IBD sufferers often bemoan the way the chronic health issue can impact quality of life, and their ability to eat, sleep, workout and socialize. Cannabis has recently garnered attention as a potential alternative treatment for gastrointestinal disorders. Could it perhaps be the answer that IBD suffers have been looking for?
What is IBD?
IBD is an umbrella term that encompasses disorders of the gut such as chronic inflammation, abdominal cramps, runny tummies, fatigue and weight loss. The most common expressions of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. People who live with IBD are more likely to also have comorbidities like rheumatoid or dermatological disorders than those who do not live with the disease.
IBD is becoming more prevalent worldwide. It is on the rise in the West as well as in developing countries. According to expert Gilaad Kaplan, IBD appears to be a modern disease that has accompanied industrialization and may have a correlation to the food additives we consume today as well as smoking.
Treatment for the condition varies according to its severity; it may include surgery or chronic medication in many cases.
What Can Cannabis Do?
Between 15-40% of adult patients with IBD turn to cannabis for relief, claiming it relieves nausea and stimulates appetite, and reduces the need for other medications. Cannabis use is extremely common among adolescent IBD patients. Marijuana has also been linked to reduced complications among IBD patients. A study in 2019 compared the prevalence of Crohn’s disease complications amongst patients who did and did not use cannabis. The authors found that cannabis users were significantly less likely to develop fistulas, abscesses, require blood transfusions or need parenteral nutrition.
What It Can’t Do
However one of the limits of cannabis is that there is a scarcity of robust research from which to draw firm conclusions.
While symptoms associated with IBD may improve under the influence of cannabis, there is little effect on the root of the disease – chronic inflammation. The question remains as to whether the beneficial effects occur because certain symptoms are being masked or whether a true anti-inflammatory effect is taking place.