Jul 242012
 July 24, 2012

human body and marijuanaDoes Cannabis Help Treat Gastrointestinal Disorders?

This weekend we covered diarrhea, but left out other gastrointestinal disorders. Below is more information about marijuana and gastrointestinal disorders, courtesy of the great people at Americans for Safe Access:

The effectiveness of cannabis for treating symptoms related to gastrointestinal disorders is widely recognized. Its value as an anti-emetic and analgesic has been proven in numerous studies and has been acknowledged by several comprehensive, government-sponsored reviews, including those conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the U.K. House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, the Australian National Task Force on Cannabis, and others. The IOM concluded, “For patients . . . who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication.”

The most common gastrointestinal disorders-Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease-affect millions of people. The disorders are different, but each causes a great deal of discomfort and distress and both can be disabling. Painful cramping, chronic diarrhea or constipation, nausea, and inflammation of the intestines are all symptoms of these GI disorders that can be alleviated by cannabis.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the intestines that leads to stomach pain, gassiness, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or both. Chronic, painful abdominal cramping is common. The cause of IBS is not known, and there is no cure. Researchers have found that the colon muscle of a person with IBS begins to spasm after only mild stimulation. IBS is at least partly a disorder affecting colon motility and sensation.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the lining of the large intestine, while Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the lining and wall of the large and/or small intestine. The causes of IBD are not known, but there are indications that the disease has a genetic component. The immune system changes that accompany IBD suggest that it may be an immune disorder.

The most common symptoms of Crohn’s Disease are pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, and weight loss. There may also be rectal bleeding and fever. The most common complications of Crohn’s Disease are blockage of the intestine and ulceration that breaks through into surrounding tissues. Surgery is sometimes required.

The symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and rectal bleeding. Some people may be very tired and have weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and loss of body fluids and nutrients. Joint pain, liver problems, and redness and swelling of the eyes can also occur. Hospitalization and surgery are sometimes needed.

Research on cannabis and GI disorders

Research suggests that cannabis is effective in treating the symptoms of these GI disorders in part because it interacts with the endogenous cannabinoid receptors in the digestive tract, which can result in calming spasms, assuaging pain, and improving motility. Cannabis has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and recent research has demonstrated that cannabinoids are immune system modulators, either enhancing or suppressing immune response.

Cannabis has a long documented history of use in treating GI distress, going back more than a century in western medicine, and far longer in the east. While clinical studies on the use of cannabis for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders have been largely limited to investigations on nausea suppression and appetite stimulation–two conditions for which cannabis has been consistently shown to be highly effective – the evidence in support of cannabis therapy for other gastrointestinal diseases and disorders is also strong. There is now extensive anecdotal evidence from patients with IBS, Crohn’s disease and other painful GI disorders that cannabis eases cramping and helps modulate diarrhea, constipation and acid reflux. Recent laboratory research on the endogenous cannabinoid system in humans has identified that there are many cannabinoid receptors located in both the large and small intestines.

Cannabis and new cannabinoid drugs are attractive for GI treatment because they can address a number of symptoms at once with minimal side effects. Cannabinoids alter how the gut feels, affect the signals the brain sends back and forth to the gut and modulate the actions of the GI tract itself.

Beginning in the 1970s, a series of human clinical trials established cannabis’ ability to stimulate food intake and weight gain in healthy volunteers. In a randomized trial, THC significantly improved appetite and nausea in comparison with placebo. There were also trends towards improved mood and weight gain. Unwanted effects were generally mild or moderate in intensity. Cannabis helps combat the painful and often debilitating cramping that accompanies many GI disorders because cannabinoids relax contractions of the smooth muscle of the intestines. In fact, smooth-muscle relaxant properties of cannabinoids are so well established that preparations of guinea-pig intestine are routinely used as an in vitro screening tool to test the potency and function of synthetic cannabinoids.

Research on a variety of rodents has shown that endogenous cannabinoids play crucial neuromodulatory roles in controlling the operation of the gastrointestinal system, with synthetic and natural cannabinoids acting powerfully to control gastrointestinal motility and inflammation. Cannabinoid receptors comprise G-protein coupled receptors that are predominantly in enteric and central neurones (CB1R) and immune cells (CB2R). The digestive tract contains endogenous cannabinoids (anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol) and cannabinoid CB1 receptors can be found on myenteric and submucosal nerves. Activating cannabinoid receptors has been demonstrated to inhibit gastrointestinal fluid secretion and inflammation in animal models.

In the last decade, evidence obtained from the use of selective agonists and inverse agonists/antagonists indicates that manipulation of CB1R can have significant results. Research has also shown that in the case of intestinal inflammation, the body will increase the number of cannabinoid receptors in the area in an attempt to regulate the inflammation by processing more cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids have a demonstrated ability to block spinal, peripheral and gastrointestinal mechanisms that promote pain in IBS and related disorders. Animal research also indicates that cannabinoids work well in controlling gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition in which gastric acids attack the esophagus and for which commonly prescribed medications, such as atropine, have serious adverse side effects.

From this evidence, many researchers have concluded that pharmacological modulation of the endogenous cannabinoid system provides new treatment options for a number of gastrointestinal diseases, including nausea and vomiting, gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, secretory diarrhea, paralytic ileus and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The experience of patients with these GI disorders shows that for broad-spectrum relief, cannabis is highly effective and frequently helps when other treatment options prove ineffective.

How Cannabis Compares to Other Treatments

The medications currently employed to fight chronic GI disorders include many that produce serious side effects. These side effects frequently threaten the health of the patient and require other medications to combat them. Drugs commonly prescribed to combat GI disorders include:

Megestrol acetate (Megace), an anticachectic. Serious side effects of this medicine include high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation of the blood vessels, congestive heart failure, seizures, and pneumonia. Less serious side effects of this medicine include diarrhea, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, constipation, heartburn, dry mouth, increased salivation, and thrush; impotence, decreased libido, urinary frequency, urinary incontinence, urinary tract infection, vaginal bleeding and discharge; disease of the heart, palpitation, chest pain, chest pressure, and edema; pharyngitis, lung disorders, and rapid breathing; insomnia, headache, weakness, numbness, seizures, depression, and abnormal thinking.

Prednisone (Delatasone), like all steroids, can have serious adverse musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, dermatologic, neurological, endocrine, and ophthalmic side effects. These include: congestive heart failure in susceptible patients, potassium loss, hypokalemic alkalosis, sodium retention, and hypertension. Muscle weakness, steriod myopathy, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis, tendon rupture, vertebral compression fractures, aseptic necrosis of femoral and humeral heads, and pathologic fracture of long bones. Peptic ulcer with possible perforation and hemorrhage; pancreatitis; abdominal distention; ulcerative esophagitis. Impaired wound healing, thin fragile skin, petechiae and ecchymoses, facial erythema. Increased intracranial pressure (pseudo-tumor cerebri) usually after treatment, convulsions, vertigo, and headache. Menstrual irregularities; development of Cushingoid state; secondary adrenocortical and pituitary unresponsiveness; decreased carbohydrate tolerance; manifestations of latent diabetes mellitus. Posterior subcapsular cataracts, increased intraocular pressure, glaucoma, and exophthalmos.

Metronidazole (Flagyl) has been shown to be carcinogenic in mice and rats. Two serious adverse reactions reported in patients treated with Metronidazole have been convulsive seizures and peripheral neuropathy, the latter characterized mainly by numbness or paresthesia of an extremity. The most common adverse reactions reported have been referable to the gastrointestinal tract, particularly nausea reported by about 12% of patients, sometimes accompanied by headache, anorexia, and occasionally vomiting; diarrhea; epigastric distress, and abdominal cramping. Constipation has been reported.

Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)–The most common adverse reactions associated with sulfasalazine are anorexia, headache, nausea, vomiting, gastric distress, and apparently reversible oligospermia. These occur in about one-third of the patients. Less frequent adverse reactions are pruritus, urticaria, fever, Heinz body anemia, hemolytic anemia and cyanosis, which may occur at a frequency of one in every thirty patients or less.

Chlordiazepoxide/Clidinium (Librax)–Drowsiness, ataxia and confusion have been reported in some patients, particularly the elderly and debilitated. Adverse effects reported with use of Librax are those typical of anticholinergic agents, i.e., dryness of the mouth, blurring of vision, urinary hesitancy and constipation. Withdrawal symptoms, similar in character to those noted with barbiturates and alcohol (convulsions, tremor, abdominal and muscle cramps, vomiting and sweating), have occurred following abrupt discontinuance of chlordiazepoxide.

Hyoscyamine Sulfate (Levsin)–Adverse reactions may include dryness of the mouth; urinary hesitancy and retention; blurred vision; tachycardia; palpitations; mydriasis; cycloplegia; increased ocular tension; loss of taste; headache; nervousness; drowsiness; weakness; dizziness; insomnia; nausea; vomiting; impotence; suppression of lactation; constipation; bloated feeling; allergic reactions or drug idiosyncrasies; urticaria and other dermal manifestations; ataxia; speech disturbance; some degree of mental confusion and/or excitement (especially in elderly persons); and decreased sweating.

Mesalamine CR (Pentasa)–The most common side effects are diarrhea, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, dyspepsia, vomiting, and rash.

Phosphorated carbohydrate (Emetrol)–Side effects include: fainting; swelling of face, arms, and legs; unusual bleeding; vomiting; weight loss; yellow eyes or skin. Less common-more common with large doses: Diarrhea; stomach or abdominal pain.

Dicyclomine (Bentyl)–The most common side effects occurring with dicyclomine are due to its anticholinergic activity: dry mouth, blurred vision, confusion, agitation, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, constipation, difficulty urinating, and occasionally seizures can occur. Other potential side effects include changes in taste perception, difficulty swallowing, headache, nervousness, drowsiness, weakness, dizziness, impotence, flushing, difficulty falling asleep, nausea, vomiting, rash, and a bloated feeling.

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)–The most frequent side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, rash, headache, and restlessness. Rare allergic reactions have been described, such as hives and anaphylaxis.

Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall)–can cause severe toxicity that is usually related to the dose taken. The most frequent reactions include mouth sores, stomach upset, and low white blood counts. Methotrexate can cause severe toxicity of the liver and bone marrow, which require regular monitoring with blood testing. It can cause headache and drowsiness, which may resolve if the dose is lowered. Methotrexate can cause itching, skin rash, dizziness, and hair loss. A dry, non-productive cough can be a result of a rare lung toxicity.

Diphenoxylate and atropine (Lotomil)–The most common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, and headache, nausea or vomiting, and dry mouth. Euphoria, depression, lethargy, restlessness, numbness of extremities, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain or discomfort have been reported less frequently. Although the dose of atropine in Lomotil is too low to cause side effects when taken in the recommended doses, side effects of atropine (including dryness of the skin and mucous membranes, increased heart rate, urinary retention, and increased body temperature) have been reported, particularly in children under two.

Cannabis–By comparison, the side effects associated with cannabis are typically mild and are classified as “low risk.” Euphoric mood changes are among the most frequent side effects. Cannabinoids can exacerbate schizophrenic psychosis in predisposed persons. Cannabinoids impede cognitive and psychomotor performance, resulting in temporary impairment. Chronic use can lead to the development of tolerance. Tachycardia and hypotension are frequently documented as adverse events in the cardiovascular system. A few cases of myocardial ischemia have been reported in young and previously healthy patients. Inhaling the smoke of cannabis cigarettes induces side effects on the respiratory system. Cannabinoids are contraindicated for patients with a history of cardiac ischemias. In summary, a low risk profile is evident from the literature available. Serious complications are very rare and are not usually reported during the use of cannabinoids for medical indications.

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About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • http://www.facebook.com/belinda.castendyk Belinda Castendyk

    I can vouch for it’s effectiveness !!!

  • Dabber Dan

    Yea I’ve been dealing with stomach problems for years, I took Metronidazole (flagyl) and it fucked me up bad, gave me convulsions for hours and made feel like I was outside in the cold. Cannabis helps me everyday, and continues to be the best medicine for my condition.

    • http://www.facebook.com/blueeyes208 Lisa Rodriguez

      I go in to anti flactic shock when I take any anti nausea meds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/floridabadger Steven Learn

    Cannabinoids to start out w/was ALL positive! Then comes the Actual synthetic grugs including side effect! Some drugs were listed as a side affect being carcinogen! THAT”S CANCER!! WTF OVER!!

  • French.connexion

    #Legalize it !!

  • French.connexion

    #LegalizeIt

  • Buckers

    Fantastic article

  • Evvie

    I was diagnosed with Crohns when I was about ten (five years ago) and have been on everything listed here+. Out of all of the pain meds and meds I’ve been on, marijuana has been the most helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/blueeyes208 Lisa Rodriguez

    It saved my life when I was to weak to eat after chemo. Thats a FACT!

  • good advice

    not all gastrointestinal issues should be treated with marijuana. marijuana can exacerbate certain conditions. inhaling smoke is also toxic, so vaporization is recommended when applicable.

  • Voice of Reason

    It’s important to measure the possible side effects of marijuana against other forms of medicine. The risk might not be worth it.

    http://www.testcountry.com/infographics/side-effects-of-using-marijuana.html

  • Ricy Mardona

    I found few of website but this website very unique and so many interesting information in here. I have come to know lots from this blog. Looking forward for more.

  • webstaff

    Well it’s interesting to have found this article online while looking for solution to a bad spell of intestinal issues. I had issues as an early teen with intestinal distress that cleared up after I started smoking canabis and now after a long trip away without access to a smoke its back with a vengence. I’d love to find a long term solution to the underlying issue but the doctors are just not interested in investigating this kind of issue with IBS, there normal solution is just to say it’s stress related and to reduce stress level which is why a couple of years ago they recommended I packed in a long held managerial and very well payed job to reduce stress, long stroy short it didn’t help and the issues rolls on and are slowly getting worse with all the secondary effects that IBS causes. It’s very intersting to hear the note on the use within a drink and the reduction of the mind altering parts of cannabis as i’d love to give up smoking it… Looks like I need to start hunting down some more info in relation to the science behind all this as well as a cook book :) fingers crossed the law makers of this world start begin to realise the benfits of access too this drug beyond its recreational use so more research can be conducted into it medical use and more importantly long term use and side affects.

  • Gerald Fay

    Oh one other side effect of marijuana. Ask the dead italian bike riders killed by a Hased out Moroccan driving is Sicily

  • http://xclusivemaze.tumblr.com Xclusive Maze

    omg, this

  • D j

    Having real issues w IBS never have smoked or eaten marijuanna Am 57 years old do I smoke it only once a day to arrest this diarrhea ? Help

    • CKB

      Hey DJ,

      Smoke it when you feel you need it, but be responsible. Until you build up a tolerance, try not to smoke when you have something important to do or something that could be dangerous (even driving).

      I realize this is four-months old, and if you’ve found what works for you, ignore this, but using Marijuana medicinally is highly specific to the individual. For instance, I use it to treat IBS symptoms as well, but I find that if I smoke regularly (daily), ater a while it starts to exasperbate a spot on the left side of my stomach, near the back of my ribs. It becomes quite uncomfortable.

      I’ve gotten used to smoking daily, and it’s made me realize that, though Marijuana is not addictive in the sense that there are physiological withdrawal symptoms, there are definitely psychological ones for me. It’s only been very recently that I’ve taken steps to balance my body’s comfort level by moderating my smoking.

      I hope this helps.

    • James .

      Eat it an hour before bedtime. You will sleep soundly through all the effects. I do not know whether cooking is necessary for the intestinal benefit. If eating it raw doesn’t work, heat it in an oven at 230F for 40 minutes then mix it with yoghurt and eat.

    • Anon

      I smoke a little bit (neat, not with tobacco, via a pipe) about 6 o’clock, and can eat a big meal within 30 mins. I need to keep topping it up every couple of hours throughout the evening, and have the last one about an hour before bed. For me, this alleviates all the problems in the evenings, and I just avoid eating anything other than some dried snacks and water during the day so I can be straight for work.

  • James .

    I was suffering from what I assume to be Irritable Bowel. Running to the bathroom 20 times a day, constipation and diarrhea at the same time. This condition went on for months with no improvement.

    I started eating 250 mg of kief hash several times a week.

    After three weeks the symptoms were gone. My bowel movements had been quite loose for years before. They firmed up and became quite regular.

    Smoking provided little or no help. Eating seemed to help and symptoms would go away for a couple days at the beginning. Relief was typically provided within 30 minutes.

    • snarf

      how, what form did you eat it? just raw or you had to do something to it first?

      • James .

        Kief hash, which retains most of the terpenes and other volitile chemicals which give marijuana it’s odour. I can’t vouch for eating buds, rick simpson oil, or things baked into foods. I suspect that many forms work however.

        Typically THC and CBD’s need to be decarboxylated by heat to become psychoactive. This may be necessary to get them across the blood brain barrier. If that’s the case, eating raw cannabis products may have the same benefit without making you want to watch Harold & Kumar.

  • Charles Runels

    There’s a new and safer way to achieve the same results as Coaptite. Using blood-derived growth factors to treat stress incontinence avoids the risk of granuloma formation.

    You can find out more by going to the following website: http://OShot.info/members/stress

  • Kevin Jeanes
  • jane

    where are your sources?

  • Matt

    I wish cannibis coulda been tried on me before I lost my large intestine…

  • Logan

    You can search “CBDs versus THC” and other related Marijuana Medicinal purposes, marijuana and benefits for diseases illnesses and conditions, on google and you will find a ton of resources.

  • john

    I’ve never tried marijuana….does taking a coconut oil and cannabis capsule make you hight? I’ve had chronic IBS for a while now and am looking for anything that can help…currently using probiotics and chlordiazepoxide

    • john

      I meant “high” obviously…

    • Ryan

      It does.
      If you aren’t looking for these (rather pleasant) side-effects, then Cannabis strains with low THC and higher CBD may be useful to you.

    • Ryan

      It does.
      If you aren’t looking for these (rather pleasant) side-effects, then Cannabis strains with low THC and higher CBD may be useful to you.

    • Ryan

      It does.
      If you aren’t looking for these (rather pleasant) side-effects, then Cannabis strains with low THC and higher CBD may be useful to you.

  • Jordan

    I have been suffering with IBS for many years, and cannabis has took away the pain, soothed my IBS and has even prevented my diarrhea. I have never been happier and have not been feeling like i need to be around a bathroom or worrying that i need to be running to the bathroom. its perfect.

  • Anon

    I’ve had chronic IBS for the last 14 years. But on trying cannabis at a party once a few years ago, I discovered it took all the symptoms away within 10 minutes of the first smoke. I was stunned! I can eat anything when I am on it, anything, and I have no problems at all. Even chilli curry, which would have crippled me for days, has no reactions when I smoke. No cramps, no sick feeling, no diarrhea, nothing. My family have noticed I have gone from always being down and withdrawn, hiding away, to being chatty and the life of the party once more. The only downside if feeling high when on it, but even if I have just a tiny bit it still helps so much. I wish they would legalise it or make it available on prescription in the UK as it is the only thing I have found that gives me my life back.

  • Robert

    I”ve had chronic IBS for the last 2 years. I ‘m 57 years old and haven’t smoked weed for 25 years. What is the best way for IBS smoking, eating etc? And how much.

    • Mommyofonetwodegrees

      just enough to make your cramps go away and if you lost your appetite when that comes back. Start really small. If you need to smoke more then do that.

  • Robert

    I”ve had chronic IBS for the last 2 years. I ‘m 57 years old and haven’t smoked weed for 25 years. What is the best way for IBS smoking, eating etc? And how much.

  • Patient

    As someone with Crohn’s I can say it DEFINITELY does! Symptom-free since I started using cannabis again.

  • Miguel

    Hell yea just got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis started smoking pot and I haven’t had a single pill they prescribed to me since

  • Mommyofone2degrees

    I have irritable bowel and acid re-flux. I have been sick for eight years with flu like symptoms. I couldn’t keep anything down and whatever I did keep down came out in diarrhea. I started smoking so that I could eat and actually keep food down. I have my second degree and I am trying to quit to find a job. I am so sick. I really wish that our government had our interests over their pocketbooks. I am so miserable. I am in so much pain. I live in a state that doesn’t even have medical marijuana. I think it should be for everyone. I got this disease from my family. My son will have this eventually. I strongly believe if he is as sick as me, I would be okay with him smoking. I think it should be available for everyone. I would never have missed so much school if I had known that pot would help me so much. Another thing, I was on most of those medicines mentioned above for eight years. I had to stop taking my medicine because the side effects were as bad as my sickness, if not worse. Please guys, keep fighting. Their are people that really need it legalized like me.

    • shannon79

      I have ibs, gerd, n/v, appetite and wt loss of 65lbs….I was recently put on marinol and it works for all symptoms…marinol is thc in capsule form…if u have an rx for it…no one can say anything….it was my way around it

  • Ryan

    I have been diagnosed with IBS for almost 2 years now, but have been dealing with the symptoms long before that. My use of cannabis is the only thing that gets me through the day sometimes. I hate not being able to go anywhere because of my disease, I am stuck at home. Without cannabis, I even have problems just going to work. The cramping is all the time. I am taking 40 Imodium a day to control the diarrhea and spasms, and fear it is harming my liver. Cannabis is a life-saver. If I smoke, I do not have any IBS symptoms for at least an hour if not much longer, sometimes a whole day. It has allowed me not only to get my quality of life back, but to not be in pain all the time. Hopefully Texas, and the rest of the country, will soon legalize at least medicinal marijuana. Things would be so much easier for me, and millions of others.