowers resistin levels and increases gastric inhibitory polypeptide that triggers insulin production. Since CBD possesses anti-inflammatory properties may be a vital protective tool for diabetes patients. 

Last Updated: June 5, 2024

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