Using Cannabis to Treat IBD

By Rolling Up


Nausea, changes to appetite, and gastrointestinal problems can impact a person’s life detrimentally. The ability to eat, sleep, work, exercise is impacted heavily by inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. The two most common IBD expressions are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD affects an estimated 3 million Americans. The disease can occur at any age, but it is most likely diagnosed in adolescents and adults between the ages of 20 and 30. 


Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that can affect any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to the rectum. It can involve different areas for different people. Ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine and rectum. 


Alternative treatments for IBD patients include turning to cannabis. Between 15-40% of patients turn to cannabis, claiming it relieves pain and nausea, stimulates appetite, assists in sleep, and reduces the need for medications. The results are not as straightforward as they seem. 


A 2016 study uncovered the potential effects that cannabis has on modulating the endocannabinoid system, which regulates various functions of the body and has been shown to play a key role in pathogenesis of IBD. The question remains whether cannabis masks the symptoms or treats the inflammation itself. 


Among the studies where studies have been shown to alleviate symptoms, the effects are shown much more in patients with Crohn’s disease than ulcerative colitis. Even though there’s a large body of research linking the potentially therapeutic effects of cannabis that could help with IBD, experts still urge caution. One of the main risks for patients who use cannabis are likely to discontinue their existing therapies. It is best to use cannabis as a supplementary therapy. 

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