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What Role Does Medical Marijuana Play in Managing Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases?

  • Medical cannabis can help people living with autoimmune diseases reach their health goals and improve their overall quality of life.
  • Whether you’re looking to maintain a healthy weight, relieve pain, or manage inflammation, cannabis can help you overcome the daily and long-term challenges of living with an autoimmune condition.

If you’re living with one or more autoimmune diseases, you might be curious about cannabis as a treatment. This guide is here to help. Below, we’re exploring how autoimmune patients use cannabis for symptom management, combine cannabis with more mainstream treatments, and navigate the diagnostic process with all-natural support.

Autoimmune diseases pose real-world challenges for countless patients. But cannabis can help you find relief—here’s how.

Symptom Management

For people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or lupus (to name just a few), the immune system targets healthy cells just as readily as it does toxins and invading compounds. This can produce symptoms ranging from chronic pain to insomnia; all symptoms that medical marijuana can often relieve.

Pain Relief

Chronic pain is an unfortunate reality for people living with autoimmune diseases. Many researchers believe that autoimmune activity and pain co-create each other in a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break:

  • When your immune system attacks your body’s own cells, it can trigger inflammation, which may lead to pain.
  • Inflammation and irritation only alert your immune system further; autoimmune attacks continue, and so does the inflammation-attack cycle.

Luckily, there’s a plant-based option for autoimmune patients at the end of their rope: medical cannabis.

Time and time again, numerous studies and countless anecdotal reports have proven the efficacy of medical marijuana for chronic pain relief (and acute pain relief, too). How does cannabis relieve pain?

  • Cannabinoids and other compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant interact with the body’s built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS).
  • The two main receptors of the ECS, CB1 and CB2, play a role in pain, inflammation, and numerous other physiological functions. These receptors interact with both your body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids and the external cannabinoids introduced via marijuana.
  • When cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds (like terpenes and flavonoids) interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors, they can modulate signaling functions to reduce pain, decrease inflammation, and more.

While researchers are still working hard to parse exactly how the ECS works, one thing is certain: countless patients have found pain relief in medical cannabis treatment.

Inflammation Management

We touched on inflammation above, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Although inflammation isn’t the cause of autoimmune disorders, the two are often a package deal:

  • Inflammation is a ubiquitous immune response. Whether your body is fighting off a cold or reacting to an allergen, inflammation is just one feature of immune activity.
  • Unfortunately, inflammation is often painful. Since your immune system is directing resources to a specific area to fight an invading substance (or your own cells, if you have an autoimmune disorder), these areas become inflamed.

CB2 receptors are mostly found in the immune system, which means the ECS is connected to the body’s inflammatory response—somehow. While researchers don’t yet have a clear picture of how CB2 plays a role in immune signaling, countless patients can attest that cannabis helps reduce inflammation (and, therefore, pain).

Nutritional Support

There are countless medical theories describing the relationship between nutrition and autoimmune disorders. The reality is that no matter the specific cause, people living with autoimmune conditions often struggle to meet their nutritional needs.

In fact, studies have connected autoimmune diseases with deficiencies in:

Not to mention that some digestive autoimmune disorders (e.g., Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and autoimmune gastritis) can make eating downright uncomfortable.

Enter medical cannabis: the key to maintaining healthy nutrition for countless patients suffering from a variety of conditions.

In particular, cannabis can:

  • Stimulate hunger and thirst
  • Reduce nausea
  • Relieve digestive pain

Each of these effects can help people with autoimmune diseases achieve their dietary goals and repair potential deficiencies.

Sleep Hygiene

Medical cannabis has worked wonders for people looking to achieve more restful, restorative sleep. If you have an autoimmune disorder, you’re likely no stranger to sleep challenges.

However, a lack of quality sleep can contribute to:

  • Fatigue – Like chronic pain, fatigue is a widely reported symptom among autoimmune patients—and sleep disturbances only deplete your limited energy supply.
  • Mental health challengesStudies show that a lack of sleep can contribute to symptoms of anxiety and other mental health conditions.
  • Pain – A 2022 study linked sleep deprivation in autoimmune patients to increased pain sensitivity and systemic inflammation.

Luckily, a variety of medical marijuana products can help you get a good night’s rest:

  • Indica strains – Indica strains of the Cannabis sativa plant generally make patients feel drowsy and calm.
  • CBD-forward products – CBD oils, tinctures, edibles, and smokables can help patients relax before bed.
  • Soothing beverages – Calming teas infused with cannabis are available in some dispensaries, but they’re also easy to concoct at home.

Experiment with different products, dosages, and administration times to create your ideal sleep routine.

Medical Cannabis in Combination with Prescription Medications

Patients with autoimmune diseases are often prescribed a wide variety of pharmaceuticals, like:

  • Immunosuppressants (including steroids)
  • Biologics
  • Cytokines
  • Small molecule targeting formulas

Even if these medications are helping you reach your goals, cannabis could still play a role in your health journey. How?

Talk to your provider about:

  • Addng cannabis to your medication regimen – Can you get a medical card for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders? In some states, yes—but you’ll need a healthcare provider’s recommendation. Additionally, your provider can talk you through any potential interactions with your current medications to determine whether medical cannabis could help you tackle some of the side effects of your prescriptions, support your mental health journey, or improve your overall quality of life.
  • Transitioning to cannabis care – While this isn’t the right solution for everyone, some patients may find that the inflammation and pain relief effects of cannabis meet all of their health needs. If this is the case for you, your doctor can help you transition away from pharmaceuticals and into a cannabis-only regimen.

Importantly, we don’t recommend changing your medication routine without consulting your healthcare provider first. Whether you want to add cannabis to your routine or switch to an all-natural care approach, it’s crucial to let your provider know—they can help you take steps to protect your health during these transitions.

Managing Diagnostic Challenges

If you’re reading this, there’s a possibility that you and your provider don’t yet have a clear picture of your complete health profile—autoimmune disorders are infamously difficult to diagnose.

However, you deserve to heal and find relief, whether you have a diagnosis or not. While you await answers from your provider, consider managing your symptoms in the meantime with cannabis.

If you decide to try medical cannabis while you navigate the diagnostic process, remember to:

  • Consult your provider first – Talk to your provider about your symptoms, explain why you think you’d be a good match for medical cannabis treatment, and lean on their professional expertise.
  • Take care with testing – Ask your provider if cannabis could impact any diagnostic tests they may order. While this may be unlikely, you don’t want to risk invalidating a test.
  • Tweak your treatment plan as needed – As you unearth more diagnostic answers over time, you can adjust your medical cannabis treatment to best meet your changing needs.

In short, you don’t have to have all of the answers before you start using medical marijuana—you can find the relief you’re looking for right now.

TeleLeaf: Bridging the Gap Between Patients and All-Natural Care

Before you can access a cannabis pharmacy or dispensary in your area, you may need a recommendation from a healthcare provider. Enter TeleLeaf: the best online medical marijuana card service on the market today.

Our providers are here to help you navigate autoimmune challenges, mental health struggles, trauma recovery, and just about anything else. We’ve seen the powerful healing potential of cannabis firsthand, and we want to connect you with the plant-based relief you deserve.

Start your medical cannabis journey by making an appointment with TeleLeaf.


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Pain Reports. Autoimmune Regulation of Chronic Pain.

National Library of Medicine. Medicinal Cannabis for Treatment of Chronic Pain.

Medical News Today. What to Know About Endocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System.

National Library of Medicine. Chronic Inflammation.

ImmunoTargets and Therapy. Cannabis and Autoimmunity: Possible Mechanisms of Action.

Nutrients. How to Tackle the Relationship between Autoimmune Diseases and Diet: Well Begun Is Half-Done.

Biomolecules. Vitamin D and Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases.

Current Rheumatology Reviews. Selenium and Autoimmune Diseases: A Review Article.

Science Daily. Vitamin A Signals Offer Clues to Treating Autoimmunity.

Northeast Digestive. How Autoimmune Diseases Affect the Gut.

Frontiers in Immunology. Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune and Related Disorders.

Sleep Foundation. Anxiety and Sleep.

The Lancet Rheumatology. A Wake-Up Call for Sleep in Rheumatic Diseases.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Immunosuppressive Meds for Autoimmune Treatment.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. What Are Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease?

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