A Guide to Celiac Disease and the "Runners High"

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As I write this very sentence, I can feel people’s eyes on the back of my head. To be honest, I don’t blame them. 

I’m sitting in the corner of a coffee shop and I just finished a 2-hour climbing session.

I’m covered in chalk and smell like an old pair of boots. Not shoes, boots. It’s that bad. I think a woman had to physically move her body further away from me. 

But despite this, I feel incredible; on top of the world even. 

The almost mythical “runner’s high” has struck once again, and I can feel the difference. 

My stomach, earlier upset, has now eased out and is functioning well. The anxiety I had felt this morning as I avoided sitting down to write has mellowed out. I’m able to disregard the rules of writing that I feel impede my ability to communicate with you, the reader. 

I feel creative, and I feel happy


The Runner’s High

Historically, the runner’s high has been attributed to the release of endorphins during extended periods of exercise. Researchers knew that the endorphins were released in order to reduce the perception of pain by the subject. They had believed that those same endorphins also caused the euphoric runner’s high. 

However, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has presented evidence for a new theory. 


Celiac Disease

In the study, researcher’s put mice on running wheels and found that after exercise, the mice were less anxious and had a higher pain tolerance. Researchers then used drugs to block the animal’s endocannabinoid systems and placed them back on their wheels. After the run, the mice were just as anxious as before they ran and were more sensitive to pain. 

This is a big deal for a lot of reasons. 

If you’ve read my article on the Benefits of Marijuana for Celiac’s, then you already know why so many people use Medical Marijuana to help relieve their symptoms and I won’t ruin the subject with an overly brief summary. 

Endocannabinoids are chemicals produced within the body that act in the same way as Marijuana. They can influence a huge array of physiological processes including appetite, inflammation, memory, and muscle function. 


How Does This Relate To Celiac Disease

Before I start, it is very important that you keep in mind the difference between endocannabinoids and medical marijuana. While they have parallels and work in essentially the same way, in this case, we are talking about our internal production of cannabinoids rather than intake from exogenous substances. 

Your body has thousands of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) along the lining of your intestinal system. They bind to an endocannabinoid called Anandamide (AEA).

Studies published on PubMed have shown have that in patients with Active Celiac Disease, CB1 and CB2 receptors are double to that of healthy individuals. The endocannabinoid AEA was also measured at levels double of healthy individuals. 

Researchers have hypothesized that the reason for the dramatic increase in celiacs is due to AEA’s role in reducing inflammation, handling appetite, and maintaining a chemical homeostasis in the brain. 

When patients with Celiac Disease got on a gluten free diet, endocannabinoid levels returned to normal. 

Gluten Free

Why Is This Interesting?

Well, this research caught my eye for 2 reasons. 

  1. Medical Marijuana isn’t ideal for many Celiacs for a variety of reasons. 
  2. Calgary University in Canada was recently looking for Celiacs to participate in a research study involving an exercise regime designed to help relieve the symptoms of Celiac Disease. 


Medical Marijuana isn’t Ideal for Many Celiac’s for a Variety of Reasons

No one knows this better than me. 

I currently live in North Carolina (not a medical state) and I have a lazy personality. For me, it’s not feasible. 

Exercise, on the other hand, definitely is. I used to love working out, then I lost interest as my health deteriorated a few years ago. 

After a talk with my Uncle last summer, I put a focus on adding it back into my life. Now, I don’t think I could make it through the week if I wasn’t active. 

I’m not a big gym goer, but I love anything outdoors. Climbing, cycling, running, or relaxing; if you’ve been a reader for a while then you know I can’t get enough of sweet mother nature. 


Calgary University in Canada was recently looking for Celiac’s to Participate in a Research Study

I’ve been going on and on about this study on my podcast. I’ve been chatting with people trying to figure out what the link could be between Celiac Disease and Exercise. Before I had read these studies, I was just speculating. 

Now, I feel confident that the role of endocannabinoids in handling GI inflammation is the primary catalyst behind the study.  

I wish I lived somewhere close to Canada so I could participate, but unfortunately not. If any of you are interested in this study, you can learn some more here. 

Inducing the Runner’s High

To this day, learning how to achieve the runner’s high without running is my greatest accomplishment. I’m only recently back to running after 3 years off and there is no way I can run long enough to induce a pure runner’s high. 

Since I am literally trying to use exercise as a medicine, I decided I needed a consistent methodology. 

Fast forward a few weeks and I was able to consistently experience that “high” feeling post-exercise. Here’s what I try and keep in mind when choosing exercise activities.  

  1. To produce change, the body must experience stress. 
  2. In order to produce pain-relieving endocannabinoids, one must experience some degree of pain or discomfort.  (Masochistic, I know)
  3. Exercise must last longer than an hour. If not, compensate with intensity. 

What Those Tips Mean For Me

Gluten Free

Typically, rock climbing is my go-to form of exercise. It’s a relatively painful, high-pressure, high-stress situation. When you make risky moves, the adrenaline rush also helps kick that post-workout high into gear.

I usually climb for around 1-1.5 hours. This allows me plenty of time to warm-up and get some aerobic work done on routes I can do, while also stressing my body later in the workout when attempting new routes.  

If I can’t climb for as long, then I have to compensate with high-intensity work. The way I do this is to warm up, and then immediately begin a high-intensity activity. 

If it’s the right intensity, you should be worn out sometime between 6-8 minutes after you start.

Once my arms feel like jello, I start my regular climbing routine. 

It’s way harder than it usually would be, and it taxes my respiratory system far more in a shorter period. It’s a more aggressive way to work out which isn’t always my thing, but drastic times call for drastic measures. 

I’ve been using exercise to help manage my symptoms, and my life, for the last 6 or so months. If you haven’t been able to justify spending the time exercising, I hope that this article has changed your perspective on it. 

Exercise isn’t pain, it’s a rite of passage to a new form of pleasure.