Dieting and weight loss are one of the largest industries in America today. With the rising cost of healthcare and the expansion of the average American’s waistline, it’s no wonder that everywhere we look, there is some new diet aimed at helping us lose weight. Dieting is big business. But what if your dietary needs aren’t because of weight gain? Instead of looking to a diet to drop pounds, many people are searching for a diet to treat one of the two most misunderstood conditions in America today; Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. One of those methods is treatment by medical marijuana.
An estimated 2.4 million Americans have Celiac disease. If that number wasn’t staggering enough, it is estimated that an additional 2 million people have varying degrees of gluten sensitivity that doesn’t meet the definition of Celiac but suffer nonetheless.
What is Celiac disease?
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingesting of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. When gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, is consumed by someone with celiac disease, the body reacts with an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks eventually damage the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that aid in nutrient absorption. Once the villi are damaged, the body cannot adequately absorb nutrients the body needs. This disease can develop at any age once ingestion of foods or medicines that contain gluten has begun.
If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to other autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), or other conditions such as anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, epilepsy, migraines, short stature, heart disease, and intestinal cancers.
Symptoms of celiac disease can include any of the following conditions:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of bone density
- Mouth ulcers
- An itchy, blistery rash call dermatitis herpetiformis
- General fatigue
- Joint or bone pain
- Weight loss
- Steatorrhea, or pale, foul-smelling stool
- Swelling or bloating in the belly
What is Gluten sensitivity?
Clinically, gluten sensitivity is less severe than celiac disease. Those who have gluten sensitivity do not test positive for celiac disease, nor do these patients have the same type of intestinal damage. However, individuals with gluten sensitivity do react after ingesting gluten. Symptoms can vary but can include gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, fatigue, and depression, among other symptoms that can also be seen in patients with celiac disease.
Medical Marijuana Treatment Options in New York
The first, and probably the most prominent treatment for either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet. Depending on which area of the country you live in, this diet can be hard to maintain, but the options are getting better as both conditions have become more common over the past few years.
For the most part, a gluten-free diet requires that individuals avoid products made with wheat, barley, and rye. Sounds simple, right? Well…not so much. Thousands of items available today use at least one of these products as a filler or binding agent. Everything from bread, to cereals, sauces, and candies contain wheat.
Additionally, packaging labels often use other terms for gluten-containing products such as malt, durum, semolina, and so many more. Thankfully, more and more companies have recognized the need for more straightforward labeling, and many have taken the step to have their products certified as Gluten-free. While this move has helped countless individuals make healthier choices, it isn’t foolproof. Cross-contamination (occurs when gluten is unintentionally transferred to a gluten-free product during production or packaging) is a genuine and dangerous issue that causes thousands of individuals to become very sick each year.
Medical marijuana as a Celiac Disease treatment
Currently, there are no medications that have been approved to treat celiac disease though there are several in various phases of research. However, there is one medication that has shown excellent results at easing symptoms and helping individuals who have either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, medical marijuana.
For quite some time now, practitioners have linked medical marijuana to improvements in nausea, pain, cramps, diarrhea, appetite, joint swelling as well as easing other gastrointestinal issues. So, does this mean that cannabis can cure these debilitating conditions? Probably not since the celiac disease has been linked to heredity. However, marijuana is an effective treatment option. Studies have shown that cannabinoid receptors can help heal the damaged intestinal lining of individuals with celiac disease. In these studies, individuals experienced numerous improvements, including:
- abdominal pain/nerve pain
- joint pain
- weight gain
- alleviating diarrhea
While many marijuana doctors may suggest Indica strains to treat the symptoms of celiac disease, several others can help as well. The Indica strains are best used in individuals who suffer from debilitating muscle pain since it helps to slow down the contractions and relaxes muscles making digestion easier. Since the symptoms of either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can vary from person to person, most doctors will recommend a strain that has shown the most improvement with specific symptoms.
In New York, medical marijuana providers can recommend its use for several conditions, but celiac disease isn’t explicitly listed. However, patients may qualify under another condition such as chronic pain, severe nausea, or severe muscle spasms. Additionally, while smoking and edible cannabis are the most popular forms, neither has been approved at this time for New Yorkers. The current approved consumption methods are:
- Capsules, tablets, lozenges
- Topicals and transdermal patches
New York Marijuana Legalization
New York is one of the more than two dozen states nationwide that has taken the step to legalize medical marijuana for the benefit of its residents. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and your symptoms have not been eliminated with a gluten-free diet, contact a licensed provider today. You’ll need to provide any medical documentation of your diagnosis, including diagnostic tests. If approved, a medical marijuana card will be provided that will allow patients to purchase from one of the many dispensaries throughout the state.