Medical Marijuana For The Treatment Of IBS
Research into marijuana has found that the plant may have several health benefits. However, the research is still in its infancy due to the recently changed status of cannabis from a controlled substance to legal. Until now, most of the research has been limited to animals or patient-driven. This means that scientists have largely relied on feedback from marijuana users regarding the benefits of the plant as a treatment for IBS.
What IS IBS?
IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, has received its own fair share of controversy with a large percentage of the medical community denying that it is a valid medical condition until quite recently. It is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract or colon resulting in alternating diarrhea and constipation, pain, inflammation, bloating and excessive gas. The cause of the disorder is largely unknown although eating certain foods has been found to aggravate the condition.
Does Medical Marijuana Treat IBS?
Because the cause of IBS is unknown, marijuana cannot specifically be said to treat IBS but rather the symptoms of IBS. A small group of studies have been conducted on the effects of marijuana, specifically THC (tetrahydrocannibinol). Results from these studies have been mixed.
Currently, it is believed that 3 of the major symptoms of IBS may be reduced by medical marijuana use:
– Pain in the abdomen
– Inflammation of the bowel
A link between the brain and the gut has been established and it research has found that a happy gut leads to a happy brain. Depression is often a symptom of IBS because of the pain, discomfort and social anxiety that it can cause as well as the brain-gut connection. Scientific evidence has found that medical marijuana is a viable treatment for anxiety and depression.
CBD or cannabidiol, another compound or cannabinoid that is found in marijuana also treats inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction from the body. The way in which CBD interacts with the body reduces the immune response and therefore inflammation of the bowel. Inflammation, or swelling, is directly associated with pain as it results in increased pressure on the nerves in the body.
How Does Medical Marijuana Work To Treat IBS?
The endocannabinoid system in the human body is a relatively recent discovery. This is a regulatory system and stimulates or inhibits the release of certain hormones and other chemicals in the body that are essential to certain bodily functions. The body naturally produces its own cannabinoids (called endocannbinoids) that interact with CB-1 and CB-2 receptors.
The CB-1 receptors in the endocannabinoid are primarily related to brain function and cannabinoids interact with these receptors to stimulate neurotransmitter activity and the effects of dopamine and serotonin which are both chemicals related to feeling good and inducing a state of relaxation to treat anxiety and depression.
The CB-2 receptors are primarily related to the immune system. When cannabinoids interact with these receptors, they inhibit an immune response reducing inflammation and therefore pain.
Some studies suggest that IBS inhibits this natural production of cannabinoids thereby preventing the regulatory function of the endocannabinoid system reducing the effects on the immune system and the brain to treat pain, inflammation and depression. Introducing exogenous phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids) is therefore believed to be beneficial to treat the symptoms of IBS.