Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder most common in young men between the ages of 15 and 30. It encompasses the entire digestive tract from the mouth to the anus and in all layers of tissue and is characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloody stools. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, it affects 1.6 million Americans. Treatment for this painful disease involves management of symptoms, and in severe cases, surgery to remove part of the bowel.
What is Crohn’s Disease and How Can Cannabis Help?
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. There is currently no known cure. Patients are reliant on medications for symptoms, and unfortunately, frequently used pharmaceuticals have adverse side effects. Anti-inflammatories have been linked to headaches, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn. Corticosteroids cause swelling, night sweats, insomnia, tingling in the extremities, muscle pain, and weakness. Immunosuppressants can cause lymphoma, skin cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, liver cancer, and fatal infections. Long-term use of Crohn’s disease medications such as antibiotics, antivirals, anti-diarrheal, and pain relievers lead to complications such as hypertension, diabetes, bone diseases like osteoporosis, glaucoma, immune suppression, and seizures, as well as pancreas, liver, and kidney problems.
Cannabinoids offer a less damaging treatment for Crohn’s disease. Research supports the belief that phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids from plants) can provide significant benefits.
- THC reduces inflammation in the gut and controls diarrhea by binding with the CB2 receptors. Additionally, THC binds to the CB1 receptors of the enteric nervous system (ECS), which regulate the GI tract. Activating this receptor alleviates diarrheal symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease.
- CBD reduces inflammatory hypermotility associated with inflammatory bowel diseases
- CBD inhibits a particular liver enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids.
- CBD supplementation allows anandamide to exert its natural anti-motility and anti-inflammatory effects.
- CBD will only affect the inflamed area, leaving healthy areas of the gut untouched.
- CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors but can activate the receptors by increasing endocannabinoid levels.
- CBD suppresses muscle contractions induced by a neurotransmitter called ACh.
- CBD influences certain opioid receptors to block the contractions of the digestive tract which facilitates digestion.
- CBD by itself is a very potent anti-inflammatory compound with potent antioxidant benefits. Combined with THC, CBD not only prolongs therapeutic effects, but reduces the psychoactive effects of THC.
Crohn’s Disease Treatment with CBD & Cannabis
Studies show that cannabinoids, particularly CBD, are a proven alternative treatment or at least an adjuvant therapy for Crohn’s disease. Patients with Crohn’s disease who did not respond to traditional treatments have reported significant improvements in their symptoms, and even complete remission through the use of cannabis cigarettes. After three months of cannabis therapy, patients have seen marked reduction in pain and depression levels as well as enhanced quality of life.