Digestive Disorders

Medical marijuana is known to help with inflammation and specific stomach issues. Read on about MMJ as a therapeutic option for certain digestive disorders. 

Health complications from a disease in the digestive tract may vary from mild to severe, with the most common cases being cancer, hernias, gallstones, GI infections, lactose intolerance, diverticulitis, IBD and IBS, heartburn, peptic ulcer disease, and many others. 

The digestive system plays a vital role in breaking down and absorbing nutrients from food and drink, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. It also balances gut microbes and bacteria that maintain mental health, inflammation, and weight.

Signs and Symptoms

The following symptoms are typical of digestive diseases: 

  • Bleeding in bowel movements or urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Incontinence
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Black or tarry stools

Specific Disorders as Qualifying Conditions

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a severe form of gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. IBS symptoms can range from abdominal pain to loss of appetite to fatigue, diarrhea, or constipation, which are caused by chronic inflammation of the GI tract. Irritable Bowel Syndrome currently has no cure, but physicians and patients are hopeful that cannabis can help control the severe symptoms that accompany the debilitating condition. Medical marijuana is reported to help with nausea, diarrhea, appetite, and quality of life diminished by a patient’s daily living limitations with gastrointestinal issues.

Recent evidence shows that cannabinoids like CBD and CBG can help reduce inflammation, suggesting why users say they can relieve pain. Individual reports claim their personal use of the plant has effectively reduced some of their chronic symptoms, which could be helpful for IBS. In addition to a decrease in pain, it may also bring back appetite and help control weight fluctuations.

Crohn’s disease is a severe gastrointestinal (GI) disorder called inflammatory bowel disease. Another common form of inflammatory bowel disease is ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease symptoms can range from abdominal pain to loss of appetite to fatigue, diarrhea, or constipation, which are caused by chronic inflammation of the GI tract. Crohn’s Disease currently has no cure, but physicians and patients are hopeful that cannabis can help control the severe symptoms that accompany the debilitating condition. Medical marijuana is reported to help with nausea, diarrhea, appetite, and quality of life diminished by a patient’s daily living limitations with gastrointestinal issues.

Recent evidence shows that cannabinoids like CBD and CBG can help reduce inflammation, suggesting why users say they can relieve pain. For Crohn’s disease patients, these anti-inflammatory effects could help reduce symptoms. Although more research is needed on cannabis use for people living with Crohn’s disease, individual reports claim their use of the plant has effectively reduced some of their chronic symptoms. In addition to a decrease in pain, it may also bring back appetite and help control weight fluctuations.

Can Medical Cannabis Help? 

The cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant can activate the endocannabinoid system in the human body and may help many chronic issues, including ulcers. Cannabis activates CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors in organs, muscles, and tissues. Cannabinoids can directly influence our ability to maintain homeostasis.

CB1 receptors are responsible for large and small bowel muscles and digestion in the intestines. Activating the CB2 receptors targets immune cells that can reduce intestinal pain and inflammation. Cannabinoids can even interact with other receptors influencing everyday gastrointestinal tract functions.

Current research shows that more studies are warranted on inflammatory bowel syndrome and the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for modulating pain, controlling nausea, and slowing the intestinal digestion process. Small-scale human and animal studies continue to show promise, and the potential benefits are being researched further.

Timna Naftali conducted a study that followed thirty patients with Crohn’s and recorded their disease severity before and after cannabis use. Researchers found that many users could decrease inflammation medications, including steroids. Approximately three-fourths of participants said they experienced a decrease in symptoms and daily bowel movements.

Another study discusses the cannabis plant’s potential for helping to relieve digestive inflammation and its anti-inflammatory properties by activating the endocannabinoid system, a fat-based system of self-made neurotransmitters. When CB2 receptors line the intestinal tissue, a P-glycoprotein transmitter will help decrease the body’s inflammatory and autoimmune responses.

Recent studies on the endocannabinoid system suggest that many IBS patients may have clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED). An ongoing theory is that these deficiencies could come from genetics, injuries, and diseases. 

Research on obese mice has proven a connection between the microbiome, gut, and brain. The microbiome of the small intestine, large intestine, and brain health are all crucial factors for IBS patients. The obese mice given doses of THC had improved microflora in the gut compared to mice who received the placebo. 

Research into cannabis as an effective treatment for nausea is in its early stages, and further research is needed. However, The Journal of Pain published a 2019 study claiming that the severity of headache disorders and migraines was reduced by around 50 percent when individuals participated in medicinal cannabis use.

Another medically reviewed study in Pharmacotherapy found that 40 percent of people who began medical use of cannabis as a migraine treatment experienced a significant decrease in the frequency of migraine attacks. Anecdotal evidence published in a study by Neurology reported that 42 percent of surveyed patients saw a decrease in their migraine headache frequency.

Motion Sickness and nausea can cause anxiety. Research has shown CBD to affect different forms of anxiety disorders positively. It has been shown to reduce stress. CBD benefits general anxiety disorder and other severe anxiety conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

CBD oil is typically helpful in reducing headaches and migraine prevention. THC is a cannabinoid that can sometimes enhance migraine attacks. An exception can be vaping CBD oil because smoking as a consumption method can irritate blood vessels and trigger allergies and sinus issues which can cause a migraine attack.

Many weed users have expressed that delta-9 THC products have helped improve sleep quality, treat body aches, improve appetite, decrease physical discomfort, etc. Delta 9 is commonly used for its potential medical benefits, reducing symptoms of anxiety and PTSD and helping people combat symptoms of glaucoma, seizures, and other chronic conditions.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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