Researches studying the hundreds of species of microbes that live inside your gut have stumbled upon the connection between cannabis and intestinal inflammation.

Your gastrointestinal tract is in a constant balancing act of trying to ensure that just the right number of microbes are living in there. The gut employs particular kinds of white blood cells—called neutrophils—to operate as a kind of population control. But, when the neutrophils are left unchecked, they will begin to attack the gut itself. This will eventually lead to various forms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.

While there are several conventional medications that people suffering with IBD can use, they often have uncomfortable side-effects and require constant monitoring to ensure effectiveness. Because of this, many patients have turned to medical marijuana to manage the discomfort associated with their condition, but until recently it wasn't known exactly why cannabis helped sooth inflamed bowels.

As it turns out the substance the gut produces to help keep the neutrophils at bay might be endocannabinoids—chemicals produced in the body that mirror those found in the cannabis plant. At least that's the case for mice, which Beth McCormick of the University of Massachusetts studied while researching the connection between cannabis and IBD. McCormick says more research is needed to see if the human gut operates in the same way. If so, this discovery would open up a large range of new potential medications to treat IBD.

H/T: Popular Science