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Cachexia is a serious wasting syndrome that affects people in the late stages of many diseases, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic renal failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary syndrome, or COPD. Cachexia is characterized by extreme weight loss and muscle wasting. It can accelerate the progress of the underlying disease, and affect the effectiveness of treatments. Treatments for cachexia are limited, but some research suggests that cannabis can stimulate appetite and improve the quality of life for patients with cachexia from a number of conditions.

What Is Cachexia?

In typical weight loss, cutting calories leads to the loss of fat. People with cachexia lose not only fat, but also muscle mass. Muscle wasting leads to fatigue, weakness, and a reduced ability to fight infection and tolerate treatments. Cachexia is also associated with a loss of appetite, which makes it difficult to maintain weight and slow the wasting process.

Cachexia is a complicated condition that arises from the interaction of factors caused by a serious systemic disease, particularly cancer and HIV/AIDS, but also chronic diseases of the lungs, kidneys, and other organs. Cachexia seems to be a result of the body’s response to abnormal chemicals produced by these diseases. These chemicals can trigger changes in metabolism, so that the body burns more energy than it normally would. If the body has no fat stores to draw from, it consumes muscle tissue for the energy it needs. Cachexia may also be caused by the body’s efforts to fight the underlying disease by drawing energy from muscles to feed the brain.

Aside from extreme wasting, cachexia patients can also suffer from depression and anorexia – a loss of desire to eat at all. These factors can contribute to malaise, poor self-care, and a lowered resistance to infection and the underlying disease.

Treatments for cachexia are limited. Some medications can help stimulate appetite, and some studies suggest that light exercise, if tolerated, can slow the loss of muscle mass. But some research indicates that compounds in cannabis may help to boost appetite and reduce depression and anxiety, and improve daily quality of life for patients with cachexia caused by a number of different diseases.

How Does Medical Cannabis Help Cachexia?

Cannabis has long been known to stimulate the appetite. Cannabis compounds, especially those containing delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can boost the production of chemicals that send hunger signals to the brain. Cannabis also works with the body’s network of endocannabinoid receptors to promote the expression of “feel good” chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters can help to reduce anxiety and calm activity along the vagus nerve, a major part of the signaling pathway between the brain and digestive system. 

Cannabis may relieve symptoms of underlying diseases that cause cachexia. Some research suggests that cannabis might contribute to the apoptosis, or death, of cancerous cells. Cannabis compounds have also been shown to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with some chronic autoimmune and neurological diseases. For all these reasons, cannabis may be able to help cachexia patients eat better and feel better overall.

Cachexia Patients Qualify for Medical Marijuana Use in Utah

Cachexia is a qualifying condition for Medical Marijuana in Utah. To get your Medical Marijuana Card, you’ll need to meet with a medical provider who can certify your qualifying condition and enter your information into the state user database. For more information or a consultation, schedule an appointment with us today.

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