The medicinal benefits of cannabis, which were mentioned in our old Vedas, are being studied once again. As research on the benefits of medical cannabis expands, various studies are being conducted on cannabis as a potential treatment for those struggling from digestive health problems. In this article, we will discuss how cannabis helps improve our digestive health.
How Cannabis Helps Relieve Digestive Problems
Cannabis Sativa, a species of the cannabis plant, contains various compounds called cannabinoids. THC is one of the main cannabinoid present in this strain, which also gives cannabis its psychoactive qualities. Cannabinoids activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our body. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) aids digestion by exerting biological functions on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) of our body performs protective activities in our GI tract and helps alleviate GI conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. Since THC resembles the endocannabinoids present in the system, it helps perform the same functions on the GI tract. Ongoing research on the therapeutic properties of cannabis on patients with poor digestive health has shown that it helps with related conditions such as: nausea and vomiting, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, chronic abdominal pain, sudden and rapid weight loss, and anorexia.
Medical Cannabis for Digestive Health
According to the various studies conducted, medical cannabis can help with various digestive issues, as elaborated below.
Cannabis and IBD
As mentioned earlier, the ECS plays an important role in maintaining gut health. Types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis might be partly caused due to changes in the ECS, since it controls our inflammatory responses; which are compromised in those suffering from such conditions. Research shows that anandamide (an endocannabinoid) levels are lower in the intestines of those with IBD, than they are in a healthy gut.
In a retrospective study conducted in Israel, 30 Crohn’s disease patients were asked about how cannabis use affected their symptoms. It was found that 70% of the patients reported a decrease in the severity of the symptoms due to cannabis use. These patients were also able to reduce or eliminate their existing medications. The same study also found that the patients’ bowel movements reduced from eight to around five per person, which in turn reduced the chances of them getting surgeries.
Another study was conducted where 13 IBD patients who were on traditional treatments, were provided with 50g of cannabis to smoke in order to observe how it affected their symptoms over the course of three months. Out of these 13 patients, 11 were suffering from Crohn’s disease, and 2 from ulcerative colitis. Having consumed the full quantity of medical marijuana provided to them over the aforementioned time period, the patients reported health improvements. The subjects disclosed that cannabis helped improve their ability to work, reduced abdominal pain, helped them gain weight, and lowered the number of bowel movements. With only 13 participants, the study is too small to make generalizations; however, evidence from research does point in a positive direction.
Cannabis and Other Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Research done on cannabis in relation to the GI tract is mostly focused on IBD. However, cannabis might be helpful in treating other digestive illnesses as well. A majority of digestive illnesses have a common symptom: abdominal pain. As mentioned earlier, THC helps reduce inflammation, and thus, alleviates abdominal pain. A lot of patients suffering from such issues take opioid based medication for abdominal pain. This is especially dangerous since opioid medications are addictive, and therefore, marijuana could prove to be a better alternative. Since cannabis is known to increase appetite, it could help the patients gain weight, and also reduce diarrhea and nausea.
The above argument suggests that cannabis could help treat digestive issues effectively. However, patients should consult health professionals and further discuss the benefits and risks associated with cannabis use. Self-medicating using cannabis is not advised. Cannabis could be a remedy worth exploring, since it would help alleviate the discomfort which accompanies such conditions.