Laws against weed have made it difficult for researchers to fully study the medicinal properties of cannabis. Despite this, there is a large—and rapidly growing—body of data pointing to weed’s many health benefits. So far, this includes things like epilepsy, certain kinds of cancer, chronic pain, and a number of other conditions. But what about digestive disorders? More specifically, can you treat irritable bowel syndrome with cannabis? Here’s what the research shows.
What Is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a fairly common disorder. It affects primarily your large intestine. As a result, it leads to a wide range of symptoms, most of which are related to your digestive system.
In particular, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Stomach or abdominal cramping
- Excess gas that can cause pain or discomfort
- Mucus in the stool
- Sudden and intense need to have a bowel movement
- Weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
According to The Mayo Clinic, “the precise cause of IBS isn’t known.” So far, researchers have identified a number of possible causes for the disorder. Fortunately, many of them may be positively influenced by medical cannabis.
Can You Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Cannabis?
As far as researchers can tell, cannabis does not flat-out cure IBS. Rather, it can help alleviate some of the most common causes of IBS. Additionally, medical cannabis may help improve people’s overall sense of well-being, which can help improve the mental health of people suffering from severe IBS.
Researchers have pinpointed the following as some of the most common factors leading to IBS:
- Uncontrollable or intense muscle contractions in the intestine.
- Nervous system abnormalities.
- Intestinal inflammation.
- Severe infection in the digestive system.
- Changes in gut flora.
Cannabis has shown promise in treating and alleviating a number of these underlying issues. In particular, research has shown that marijuana helps decrease inflammation. Similarly, it can help regulate a number of bodily systems and functions.
For IBS patients whose condition is triggered by nervous system abnormalities, digestive system malfunctions, or inflammation, cannabis could be an effective way to treat some of the underlying causes of the condition.
Endocannabinoid Deficiency and IBS
Some researchers think that IBS may be the result of endocannabinoid deficiencies. According to this theory, consuming cannabis may help treat IBS by making up for these deficiencies.
A study published in 2008 found that “cannabinoids have similarly demonstrated the ability to block spinal, peripheral, and gastrointestinal mechanisms that promote pain in headache, fibromyalgia, IBS and related disorders.”
This research suggests that IBS and other conditions could be triggered by a lack or imbalance in your endocannabinoid system. It may be possible to fix that imbalance by consuming cannabis and putting additional cannabinoids into your system.
A study published in 2005 reached similar conclusions. In this study, researchers concluded that medical cannabis alters the “endogenous cannabinoid system” of IBS patients. This alteration could “provide new therapeutics for the treatment of a number of gastrointestinal diseases, including nausea and vomiting, gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease,” and many other similar conditions.
Treating the Symptoms of IBS
So far, researchers have found a number of ways that cannabis can treat some of the underlying causes of IBS. But medical marijuana can do even more for IBS patients. In particular, medical cannabis can help patients cope with a number of secondary problems that arise from living with IBS.
This includes things like pain, depression, anxiety, and a general sense of decreased well-being. In fact, this is precisely what a 2015 survey found. The survey asked 2,495 medical marijuana patients about a range of health conditions, including IBS.
After taking CBD-rich cannabis for at least 30 days, 100% of patients with headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS, and spinal cord injury “reported a decrease in pain or discomfort.” This led to a significantly improved quality of life for people dealing with IBS.
Final Hit: Can You Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Cannabis?
So let’s get to the bottom of it. Can you treat irritable bowel syndrome with cannabis? Based on what science tells us, weed can probably help if you have IBS.
According to current research, cannabis can effectively treat a number of the underlying causes of IBS. This includes regulating the digestive system and decreasing intestinal inflammation. Similarly, cannabis can make up for endocannabinoid deficiencies that can trigger IBS. Finally, medical cannabis can help IBS patients cope with the pain, frustration, and depression that often accompanies the disorder.