Can Cannabis Help Crohn’s Disease?

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Crohn’s disease is a debilitating condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Sufferers can have symptoms ranging from chronic diarrhea and stomach pain to excessive weight loss and fatigue. Though the condition is incurable, the symptoms can be treated and damage to the digestive tract can be slowed or stopped completely.

Traditional treatments for Crohn’s disease include antibiotics, immune suppression drugs, and corticosteroids. However, these can lead to dependence and can cause other problems such as osteoporosis, diabetes, glaucoma, and high blood pressure. That’s why marijuana can be one of the treatment options that help those suffering from such a disease live a fuller and healthier life.

What is Crohn’s disease?

It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. Symptoms can vary depending on what areas of the tract are affected by the disease. Some sufferers have only the last segment of their small intestine affected while others only have inflammation in the colon. Others have multiple parts of their digestive tract affected by the disease.

Unlike the similar condition ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease can spread to deep layers of the bowel tissue and, along with painful and debilitating symptoms, can also cause life-threatening complications. Symptoms commonly develop slowly and can include fever, fatigue, blood in the stool, mouth sores, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and pain or drainage near or around the anus. Crohn’s can also lead to ulcers, bowel obstruction, malnutrition, and colon cancer. Those with Crohn’s can also have periods of time where they have no symptoms. These times are known as remission and can be long-term, especially with effective treatment. 

Though the exact cause of this disease is unknown, it’s believed to be some combination of a malfunctioning immune system and heredity. Risk factors include family history, ethnicity (whites, especially of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, are the most prone to it), smoking, and age as most of those who suffer from the disease were diagnosed before the age of 30. While stress, diet, and use of NSAIDs do not cause the disease, they can exacerbate the symptoms and make treatment less effective. 

Cannabis and Crohn’s Disease

Can marijuana treat Crohn’s disease?

Cannabis can be very effective in treating Crohn’s disease by lowering oxidative stress, treating inflammation, and acting as an antioxidant. In addition to treating these main parts of the disease, it can also stimulate appetite and ease nausea, two of the symptoms that often occur due to the consistent stomach upset that Crohn’s causes. 

How does cannabis work 

Cannabis treats Crohn’s disease by attaching to cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body. By mimicking the body’s own cannabinoids, marijuana aids in the digestive process and also regulates immune function, stimulates appetite, and helps the body regulate pain. This is important in those with Crohn’s disease as it is an autoimmune disorder, disrupting the body’s natural defense system and causing it to attack healthy tissues. 

Inflammation is a major cause of symptoms in those with Crohn’s disease. While steroids can reduce this inflammation and provide some relief, cannabis can have similar benefits without the negative side effects. Marijuana also lowers oxidative stress, which is the imbalance that occurs between free radicals and antioxidants. Because marijuana has an antioxidant effect, it can lower this stress and increase the body’s ability to detoxify, leading to fewer or less intense symptoms. Finally, cannabis has a neuroprotective effect on the body and can protect the neurons that regulate inflammation that is caused by Crohn’s. 

Patients have reported they immediately experience reduced symptoms of Crohn’s after using medical marijuana. They especially felt relief of abdominal cramping, less diarrhea, lower stress levels, and an improvement in abdominal pain. 

Scientific research on marijuana and Crohn’s disease

There have been numerous studies conducted on the effects of marijuana on inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s. One recent study found that 65% of those receiving cannabis oil experienced a complete remission of the disease while only 35% of those in the control group had the same results. 

Another study, detailed in this 2012 paper, found that a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system was one of the leading causes of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease. It also found that cannabis works by stimulating endocannabinoid signaling and that this stimulation significantly reduces symptoms caused by IBD in the digestive tract. 

Getting your medical marijuana card to treat Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s Disease CTA

If you have Crohn’s disease and have found it difficult to treat or if you’d like a more natural approach to treatment, you should consider medical marijuana. If you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, you can get your medical marijuana card online with Our doctors will verify your condition and look into your health history to see if medical marijuana is a good choice for you. Once you have your card, you can buy medical marijuana at any licensed dispensary in your state. Schedule your appointment today to find out if medical marijuana is right for you.

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