Cannabis Treats Inflammation of GI Disorders

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The GI tract is filled with CB1 and CB2 receptors just waiting to collect those healing cannabis cannabinoids.

Gastro-intestinal problems are some of the worst to deal with, particularly because they seem to have no effective treatment. Health disorders, such as Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac, and Leaky Gut Syndrome vary in severity from patient to patient, but wherever you lay on the spectrum, it’s going to be a challenge.

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The primary treatment surrounds the reduction of chronic inflammation and flare ups.  The good news is that anecdotal and scientific evidence is mounting to justify the  recommendation of cannabis for reducing inflammation and even repairing damage to the gut.  Here’s what we know so far:

Animation showing areas of inflammation in colon

Image Credit: Light Spring

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s is a condition that is very painful, progressive, and difficult to treat.  It can be dangerous as the disease advances because the gut experiences damage from chronic inflammation, resulting in reduced ability to absorb nutrients; this leads to malnutrition. Current symptom management plans include steroids and cortisone. Unfortunately, these are for short term use only, usually prescribed to bring a severe inflammation (flare up) under control.  Over the long term, steroidal medicines can lead to high blood pressure and osteoporosis, among other dangerous side effects.  In the short term, patients may experience puffing of the face, weight gain, insomnia, and an increase in facial hair.

Animation showing healthy stomach versus Crohn's disease

Image Credit: Joshya

The cells in the lining of the gut are ripe with CB1 and CB2 receptors. In fact, in response to inflammation, the endocannabinoid system always increases the number of CB1 receptors. This is actually a common body response to any area of injury, and helps elevate the efficacy of cannabis medicine. What is unique about cannabis medicine is that it will treat inflammation by modulating the immune system and stopping the cascade of events that initiates inflammatory response.

A survey in 2005 from Mikuriyia et. al., reported that Crohn’s patients taking cannabis saw improvement in symptoms AND were able to reduce the number of immunosuppressant drugs they took.

Young woman clutching her gut rom abdominal pain

Image Credit: Simon Kadula

As we have discussed in another article, it should be noted that one population survey determined that patients with Crohn’s disease, specifically, had an increased risk for needing surgery when using cannabis. While the study could not demonstrate that cannabis was the cause for needing surgery, it is an indication that more research is needed and the data was released as a precaution.

Gluten Free word surrounded by product

Image Credit: Baibaz

Celiac Disease

In the gluten-free trend of today, celiac disease is not exactly a hidden illness. The difference between the gluten-free “health” trend and Celiac is that for Celiacs, the exclusion of the gluten protein is not a choice. Celiac disease involves the immune system negatively reacting to gluten by attacking epithelial cells in the small intestine. It is an incredibly painful experience, and those with the most severe Celiac can be ill for days following exposure to gluten. Over time, the damage accumulates and the result is a reduced ability to absorb nutrients, which can become life-threatening. Looking into the future, those with Celiac are at risk of diabetes, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.

Animation showing normal gut villi versus celiac

Image Credit: Shutterstock

And where does cannabis come in? Well, it seems that cannabinoids can help to target CB2 receptors, which are stressed in individuals with Celiac. A recent study has proven that when people with Celiac use medical cannabis, their symptoms are significantly reduced, or even entirely relieved. They are also able to absorb nutrients more effectively, which also ultimately prevents iron, calcium, and protein deficiencies – precursors to further health problems.

Image Credit: Anatomy Insider

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky Gut Syndrome can be caused by a less severe form of gluten intolerance.  In this condition, an excess of gluten forms ‘zonulin’, which breaks down the binding substance in gut cells. This creates gaps in the cell network, allowing for undigested food particles to seep through the gut into the bloodstream. While this seems innocent enough, the result is that the immune system is activated, leading to neurological and behavioral symptoms.

Leaky Gut word tree

Image Credit: Arloo

 

Scientists are now looking at ways to reduce immune response and inflammation using cannabis. It is hoped that the research will help patients with Leaky Gut Syndrome. Anecdotal evidence for relief of GI symptoms associated with LGS while using cannabis is very strong and positive.

More research and funding is needed in order to scientifically test these stories. Have you found relief from GI disease or disorder through cannabis? Share your story in the comment section.

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