Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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.

Types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Here are the different types of IBS and how they can affect your digestive system :

IBS with Constipation (IBS-C)

  • Patients who have hard stools more than 25% of the time

IBS with Diarrhea (IBS-D)

  • Patients who have diarrhea more than 25% of the time

Mixed IBS (IBS-M)

  • Patients who have hard and soft stools more than 25% of the time 

Post-Diverticulitis IBS

  • Occurs after diverticulitis symptoms 
  • Patients experience left-sided abdominal pain 
  • Inflamed mass in the left lower abdomen

Post-Infectious IBS

  • Occurs after an intestinal infection or virus 

Unclassified IBS (IBS-U)

  • Characterized by patients who meet the diagnostic criteria of IBS but whose bowel movements fit no other subtypes

Medicinal Cannabis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant can activate the endocannabinoid system in the human body and may help many chronic issues. 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.

Cannabinoids and IBS- Research

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 were able to decrease inflammation medications, including steroids. Approximately three-fourths of participants said they experienced a decrease in symptoms and a reduction in 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. 

MMJ Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome may see the following benefits:

  • Pain management improvement 
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Appetite Increase and regulation
  • Reduced need for regular steroid use 
  • Decrease in diarrhea

The potential risks of using cannabis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome include the following:

  • Adverse drug interactions with other medications 
  • Many health insurance companies don’t cover MMJ
  • Increased risk of anxiety with prolonged use
  • Mild side effects of THC include: dry mouth, drowsiness, psychoactive effects, nausea, and paranoia

Summary

If you have been looking for a new way to manage common symptoms of IBS or need additional relief on top of other prescribed medications, using medicinal cannabis may be a good option. Finding the correct type of cannabis product and dose may take some time and experimentation. 

While there are potential therapeutic benefits, there is little information about the health risks associated with long-term cannabis consumption. We recommend caution and consulting your healthcare provider before starting a new IBS symptom relief treatment.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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