Cannabis Treats Inflammation, Pain, and Nausea of IBS and Crohn’s
With little research guidance, patients are already successfully treating complex GI disorders, like IBS, with cannabis. This observational study gives patients many reasons to go ahead and try it if they’ve been on the fence.
There are two subspecies of cannabis plant that are commonly used in medicine: Cannabis sativa and C. indica. These contain aromatic hydrocarbon compounds, also known as cannabinoids. The most well-studied of these is THC, which is in higher concentrations in the sativa plant.
Cannabinoids activate two G-protein coupled receptors:
CB1 (cannabinoid receptor type 1): which exists in the nervous system and regulates neurotransmitter release and …
CB2 (cannabinoid receptor type 2): which is in the immune system.
In addition, the CB1 receptor is also present in the GI tract, specifically in the colon. This means that the GI tract is responsive to the treatment with cannabinoids. In fact, inflammatory bowel disease shows increased numbers of CB2 receptor in the colon. This confirms CB2 receptor’s role in inflammatory immune response. CB2 receptor is mainly found in the immune cells macrophages, neutrophils and B and T-cell subtypes.
In the endocannabinoid system, endogenous (naturally occurring) ligands are also present, like anandamide and 2-AG (2-arachydonoglycerol). These also bind to receptors CB1 and CB2. In the GI tract, the endocannabinoid system has a protective role against inflammation. This is the reason the endocannabinoid system represents an important therapeutic target against common GI diseases, such as IBS, functional bowel disease, secretion, and motility-related diseases.
How Can Cannabinoids Help IBS?
In the IBS (inflammatory bowel disease), cannabis plays an anti-inflammatory role meaning it can be a powerful pharmacological target. However, its intoxicating components (THC) were limiting its usefulness in the clinical trials. Basically, people were feeling too high at therapeutic doses.
Thankfully CBD has very low toxicity in humans and is also a non-intoxicating substance. It also slows the course of the disease while alleviating the symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, anorexia, and diarrhea. Cannabis improved abdominal pain (83.9 percent), abdominal cramps (76.8 percent), joint pain (48.2 percent) and diarrhea (28.6 percent) in the IBS patients who were self-administering cannabis, as per one observational study.
Studies suggest that CBD was also extremely beneficial for reducing gut inflammation and may help with a leaky gut. It is now a potential candidate in the development of the IBD drugs.
A 2019 study — published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (2019) looked at using CBD and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) to lower intestinal hyperpermeability – which is medical speak for a leaky gut. PEA is a fatty acid amide created by our body that can reduce pain caused by inflammation.
The research shows that a combination of CBD and PEA lowered the permeability in the colon, which could prove beneficial for those with IBD. However, the study noted that certain variables used may compromise the findings, and not all participants in the study had IBD.
Observational Study Sees Huge Improvement in Disease Outcomes for Crohn’s Patients
Thirty Crohn’s disease patients took part in this observational study — published in European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2019) — to determine the disease activity. As well as the need for medication and surgery, and hospitalization before and after cannabis consumption. Of the thirty patients, 21 saw significant improvement following cannabis treatment.
Authors of the study concluded that cannabis treatment had a significant impact on the Crohn’s disease patients by observing a decrease in the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index (CDAI). Importantly, there was also less of a need for the other drugs and surgery. Actually, only two patients required surgery during the cannabis treatment after average use of three years.
What Conclusions can be Made About Cannabis for GI-Related Disease?
Scientific evidence all over the world is supporting the consumption of cannabis in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and IBS. The endocannabinoid system plays a complex role in the GI tract, affecting physiology and pathology. Only major THC constituents, leaving almost 100 other ones unexplored. There is also a possibility of missing some major receptors that play a critical role in the GI.
Patients with the GI problems continue to consume cannabis for the symptom relief, and hopefully the studies to back up the results will be coming soon. It would be a great benefit to have access to dose appropriate treatments using cannabis medicine.