Cachexia, or wasting syndrome, is an extremely painful and entirely debilitating condition that is agony for both the individuals who suffer through, and their loved ones who have to stand by and watch.
Although it is most often associated with various forms of cancer, cachexia (pronounced kuh-KEHK-see-uh) can also be onset from other forms of disease and disorders, including HIV/AIDS, advanced stage kidney disease, liver failure, heart failure, and even severe physical trauma and burns.
What’s perhaps most striking (and sad) about the condition, though, is the lack of reliable treatments for patients who have to endure its affliction. Unfortunately, in the majority of circumstances wasting syndrome presents itself when the patient’s illness becomes terminal; meaning when it is beyond the point of recovery.
Under these circumstances, all the patient (and their families) can really ask for is a comforting treatment that will help get them through the misery and pain. This is where cannabis – and increasingly in recent years, CBD oil – comes in. While it is certainly not a cure for the condition by any means, CBD oil has been helping countless numbers of patients find some form of relief in the darkest moments of their life.
In this article, we talk about what cachexia is, what it does to the body, and how CBD oil for wasting syndrome can help.
First Things First: What is Cachexia?
Wasting syndrome has been described by the National Cancer Institute as a kind of “metabolic mutiny” in which the body scavenges every last nutrient, vitamin, mineral, and energy source in order to feed and maintain the brain. As such, the vast protein resources in skeletal muscle are utilized. When nutrients are pulled from the skeletal muscle tissue, the result is a physical withering of the victim’s body mass, which results in massive weight loss and virtually no strength — even routine motor tasks like walking and using the restroom become near impossible.
In terms of official definition, cachexia is often defined as producing weight loss over 5% within a 6-month period, or when the patient acquires a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 20 with an accompanying weight loss of at least 2%.
Moreover, wasting syndrome must be distinguished by a physician from another form of skeletal muscle depletion, called sarcopenia.
How is Cachexia Manifested in the Body?
Basically, when a body becomes ravaged by cancer (or any other form of autoimmune disorder), every system in the body is called upon to fight it – a kind of biological “all hands on deck” situation.
As you might guess, this takes an incredible (and often lethal) toll on the body – it’s estimated in fact that up to one-third of cancer deaths can be attributed to the displays of cachexia.
Dr. Alfred Goldberg of the Harvard University School of Medicine has described wasting syndrome as a kind of large-scale host response, in which the body has evolved to fight “fasting, injury, and [the spread of] disease.” During this response, he says, the body attempts to scavenge every last energy source, which ultimately ends up coming from protein stores in skeletal muscle tissue. The protein stores (amino acids), are converted into glucose with the strict task of keeping the brain alive and functioning. Since the brain is the control center for every physiologic system, the body will fight to keep it alive over any other organ or organ system.
In addition to the host response, cachexia is also believed to arise in response to widespread inflammation across the body’s various tissue systems. Dr. Teresa Zimmers of Philadelphia’s Jefferson Kimmel Cancer Center, in fact, has stated that inflammation is the “unifying theme of cachexia across many diseases, including cancer.”
Dr. Goldberg has reiterated this sentiment by stating that inflammation is caused in part by the body’s immune response to the cancerous cell growth, which results in the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines. As you will see here shortly, one of the major roles of CBD oil is its anti-inflammatory properties, which are believed to be at the core of the compounds proven ability to treat cachexia.
The Distinguished Stages of Cachexia
A physician panel within the National Institute of Health’s Cancer Center has defined three distinguished stages, or pathophysiologic developments, of wasting syndrome. These are:
- Precachexia, which is characterized by a combination of weight loss less than 5%, and appearance of other symptoms such as impaired glucose tolerance, anorexia, etc
- Cachexia, which is characterized by weight loss greater than 5 percent, or the presence of other symptoms and conditions “consistent with the diagnostic criteria for cachexia”
- Refractory cachexia. This is when patients already diagnosed with wasting syndrome (i.e. who are no longer responsive to cancer treatment) have a low performance score and a life expectancy of less than 3 months
How Can CBD Oil Help With Cachexia?
As we mentioned in the introduction, CBD oil (or any form of cannabis, for that matter), is certainly not a cure for wasting syndrome. That being said, there have been extremely positive signs that it may be one of the best and most productive treatments for the condition, and perhaps more importantly, free from the horrific array of side effects that most high-strength pharmaceutical options present.
In the past, standard treatments for wasting syndrome typically have included prokinetic drugs (such as Cisapride and Domperidone), as well as corticosteroids and gestagenes. While these medications are more or less effective in terms of reducing the buildup of inflammation-induced cytokine excess, they come with a host of potential side-effects, and for many individuals are extremely cost-prohibitive.
As such, CBD oil has become increasingly attractive to victims suffering from the disorder, as like we mentioned earlier, it has no known side effects and is far cheaper than typical pharmaceutical prescriptions. It has such a clean rapport after dozens of trials, in fact, that last year (2017) the World Health Organization issued a statement that it is “not associated with abuse potential, [it does not] induce physical dependence, [and it is] generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
That being said, however, CBD for wasting syndrome has not necessarily shown better results when compared to the conventional treatments. One 2004 study, for example, showed that while active cannabinoids were more effective than placebo, they were less effective than gestagenes.
With that in mind, the main draw in using marijuana for cachexia is that it’s a 100% all-natural, appetite-stimulating therapy with much milder side effects than pharmaceutics. Millions of people use cannabis every single day as an appetite-stimulant, and there has been no shortage of published studies that have shown its effectiveness in this regard.
Moreover, CBD oil is vastly different from “normal” marijuana in that it doesn’t produce a high. Since the active compound interacts mostly with receptors in the body’s immune system, it has no influence on psychoactivity. Therefore, patients can use it to obtain all the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis, without getting “stoned.”
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Wasting Syndrome
Again, we don’t want to cause any misinformation that CBD for cachexia can cure – or even officially treat – the disorder. The only reliable information that it works as an effective appetite-inducer is anecdotal; as of yet, it is still not recognized by the FDA for any medicinal uses.
Also, one last thing that you really need to keep in mind if you do decide to use CBD oil for wasting syndrome, is that there are TONS of bogus products out there to choose from online. Since the cannabis industry is still largely unregulated, manufacturers can (and are) getting away with marketing and selling bogus “CBD” products, that in fact contain none of the active cannabinoids.
While we don’t like to recommend any specific brands outright and therefore you can check out some of the most trusted and well-respected brands below.
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