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Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Cannabis

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Cannabis

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, is a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome vary by individual, but typically include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Although these symptoms are painful, this disorder does not raise risk for colon cancer and other complications. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS affects an estimated 10 to 15 percent of Americans.

While doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes IBS, it’s thought to be linked to abnormalities in the gastrointestinal system as well as to problems with the signals linking the brain to the intestines. For most people, the symptoms of irritable bowel are triggered by specific foods, stress, and in women, hormonal changes. Most people with IBS are female, younger than age 45, and have a family history of the disease.

Typically, the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can successfully be controlled by dietary changes, over the counter medications, and prescription drugs. You should also drink plenty of liquids, exercise regularly, and work on managing stress. Because it often coexists with anxiety and depression, treating these issues may resolve IBS symptoms.

According to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, medical marijuana may be effective in treating the chronic pain and gastrointestinal distress associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Because the cannabinoids that already exist in the body help to regulate the digestive tract, researchers theorize that the cannabinoids present in medical marijuana can help serve this function as well, eliminating distressing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as cramping, diarrhea, and acid reflux.

In addition, because cannabis also has a positive impact on anxiety, ingesting medical marijuana could eliminate the emotional stress that is often a trigger for irritable bowel symptom flare-ups. In fact, the Institute of Medicine notes that marijuana has the potential to treat this disorder in a way that is not currently available in any other medication, by simultaneously targeting severe GI pain, nausea, and appetite loss associated with irritable bowel syndrome, without the side effects typically associated with other types of drugs traditionally used for treatment.

Because the symptoms of IBS mirror those of other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose. If you experience changes in your bowel habits that last longer than a week or two, talk with your doctor so that he or she can determine the cause and eliminate the possibility of a more serious disease, such as colon cancer.

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