Cachexia, commonly referred to as wasting syndrome, is a condition characterized by extreme loss of weight and skeletal muscle mass. As opposed to other types of dramatic weight loss, cachexia is involuntary. A form of metabolic mutiny in which the body unnecessarily breaks down skeletal muscle and fat tissue, cachexia makes patients so weak that walking is often an impossible task.
Who is Affected by Cachexia?
This syndrome affects those who are in the advanced stages of serious diseases, primarily cancer and HIV or AIDS, but also those suffering from other major chronic progressive diseases including multiple sclerosis, COPD, kidney disease, or congestive heart failure. Cachexia affects more than 5 million people in the United States alone.
Those with cachexia have abnormal levels of certain hormones and growth factors in their body, which ultimately cause the resulting weight loss and muscle wastage. Elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor I (IFG-l) as well as myostatin and glucocorticoids, hormones produced by the kidneys, prevent muscle growth and contribute to muscle wasting. The associated weight loss is contributed to increased levels of inflammatory substances known as cytokines. The release of cytokines affects the behavior of the cells around them, often leading to abnormalities. Research is still being conducted to study the links to and potential causes of cachexia.
In some cases, cachexia can be difficult to recognize, so doctors use a number of criteria to diagnose the syndrome. To be diagnosed, the person must have experienced the following symptoms:
- The unintentional loss of more than 5 percent of their body weight
- Having less than 10 percent body fat
- High levels of inflammation identified by blood tests and increased levels of cytokines
- Low levels of albumin
- Have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 20 if you’re under 65, or a BMI less than 22 if you’re over 65 years old
There is no widely accepted medication to treat cachexia, but it has been found that nutritional supplements and steroids help provide some necessary nutrients. Researchers are studying new treatments that have the potential to help patients with wasting syndrome, like the human growth hormone Somatropin. However, such alternatives are expensive and have a number of detrimental side effects.
Medical Marijuana for Cachexia
To manage cachexia effectively, patients must increase their food intake by controlling vomiting and nausea so they’re able to eat. A study conducted at Columbia University found that, when taken orally, cannabis significantly stimulated appetites, weight gain, and calorie intake of patients with cachexia. Medical cannabis has been proven to be a safe and successful solution to mitigate nausea and vomiting in cases of cachexia.
If you or a loved one is suffering from cachexia, or wasting syndrome, medical marijuana treatment may be right for you. Without the adverse side effects and high price tag, medical cannabis offers patients the opportunity to find the relief they deserve. Our trained experts at Greenhouse will help find the right plan for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out, contact Greenhouse today.