From irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to constipation and even commonplace conditions such as heartburn, you’ll probably suffer from some sort of gastrointestinal disturbance in your lifetime.
One gastrointestinal disorder that has many different causes and symptoms is colitis. Colitis and its wide-ranging symptoms can be painful and disruptive. If you’re interested in a natural medication as part of your colitis treatment plan, you may want to consider cannabis.
What Exactly Is Colitis?
Putting it simply, colitis is when the inner lining of the colon becomes inflamed. When the inflammation is left untreated, ulcers start to appear in the colon and could leave the digestive system seriously damaged. This can happen for several reasons, such as:
- Infection of the colon or other digestive organs from bacteria, viruses and even parasites
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Other gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease
- Loss of blood supply to the digestive system due to blood clots, narrowed arteries or conditions like volvulus
- Allergic reactions and intolerance to certain types of food
- Environmental influences
- Genetic factors
Colitis may be difficult to diagnose since it comes with several symptoms and a bunch of other associated symptoms. These can range from abdominal pain, weight loss and cramping to symptoms related with the cause of colitis. For instance, an allergic reaction to food that causes colitis may be accompanied by skin inflammation, eye and sinus irritation, and fever.
If you think you have colitis, you can expect to undergo some tests to try and determine the cause. Complete blood tests help analyse blood count, kidney function and inflammatory markers. Urine and stool samples and if necessary a colonoscopy may be done to find the root of the issue.
As far as colitis treatments, usually antibiotics are in order, although other treatments like hydration, painkillers and supportive care are often used to deal with symptoms. Immunosuppressive therapy for IBD and colitis provide only temporary relief and effectiveness decreases over time. Looking for a safe alternative? Let’s take a look at how cannabis can help.
How to Take Cannabis for Colitis
As mentioned, colitis is caused by inflammation of the colon—that’s where cannabis comes in. The cannabis plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids, compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a system of receptors found in most parts of the body. And when these cannabinoids interact with the ECS receptors, they can affect different processes having to do with pain, digestion, motor skills and more. Different cannabis strains, amounts and other factors can produce different effects.
The ECS has also been linked to the gut and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is why researchers have started to focus on seeing whether cannabinoids can treat inflammatory bowel disease. THC and CBD are two of the major cannabinoids, and both act as anti-inflammatory agents. This is one of the more obvious ways that cannabis helps treat colitis. They work against inflammation to restore the regular working order of the colon by interacting with the ECS to maintain a healthy gut.
What the Research Says About Marijuana as a Colitis Treatment
In one study, both THC and CBD found in cannabis lessened inflammation, and also minimized the occurrence of gastrointestinal disturbances in rats with colitis. Another study found that THC and CBD are effective in treating symptomatic conditions of colitis such as loss of appetite, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Recommendations for Taking Cannabis to Help Treat Colitis
So how should you go about choosing the best cannabis to treat colitis? First, consider the various methods of marijuana consumption. Cannabis can be smoked, vaped, made into edibles, taken sublingually or applied to the skin in the form of CBD oil. The best strains and dosage—and method of consumption—for your specific requirements are entirely up to you. But here are a few marijuana strains that may help with colitis symptoms:
- Purple Kush: Do you like grape flavours? Purple Kush is loaded with earthy and sweet grape undertones. This indica-dominant strain kicks in to relax the body and provide pain relief as well as lower stress levels. This strain isn’t recommended for daytime consumption or for when you have important tasks to accomplish. Rather, it’s best enjoyed during a mellow evening in and to ensure a good night’s rest.
- Lemon Haze: If you’re after colitis relief with a side of euphoria, the sativa strain Lemon Haze is the way to go. THC levels as high as 22% mean this hard-hitting strain can provide instant relief, enhanced by a zesty taste of fresh lemon. This is a great strain to fight pain from inflammation in the colon and will also help boost your mood.
- ACDC: Here’s a hybrid strain that brings you the best of both worlds. ACDC has a high-CBD content, perfect for fighting pain and abdominal discomfort without producing a head high. A low level of THC imparts just the right amount of pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s earthy and woody with hints of pine and a great pick-me-up when the pain from colitis starts to hit.
How to Consume Marijuana for Colitis
For fast-acting relief, smoking or vaping is the best way to take cannabis. Homemade edibles can be just as effective. But for people suffering from colitis, food might be the source of inflammation to begin with. If you prefer mild relief from cannabis without having to smoke or experience a head high, add CBD oil to food or take it sublingually for faster effect.
Cannabis helps colitis patients find relief from pain, inflammation, abdominal cramping and a wide range of associated symptoms. Be sure to start off with a low dose, and talk to your doctor if you experience any further problems or gastrointestinal irritation after consuming cannabis.
Photo credit: Anthony Tran