Medical Marijuana for IBD

What is Inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD for short, refers to a group of conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis.  In these conditions, the is unusually high levels of inflammation in the gut which leads to various symptoms such as pain, diarrhoea, and passing blood.

Current treatments can be quite effective for IBD, but some patients may still lapse in and out of symptoms with these conditions, and sometimes worsen enough to need surgery or removal of part of their gut.

How does cannabis affect the gut?

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS (discussed in more detail in this article) is a way our bodies communicates with itself.  Endocannabinoids, compounds made by this ECS, act in helping control various parts of the body, including the nervous system and immune system.  In the gut, this means it endocannabinoids may be able to affect how it functions and how it responds to painful sensations.

The cannabis plant contains active ingredients called cannabinoids.  These cannabinoids, which are also the main ingredients used in medicinal cannabis, can act on the ECS just like the body’s own endocannabinoids.  In this way, cannabinoids can potentially change how different parts of the body work, including the gut.

How can cannabis help with inflammatory bowel disease?

At present, the evidence isn’t conclusive to say whether cannabinoids are beneficial or not for IBD.

In some lab-based studies, there are indications that some cannabinoids may reduce inflammation or pain.  One study in people found a significant different between patients being treated with cannabis against those on a placebo – in terms of their symptoms related to Crohn’s disease, and improvements to their Crohn’s Disease Activity Index.

Along with the many anecdotal cases of significant improvement in patient’s IBD symptoms from patients, hopefully in the near future there’ll be more studies and information to guide how cannabinoids might be best used in this complicated disease.

In the future, it will be important for us to find out whether medicinal cannabis is effective for IBD symptoms as well as control of the disease as well.  For that reason, it is important to have the discussion about this form of treatment with your doctors before considering this therapy.