Cannabis as a Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Photo Credit: Getty

Photo Credit: Getty

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) consists of various inflammatory disorders that affect the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, blood/mucus in the stools, and fever. Now, studies are suggesting cannabis may be an alternative therapy for IBD patients. Cannabis is known to interact with the endocannabinoid system, a system that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including satiety, secretion, bowel movements, emesis, immunoregulation, inflammation, and pain. Due to cannabis' interactions with cannabinoid receptors in this system, it is thought that cannabis has the ability to suppress gut inflammation and inflammation-associated hypermotility. 

Research surrounding cannabis use for IBD symptoms is sparse and insufficient. That being said, there is evidence that the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in immune events within the gastrointestinal tract. This suggests cannabis could potentially be effective in treating IBD disorders. Studies have shown phytocannabinoids inhibit cellular proliferation of human colonic epithelial cells by interacting with CB1 receptors. Cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties that can downregulate the production and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Other studies found cannabinoids' vagus nerve-specific action can control vomiting, gastric acid secretion, lower esophageal sphincter pressure, and lower gastric pressure. In an observational human study involving 30 Crohn's patients, marijuana improved disease activity and reduced the need for other treatments. A placebo-controlled trial monitoring 21 Crohn's patients confirmed this, with nearly 50% of those treated with cannabis reaching complete remission. 

This information has been provided by The Marijuana Times and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.