We still don’t know a whole lot about what leads to an autoimmune condition such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, or lichen planus.
When your body senses danger from an infection or virus, it starts an immune response. In a case where you may have an imbalance in your system and you encounter a toxin, allergen or infection, your immune system mistakenly starts an attack on your healthy organs and tissues. Thus, Autoimmunity (AI) is essentially an “attack on self.”
When I was diagnosed with an AI condition several years ago, doctors wanted to prescribe immunosuppressive drugs (steroids in my case) which basically nuke your immune system to deal with the inflammation. The side effects, however, were not great and after a few treatments I decided to stop and instead make healing my own responsibility.
Western medicine is often focused more on treating symptoms, rather than dealing with the underlying imbalances in your body.
So how do you treat an autoimmune condition?
Imagine how complex your immune system has to be to fight off the constant stream of germs and microorganisms coming into your body! It has to detect foreign substances (called antigens) and create antibodies that remain in your body to fight off that antigen if it reappears again. So, it is no surprise that if stressed, your immune system can get confused and start an attack on itself.
Inflammation is a good thing when the body undergoes a normal immune response to an attack. White blood cells are sent to attack pathogens and damaged cells. Once the attacking substance (i.e., bacteria or virus) has been dealt with, the blood vessels shrink back to normal and the inflammation tapers off.
However, when toxins, allergens or infections trigger an immune response, your white blood cells get confused and you develop systemic inflammation, that is clearly not good.
CBD as a treatment for systemic inflammation
Aside from a major change to a paleo autoimmune protocol diet, improving sleep, increasing exercise, and reducing stress, a significant help in immune system modulation for me has been daily supplementation with CBD, or Cannabidiol.
Specifically, I have been taking CBDa (Cannabidiolic acid), a raw form of primary cannabinoids. CBDa is taken directly from the flowers of the cannabis or hemp plant and not adulterated through heating or other extraction process.
The “a” in CBDa is an acid which is removed through aging, light and/or heat to get to CBD. While CBDa is less researched than CBD, it does appear to have similar benefits in regards to activating the endocannabinoid system in our body.
I personally found better results with CBDa for my condition as it includes all of the plant nutrients including other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids and other phytonutrients. It has been shown that consuming all of the plant versus certain extracts of a plant is much better for you, and in fact consuming only certain extracts may have detrimental effects.
While we still have a long way to go in understanding how to modulate an immune response, there is quite a lot of research of CBD and reduction of inflammation and improving endocannabinoid tone. Here is a great video from Dr. Ethan Russo, one of the foremost experts in CBD which helps explain how CBD helps with immune system modulation.