The cannabis plant has been used in many ways for plenty of years now. Today, cannabis and its derivatives are being looked at for their potential therapy in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD).
These are the two main categories of irritable bowel disease, with an approximate 1.6 million Americans suffering from IBD. It is believed that Crohn’s disease is responsible for at least half of those cases.
Marijuana has been used medicinally in California since 1996 to treat various symptoms including intense pain and loss of appetite. Today, plenty of people are starting to use CBD to treat Crohn’s disease. But is this a viable option? Let’s take a look at what exactly Crohn’s disease is, how CBD could help treat it, and what medical research has found.
Overview of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s is an inflammatory disorder that can affect the whole gastrointestinal system but is often found in the small intestine. The major cause of symptoms is inflammation, which causes abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, weight loss, diarrhea, and constipation which could lead to bowel obstruction.
The inflammation that’s caused by Crohn’s disease can often spread deep into layers of the affected bowel tissue. It can be both a debilitating and painful condition, and may even sometimes lead to life-threatening complications. While there isn’t a known cure for Crohn’s disease, there are therapies that could help to reduce its signs and symptoms.
In some people who have Crohn’s disease, only the last segment of the small intestine, known as the ileum, will be affected. But for others, the disease could be confined to the colon, which is part of the large intestine. These are the most common areas to be affected by the disease.
The symptoms and signs of Crohn’s disease can range from mild to severe. Typically, they develop gradually, but they can sometimes come on suddenly, without warning. Patients could also have times where they experience no symptoms at all (remission).
When the condition is active, symptoms can include fatigue, blood in your stool, mouth sores, weight loss and reduced appetite, abdominal pain and cramping, fever, diarrhea, and pain or drainage around the anus.
How and Why CBD Could Help with Crohn’s Disease
New research is coming out almost daily on the science of CBD. It’s absolutely clear that we are only just discovering the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CBD and how it works and interacts with physical and mental conditions. What is clear is that the therapeutic benefits of CBD appear to be 100% connected to the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS consists of two primary receptors; CB1 and CB2. While both of these receptors are found throughout the body, the CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system – spinal cord and brain; and the CB2 receptors are predominantly in the immune system and also the hematopoietic system which includes lymph nodes, thymus, the spleen, and the bone marrow.
The CB1 receptors regulate balance (homeostasis) in the body and control functions like mood, appetite, blood pressure, stress, anxiety, pain perception, sleep, aggression, and even behavior. CB2 receptors regulate the inflammatory process by helping to control the release of cytokines that are produced by immune cells – this is integral to Crohn’s disease. The activation of these receptors results in anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief. And – surprise – CBD works by activating these receptors.
CBD reduces inflammatory hypermotility which is associated with Crohn’s disease. By inhibiting a specific liver enzyme that is responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids, the CBD supplementation allows anandamide to apply its natural anti-inflammatory and anti-motility effects. CBD only works on the inflamed area, thus leaving the healthy areas of the gut untouched. While CBD doesn’t bind directly to the CB1 receptors, it can activate them by increasing endocannabinoid levels. This is one of the ways that it helps with inflammation.
CBD also interacts with CB2 receptors, and this is another way that it could treat inflammation. CB2 receptors, which are found on the immune cells, can regulate the release of cytokines which are a group of proinflammatory proteins. When the CBD does activate these receptors, it interferes with the production of cytokines, and this helps to reduce inflammation and its associated symptoms.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Crohn’s Disease
Studies that have been conducted on CBD and Crohn’s disease have found that CBD alone has the ability to reduce inflammation and inhibit the activity of the disease.
In a study that was done by the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Tel Aviv University, 21 patients who had not found relief from Crohn’s disease with the help of steroids and other medications, participated in an eight-week study to test the effectiveness of cannabis on the disease.
Eleven of the patients smoked cannabis twice daily while the other ten were placed in a placebo group. 10 of the 11 patients from the cannabis group experience relief from their Crohn’s symptoms, and 5 of these experience complete remission of the disease. Three of the patients also weaned off steroids that they had taken previously.
Another study conducted by the same department at the university tested if cannabis could improve the quality of life, disease activity, and weight gain in 13 patients who had inflammatory bowel disease, during a three-month trial.
The study found that patients had an average of 4.3 kg in weight gain and an average increase in BMI (Body-Mass-Index) of 1.4, which means that cannabis, in fact, improved the ability of the gastrointestinal system to absorb nutrients. After answering a quality of life survey, patients reported great improvement in certain aspects of their lives, like the ability to work, socializing, depression, and pain levels.
Lastly, in a lab study that was published in 2012, rats were induced with colitis and then treated with various forms of CBD. Results found that there was a remarkable reduction in colonic inflammation, and also an improvement in the disease parameters.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD for Crohn’s Disease
So what are the medical benefits of using CBD to treat Crohn’s disease? Firstly, CBD is safe because it is 100% natural and therefore safe for the body when compared to pharmaceutical drugs. The body has a way of consuming CBD so that it doesn’t bring on any undesired effects. There aren’t any allergens in CBD, and therefore it’s safe for everyone to use.
What’s incredible about CBD is that it can treat many of the symptoms that are associated with Crohn’s disease. So whether you’re suffering from chronic pain, nausea, or fatigue, among multiple other symptoms, CBD could work to actively reduce these effects.
How to Take CBD for Crohn’s Disease
Every person is different, and each individual will react differently to CBD which is why it’s very difficult to give an exact recommended dosage. Each CBD product could have a different recommendation regarding dose since every product is different. However, on average, 25 mg of CBD per day is effective for the majority of people. For intense symptoms, the dose can be increased weekly until you reached the desired effects – start feeling relief.
To manage the symptoms that are associated with Crohn’s disease, it’s recommended to ingest CBD oil daily either in the form of capsules or tinctures. The ingredients in the two products are typically the same; the only difference is the form that it’s in and the dosage factor. Ingestible products provide relief for several hours, and many people even feel the effects for the entire day. The only drawback is that the CBD can take up to 90 minutes to fully absorb into the bloodstream, which means that you won’t feel the effects immediately.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Crohn’s Disease
As research is continuously demonstrating, CBD can be so effective in the treatment of Crohn’s disease that some patients may even experience complete remission of the disease. While pharmaceutical medications often fail or become ineffective over time, and often comes with long-term and severe side effects, CBD seems to be a safe alternative, especially for those looking to alleviate pain.
Although Crohn’s disease patients are fighting a lifelong battle, it’s encouraging to know that there does seem to be the opportunity to live a normal life with the help of CBD.