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 2 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 is located in the nervous system and regulates neurotransmitter release and;
CB2 (cannabinoid receptor type 2), which is distributed 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, there has also been found endogenous (naturally occurring) ligands: 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 and for this reason, is considered a powerful pharmacological target. However, it’s psychoactive components were limiting its usefulness in the clinical trials. Basically, people were feeling too high at therapeutic doses.
Fortunately, CBD was found to be extremely beneficial for reducing gut inflammation without the psychoactive component. It is now considered as a potential candidate in the development of the IBD drugs.
CBD has very low toxicity in humans and it slows the course of the disease while alleviating the symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, anorexia, and diarrhea. Cannabis improved abdominal pain (83.9%), abdominal cramps (76.8%), joint pain (48.2%) and diarrhea (28.6%) in the IBS patients who were self-administering cannabis, as per one observational study.
Observational Study Sees Huge Improvement in Disease Outcomes for Crohn’s Patients
Thirty Crohn’s disease patients were involved in the observational study to determine the disease activity, need for medication and surgery, and hospitalization before and after cannabis use. Of the 30 patients, significant improvement was observed in 21, 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 a reduced need for the other drugs and surgery. Actually, only 2 patients required surgery during the cannabis treatment after average use of 3 years.
What Conclusions Can Be Made About Cannabis for GI-Related Disease?
Scientific evidence all over the world is supporting the use 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 Δ9-THC constituents have been studied, 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 use cannabis for the symptom relief, and it is hoped that 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.