Research looks at medical cannabis and IBD symptoms

An estimated 1.6 million Americans suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract — most commonly in the small bowel and the colon — creates problems with digestion, absorption of nutrients from food, and elimination of waste.

While the most common symptoms of IBD are diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal pain and cramping, fever, and weight loss, others, such as skin rashes, anemia, arthritis, vomiting, loss of appetite and fatigue, are also common.

IBD may affect men and women of any age, but typical onset of symptoms occurs between the ages of 15 and 45. Diagnosis requires ruling out all other causes for symptoms, usually through a combination of tests.

The cause of IBD is unknown but it’s thought to be a combination of genetic predisposition, immune dysfunction and environmental factors. There is no known cure, only remission through management of symptoms, but there are treatments that can help.

Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, antibiotics for infections, dietary management, and surgery may be recommended. Antidiarrhea drugs, pain relief, and nutritional supplements are also frequently required.

The connection between the endocannabinoid system and immune events leads researchers to consider therapeutic use of cannabinoids from medical cannabis in inflammatory disorders such as IBD. While CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory effects, THC is generally associated with reduction in pain and nausea and an increase in appetite.

Where traditional therapies for the symptoms of IBD aren’t able to fully meet the needs of some patients, these two components of medical cannabis alone or together may bring relief. Some patients report significant improvements to their quality of life with the use of CBD and/or THC.

More information is available from Crohn’s and Colitis of Canada. Additional support for those living with the conditions, advocacy and education are available from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.