The number of people living with the painful and undesireable symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is alarming. Doctors use ‘inflammatory bowel disease’ as an umbrella term for inflammatory bowel conditions such as Chron’s disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As of August 2017, estimates revealed that approximately 3 million adults in the United States have IBD. However, that figure only considered people 18-years-old and up who have been diagnosed with Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis. This means the ~3 million IBD cases could, in reality, be far higher that we thought. Of all IBD cases, Crohn’s disease is often in the spotlight, mostly because its cause is unknown. In a recent study, however, scientists believe they’ve found a potential cure for Crohn’s disease treatment.
A Brief Summary of Crohn’s Disease Treatment, Symptoms, and More
What causes Crohn’s disease? No one really knows. According to doctors, it could be an autoimmune disease. Crohn’s research suggests that the disease is triggered by the immune system, wherein it attacks harmless bacteria or food in your gut causing an inflamed (and potentially damaged) bowel. One thing is for sure, though – Crohn’s does not only affect the bowels but joints, eyes, mouth and skin, no thanks to the chronic inflammatory activity of this IBD.
In March 2016, Health Union conducted a life-altering national Crohn’s patients survey which revealed:
“[It] was not uncommon for patients to see multiple healthcare professionals (HCPs), have numerous office visits, and endure multiple diagnostic tests before receiving a [Crohn’s disease] diagnosis. Results demonstrate an impact on such things as the ability to work or exercise, but also on overall quality of life and social activities. Respondents wished more people understood the disease and its impact.”
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Cramping and bloating
Treating Crohn’s Disease
Unfortunately, patients and professionals alike seem to be at a loss for how to treat let alone cure this disorder. The main reason finding an effective Crohn’s disease treatment is so challenging is because IBDs can affect different parts of the gastrointestinal tract. This means, says Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Edward V. Loftus, “not everyone has the same symptoms,” suggesting that IBD patients are on all sorts of medications to lower inflammation, strengthen bones and remove harmful intestinal bacteria, including:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (corticosteroids and oral 5-aminosalicylates)
- Immune system suppressors (azathioprine, mercaptopurine, infliximab, methotrexate, and natalizumab)
- Antibiotics (ciprofloxacin and metronidazole)
- Other medications (anti-diarrheals, pain relievers, iron, vitamins D and B12, and calcium)
However, a recent study may point towards a treatment for Crohn’s disease and other IBD patients!
Cannabis Induces a Clinical Response in Patients with Crohn’s Disease: A Prospective Placebo-Controlled Study
In October 2013, researchers published a study in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology about the effects the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa had on patients’ symptoms of Crohn’s disease and other IBDs. This paper was even the first of its kind to study the benefits of cannabis for IBD in a controlled setting.
The study included 21 Crohn’s disease patients (13 men and 8 women) at the average age of 40-years-old. Everyone involved in this study had previously tried treating their IBD with steroidal therapy, immunomodulators, or anti-tumor agents, but to no avail.
Once researchers had split the patients randomly into two groups, the 10-week study began (8 weeks of treatment and a follow-up two weeks later). Eleven patients were given rolled cannabis to spoke containing 115mg of THC, two times per day. The remaining placebo patients were also given rolled cannabis to smoke, but without THC.
Cannabis for Crohn’s Disease Treatment: The Findings
By the end of the study, researchers observed:
- Complete remission in 5 of 11 subjects in the cannabis THC group
- Clinical responses in 10 of 11 subjects in the cannabis THC group
- e.g., their Crohn’s Disease Activity Index went from >200 to >100
- 3 of 11 subjects in the cannabis THC group were weaned from steroid dependency
- All subjects in the cannabis THC group reported having improved sleeps and appetites (with no significant side effects)
The biggest question researchers are posing is whether the effects of cannabis on symptoms of Crohn’s disease are simply masking the root cause, which still remains unknown. But the reason cannabis seems to be so effective for this disease is that Crohn’s patients produce fewer endocannabinoids – i.e., your body’s natural THC. So, by providing cannabinoids for the receptors your body does have, they basically help to dampen inflammation that can cause any combination of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease listed above.
Cannabis as a Viable Option for Crohn’s Disease Treatment
If this is something you or someone you know can potentially benefit from, here are a couple of things you should do before consuming cannabis.
- Make an appointment with your doctor, assess your symptoms, and open the discussion about cannabis for Crohn’s disease treatment.
- If it’s legal in your state and your doctor thinks it could help and maybe even cure you, get a prescription for medical marijuana
What to Try If Medical Marijuana Is Not Available in Your State
Although the cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, it is not impossible to reverse Crohn’s disease. If medical marijuana is not available in your state, you could still greatly benefit and possibly heal by addressing your diet and removing certain triggers.