Having just experienced a bout of gastric distress, myself, my sympathies go out to anyone who has to cope with any chronic gastric disease. I was fortunate enough to have some cannabis on hand which did an excellent job of dulling my pain and distracting me from my intense discomfort.
Today’s article is about cannabis and Crohn’s Disease. The severity of the symptoms can be so incapacitating for many sufferers that it impacts the quality of their lives. Cannabis has been shown to be the best treatment option for controlling the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. Cannabis usage can reverse the ravages of the disease by controlling the inflammation and reducing the overactive immune response to normal levels. In some cases, long term remission is achieved.
What is Crohn’s Disease? It is considered to be one of the diseases that falls under the category of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).It is an inflammatory bowel disease that damages the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It is an auto-immune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy gut bacteria. Its cause is unknown but the current theory is that genetic irregularities in the programming of the immune system play a key role. Environmental factors are thought to be triggers for the irregularities.
Recent research has revealed that dysbiosis of bacteria in the gastric system drives the progression of the disease. Dysbiosis of bacteria is defined as an imbalance of bacteria in the gut where the pathogenic bacteria dominates. It is also known as Small Intestinal Bacterial/Fungal Overgrowth. It can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common areas where it occurs are from most to least: Ileum + Colon > Ileum > Colon. Inflammation can occur in the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and the large intestine (colon).
The symptoms can vary, depending on where the inflammation occurs, but the most common include:
- Severe abdominal pain, typically in the right, lower quadrant
- Severe diarrhea
- Bloody stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss due to nutrient malabsorption
The conventional medications for Crohn’s Disease aim to reduce inflammation and to suppress the immune system which is constantly attacking the gastrointestinal system. These include anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, immunosuppressants (corticosteroids), chemotherapy, and surgery as a last resort. These treatment options often produce adverse side effects with little or no than benefit. Suppressing the immune system leaves one much more vulnerable to infection.
There is already much research to substantiate cannabis as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Cannabinoids are known to have immunomodulatory effects. They modulate the immune system by preventing the release of pro-inflammatory proteins known as cytokines while triggering anti-inflammatory compounds.
Cannabis and its effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for regulating immune function. CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the gastrointestinal tract, specifically on immune cells. Cannabis research reveals that patients with IBS produce fewer endocannabinoids. They also have more receptors for cannabinoids in their colon and intestines than those without IBS. Certain cannabinoid receptors are overexpressed or upregulated. This signals that there is a endocannabinoid deficiency in the intestinal tract which is satisfied by increased cannabinoid input.
Because cannabis is still federally illegal in the US, there is no possibility of conducting large-scale clinical trials on humans. There have been some positive results from small studies conducted by cannabis researchers. A 2005 study which polled a small group of Crohn’s patients who used cannabis as a treatment option gathered the following information:
Cannabis use allowed patients to reduce the amount of daily immunosuppressant drugs. Many symptoms of the disease decreased dramatically. These included:
- Increase in appetite and weight gain
- Reduction in pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and depression
- Increase in activity
- Fewer stools per day
- Fewer severe flare-ups
In a 2013 small placebo-controlled study with 21 Crohn’s patients who did not respond to conventional treatment, cannabis was administered. They had very severe symptoms of the disease. They were divided into 2 groups.
- Smoked cannabis twice daily which contained 115mg of THC
- Smoked cannabis twice daily with the THC extracted
The treatment lasted for 8 weeks with a 2 week follow-up
5 of the 11 in the THC group experienced complete remission of Crohn’s Disease with an improvement of symptoms in 10 out of 11. There were no reports of negative side effects. 3 patients stopped using steroids. Appetite and quality of sleep were markedly better. It is important to note that the delivery method was smoking. Anecdotal evidence has shown that oral cannabis oils are much more effective for Crohn’s patients. More large-scale clinical trials are necessary to determine the effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment option for Crohn’s Disease.
There are many amazing stories of Crohn’s patients who are in complete remission using cannabis. One such medical cannabis activist is teenager and cannabis refugee, Coltyn Turner. His family is from Illinois and they were forced to move to Colorado to save Coltyn’s life. He travels all over the country, speaking about his experience. He is an inspiring ambassador for the cannabis movement.
Here are some of the best strains recommended by patients and researchers for managing Crohn’s Disease symptoms:
- Sour Grape: an indica
- Bubblegum: an indica with up to 20% CBD
- American Beauty: a sativa
- Sour Diesel: a sativa
There are many more strains that help. Of course, there is always trial and error involved in figuring out what works best for you!
Source: Herb.co, Will Cannabis Help Send Crohn’s Disease Into Remission? Anna Wilcox, October 25, 2016
Herb.co, Cannabis vs Crohn’s Diseases, Christopher Teague, May 24, 2016