Digestive disorders and gastrointestinal complications are more commonplace than you may think. From irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to constipation, digestive conditions disrupt our everyday lives and could affect organs including the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and even the esophagus.
Digestive disorders don’t discriminate—they affect women and men of all ages, as well as children and babies. Marijuana is an alternative treatment that holds promising results in adults to limit the pain, discomfort and emotional stress associated with gastrointestinal disorders. Here’s what you need to know about treating your gastrointestinal problem with cannabis.
Common Gastrointestinal Disorders & Their Symptoms
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS affects different parts of the digestive system to cause symptoms including:
- General stomach pain and discomfort
Changes in diet to avoid potentially problematic foods such as dairy, alcohol and caffeine may help ease symptoms. We don’t know the cause of IBS, and various triggers will affect people differently. Stress and depression may be linked to triggering IBS symptoms.
- Ulcerative colitis: This condition causes the large intestine or colon to become inflamed. The good news is that this inflammation can’t spread throughout the digestive tract like Crohn’s disease can. There are subtypes of ulcerative colitis that affect specific areas such as the rectum and colon. Abdominal pain, frequent bowel movements and bloody stools are some of the common symptoms.
- Crohn’s disease: This is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the small bowel and the beginning of the colon. Researchers think genetics along with environmental factors contribute to developing Crohn’s disease. Its symptoms can spread throughout the gastrointestinal tract and cause symptoms such as:
- Abdominal cramps
- Bowel obstruction
- Rectal bleeding
- Chronic diarrhea
Non-digestive symptoms may include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
So How Can Cannabis Help With Gastrointestinal Disorders?
Traditional pharmaceutical medicines prescribed for gastrointestinal diseases aim to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. Corticosteroids are often used to suppress the immune system, with additional antibiotics and pain relief medication prescribed for the accompanying symptoms of stomach aches and weight loss. However, most drug-based therapies cause unwanted side effects and aren’t suitable for long-term use.
That’s where cannabis comes in. The cannabis plant has over 100 cannabinoids that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant bind with the ECS’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, which can be found throughout the body and even the gut.
In fact, people with gastrointestinal disorders have more cannabinoid receptors in the colon and gastrointestinal (GI) tract than people who don’t suffer from gastrointestinal issues. So, cannabis can help top up cannabinoid levels and help the ECS balance itself, leading to improved health.
The ECS is also known to perform protective activities in the GI tract and influences pain and appetite. This opens up the therapeutic potential of cannabis to interact with the biological functions of our digestive tracts.
Cannabis helps treat digestive disorders by:
- Decreasing inflammation in the digestive tract and digestive organs
- Relieving chronic abdominal pain and discomfort
- Providing relaxation and stress relief
- Heightening energy levels and appetite
And it does all this with little to no side effects.
Cannabis’s anti-inflammatory and pain relief mechanisms are especially helpful in treating digestive conditions. Cannabis may influence change in the liver, gut, pancreas and intestines to treat digestive disorders and associated symptoms such as nausea, weight loss and chronic pain.
One research study shows that patients with Crohn’s disease found regular cannabis use helpful in relieving symptoms associated with irritable bowel diseases including abdominal pain, diarrhea and lack of appetite.
However, it should be noted that while cannabis may help offset symptoms typical of irritable bowel diseases and IBS, it won’t necessarily repair damage that’s been done to the digestive tract. If you’re experiencing extreme abdominal discomfort or find that symptoms persist, get in touch with your medical practitioner and ask them how cannabis’s therapeutic properties could form part of your treatment plan.
Recommended Marijuana Strains to Help Ease Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Disorders
Medicine Man: This cannabis strain is for people who deal with chronic stomach pain and discomfort associated with a gastrointestinal disorder. Like its namesake, Medicine Man provides a strong dose of pain relief while encouraging relaxation and a better mood.
Purple Urkle: The indica strain Purple Urkle delivers a powerful dose of pain relief with light flavour notes of berry and grape. The predominant body high Purple Urkle gives consumers means it’s a powerful pain reliever while targeting the inflammation resulting from a gastrointestinal condition. Purple Urkle is great for night-time use and will help you fall asleep if you struggle with pain-associated insomnia.
Sonoma Coma: People with Crohn’s disease often suffer from lack of appetite and as a result, malnutrition and fatigue. The sativa-dominant Sonoma Coma strain is a quick fix that encourages appetite while providing a burst of energy with its sweet and spicy aroma.
Photo credit: Steven Spassov