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IBD & Crohn’s Disease: Could Cannabis Complement Your Treatment

Have you experienced long-term and frequent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, pain, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss? These unpleasant symptoms are debilitating and may lead to life-threatening complications. They can also greatly affect your quality of life.

Many people with these symptoms are eventually diagnosed with disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. If this sounds familiar to you, know that your condition can be diagnosed and managed successfully, and cannabis might be one therapy to consider. 

 

What’s the Difference Between IBS and IBD?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are similar but distinctly defined disorders of the gastrointestinal system. IBS is more common, affecting up to 15 percent of adults. It can be easy to confuse the two conditions because of the similar symptoms and the similar acronym letters. Each condition demands different treatments, though, which means it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor who specializes in digestion. This step can better help you treat and cope with your condition so that it doesn’t disrupt your life.

IBS is not currently considered as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in many medical marijuana states. However, IBD is a qualifying condition in states such as Ohio and Missouri. This fact highlights again that it is important to get a thorough medical evaluation. Both conditions are under-diagnosed because many people feel embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with health care providers. 

IBD is a group of severe conditions that cause swelling and irritation in the digestive tract. These diseases include Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are also listed as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Ohio. 

IBD can cause destructive inflammation and permanent harm to the bowels. IBS does not cause inflammation and hospitalization is rare. With IBD, the disease can be seen during diagnostic imaging. With IBS, the colon appears normal under examination. Increased cancer risk is a factor in IBD patients. On the other hand, IBS doesn’t seem to have an increased risk of cancer.

While IBS is not currently on the qualifying conditions list, both IBS and IBD can both cause tremendous discomfort and chronic pain, which can impact quality of life. Symptoms can range from somewhat annoying to disabling. Both conditions have the potential to negatively affect your self-image, social life, and even your ability to work or travel.

Symptoms of IBD

In addition to a chronic swelling or inflammation of the bowels, IBD symptoms include frequent stomach cramps, belly pain, diarrhea, and gas. You may also experience a loss of appetite and see blood or mucus in your stool. Sometimes, IBD can also cause nausea or vomiting, fever, nutritional deficiencies, and severe fatigue.

 
Conventional Treatment Options for IBD

The goal of Inflammatory Bowel Disease treatment, including Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, is to reduce the inflammation which causes symptoms. In the best-case scenario, treatment may lead to long-term remission of IBD and reduce risks of complications as well as relieve symptoms. 

Conventional IBD treatment usually involves either drug therapy or surgery and may include diet changes, anti-inflammatory drugs, biologics, immune system suppressors, or antibiotics. 

Dietary changes can be made to reduce or eliminate foods that trigger inflammation and symptoms. For some patients, this includes lactose. Others find gluten to be intolerable. Doctors often suggest reducing foods that are high in fat, fiber, or spice. Alcoholic beverages may also contribute to flare-ups in many patients.

Specific medications may be prescribed by your doctor to treat your condition. These drugs often have side effects that some patients cannot tolerate. If these treatments do not work for the patient, surgery is often performed. Surgery for Ulcerative Colitis involves the removal of the entire colon and rectum. This extensive surgery greatly affects the quality of  life and the risks and benefits should be considered carefully and discussed with your health care providers.

With surgery for Crohn’s disease, the damaged portions of the digestive tract are removed and then reconnected to a healthy part of the digestive tract. Additionally or alternatively, surgery might be done to close fistulas and drain abscesses. Unfortunately, Crohn’s Disease surgeries are often temporary.

 

What Are the Benefits of Cannabis in Treating IBD?

Research has shown that cannabis may help relieve many of IBD’s uncomfortable symptoms as well as lessen inflammation. Medical marijuana can be beneficial in treating IBD, including Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.  

In several studies, using cannabis greatly improved IBD symptoms, including nausea, pain, and decreased appetite. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active compound in cannabis that is known to alleviate these debilitating symptoms. Used appropriately, cannabis is thought to help IBD sufferers manage their disease and improve the quality of their lives.

Another compound found in cannabis, Cannabidiol, or CBD, has anti-inflammatory and immune system-affecting properties. CBD might reduce inflammation and treat spasticity and pain associated with IBD, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative colitis. More CBD-specific studies need to be carried out in the future. 

More research is being done now to discover if medicinal cannabis can reduce IBD inflammation or activity of the disease. Further studies may help us discover how medical marijuana affects Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease patients in different ways.   

 

Take the Next Step in Treating Your Irritable Bowel Symptoms

Duber Medical can help with a treatment plan for your IBD. If you have IBD, Ulcerative Colitis, or Crohn’s Disease, contact us today for an evaluation for your state-issued medical marijuana card.

 

Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca

Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.

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