Cannabis Shows Promise in Treating Crohn's Disease & Colitis

For people with Crohn’s disease or colitis, life can mean always wondering when the condition will flare up and how bad the symptoms will be. Until now, treatments have been limited for these painful, life-altering conditions. Although some feel relief through a change in diet and prescription medication, people suffering from Crohn’s disease and colitis were often left to manage the condition on their own.

Fortunately, both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease recently qualified for treatment with medical cannabis and, as a result, individuals who suffer from these conditions now have access to medical marijuana treatment in more states.

What Are the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease & Colitis?

Crohn’s disease and colitis are gastrointestinal disorders that belong to a family of disorders known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease causes chronic inflammation throughout the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and can cause painful swelling in any part of the GI tract from the esophagus to the rectum. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include rectal bleeding, severe abdominal pain and cramping, constipation, persistent diarrhea or a persistent feeling that the bowels are not entirely empty.

Ulcerative colitis is quite similar to Crohn’s disease except for the fact that it affects only the innermost layer of the colon. The symptoms of Colitis are similar to Crohn’s disease and include fever, decreased appetite, weight loss, fatigue and amenorrhea in women.


Why Is Marijuana Effective Medicine for Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

As is true with many disorders, cannabis has been used for centuries to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and colitis. Cannabis is an effective treatment for these disorders because it can significantly limit intestinal inflammation. According to a statement issued by The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America in 2012, compounds found in the marijuana plant closely mimic endocannabinoids (molecules that occur naturally in the body) and have been shown to play an important part in decreasing gastrointestinal inflammation.

Although the anti-inflammatory properties of medical cannabis hold true for all people, IBD patients have been shown to have more cannabinoid receptors in the tissue of the colon than people without IBD, which means that people affected by Crohn’s disease and colitis are likely to respond to the anti-inflammatory properties of medical marijuana.

Additionally, researchers at the Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases at Chaim Sheba Medical Center found that inhaled medical cannabis can help improve the quality of life in people affected by Crohn’s disease and colitis. This study also found that medical cannabis can stimulate the appetite in affected patients, resulting in healthy weight gain and an overall improvement in symptoms.

The same study also found that, after three months of treatment with medical marijuana, patients affected by Crohn’s disease or colitis enjoyed:

  • A better quality of life
  • Greater ability to work a normal job
  • Increased ability to perform daily tasks and maintain a social life
  • A drastic decrease in pain reduction and mental anguish

These results were reported without accompanying side effects.

Finally, researchers at the Sire Manchester Hospital in England published a study that found that IBS patients who used medical cannabis reported improved diarrhea symptoms and a decrease in pain.

As it stands now, there are dozens of high-quality studies that illustrate the fact that medical marijuana serves an important purpose in treating and relieving IBD symptoms. In addition to relieving pain, muscle cramps, anxiety, insomnia and inflammation, certain strains of cannabis also promote appetite, produce weight gain and enhance the mood of affected patients.


Best Cannabis Strains for Crohn’s Disease or Colitis

While it’s evident that cannabis is a valuable treatment option for patients with IBD, researchers found a variety of specific strains that are ideal for treating different aspects of the disease. These strains include:

  • Cherry Pie is a sativa-dominant strain that’s ideal for increasing appetite and soothing pain in IBD patients.
  • Bubblegum is an indica strain with a 20% CBD content, which contributes to its pain-relieving and anti-anxiety properties. It’s ideal for people who want to relieve discomfort and fatigue, diminish depression and lead a more normal life.
  • Sour Grape is an indica strain that can help IBD patients struggling to maintain a social life feel more lively and less depressed. This strain is also ideal for boosting appetite and relieving anxiety.
  • American Beauty is a sativa strain that’s potent enough to provide all-day pain relief while also easing insomnia and depression. Slightly stronger than some other strains used to treat IBS, American Beauty will leave you relaxed and comfortable for hours after use.

Colitis and Crohn’s disease are both incredibly disruptive conditions that can affect people’s ability to hold a job, maintain social relationships or even plan everyday events. Because the symptoms of these conditions are so unpredictable and painful, they often rob affected individuals of their ability to lead a normal life. Fortunately, the soothing effects of medicinal cannabis have the potential to treat some of these symptoms and help people with IBD live a healthier, more robust life despite their condition.

Photo credit: Double-M

If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.


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