Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affect more than one in five Americans. These problems are characterized by abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, and other unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis are the most common types of IBD, and they also cause inflammation of the bowels.
Studies have shown that cannabis produces significant clinical benefits to patients with these diseases, without the side effects of traditional medications.
Here are five things you need to know about how cannabis treats digestive disorders:
Cannabinoids reduce spasticity in the intestines
Our endocannabinoid system (ECS) has receptors throughout the body, many of which are located in the gastrointestinal system. When cannabis is smoked or ingested, cannabinoids latch onto and activate these receptors. The result is a reduction of gastric and intestinal motility, which can help ease cramping and regulate bowel movements.
Cannabis stimulates appetite
In addition to causing abdominal pain, gas, and bloating, digestive disorders can also cause appetite loss. Luckily, cannabis has a proven track record of causing the munchies. A study conducted in Israel found that IBD patients who used cannabis saw both an increase in weight and a rise in body mass index (BMI).
THC alleviates nausea
Cannabis has been widely recognized as a viable treatment for nausea and vomiting due to the soothing effects of the cannabinoid THC. A study conducted at UCLA found that about 4 out of 10 women with IBS and nearly 3 out of 10 men with IBS report nausea.
Cannabinoids inhibit inflammation
CD occurs when the digestive tract is inflamed, or swollen. Cannabis has many anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to the CB2 receptors located throughout our ECS. An NIH study found that CD patients who were treated with cannabis saw a drastically reduced need for surgery and other drugs compared to patients who never used cannabis.
Cannabis enhances mood
Due to their chronic symptoms, many IBD patients suffer from diminished life quality. But a study conducted in Israel found that after three months of prescribed cannabis treatment, patients reported improvement in general health perception, social functioning, and ability to work.