Medical Cannabis and Crohn’s Disease: 5 Things You Should Know

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Medical cannabis research is thriving at the present moment and more doctors are prescribing cannabis medications to patients than ever before. With legalization leading to less restrictions, scientists are able to look more closely at the relationship between the chemical compounds in cannabis and the human body. As a result of these studies, many patients have either started to use medical cannabis therapy or have begun to strongly consider it. This appears to be particularly true for patients suffering from Crohn’s Disease who, unfortunately, don’t often receive much relief from conventional treatment options such as pharmaceutical medications which often have unwanted side effects. Medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, is quickly becoming the most popular alternative treatment for those with Crohn’s Disease. If you or someone you know is suffering with Crohn’s Disease and its symptoms here are the 5 things you should know when considering medical cannabis.

1. Understand Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease is characterized as an inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD for short, which is a type of autoimmune disorder. It’s an incurable chronic disease that affects the intestinal tract. The condition usually presents itself in young adults between the ages of 20 to 29 and is associated with sudden and severe pain and in some advanced cases can be life threatening. Crohn’s is known for its symptoms having periods of flare-ups and remissions. Approximately 700,000 Americans suffer daily with symptoms of Crohn’s Disease such as extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Researchers believe that the number of people with Crohn’s Disease may be even higher due to many patients remaining undiagnosed.

2. What causes Crohn’s Disease. Unfortunately, medical experts have been unable to identify what specifically causes Crohn’s Disease. The prevailing belief used to be that dietary factors or stress were the cause. While these are no doubt aggravating factors, the general consensus today is that a combination of factors play a role in developing Crohn’s Disease. One of these factors is family history. Genetics can play a role in determining whether or not a person will develop Crohn’s and approximately 25% of patients with Crohn’s Disease have a relative with the disease. Many medical researchers also believe that Crohn’s disease symptoms are triggered by an immune response to bacteria or virus in the body and view the disease as an autoimmune condition. Doctors have also been able to identify certain risk factors associated with the development of Crohn’s Disease. Some of these risk factors include smoking, obesity, diets high in saturated fats, and living in northern climates with low sunlight exposure

3. How Crohn’s Disease affects the body. Due to the effects that Crohn’s Disease has on the body’s digestive system, it can take a negative toll on a patient’s general well-being and mental health. One of the common side effects of this illness is fatigue. Crohn’s sends the body into a chronic state of inflammation and the body is simply tired from using its energy resources to fight it. Additionally, blood loss in the stool can create iron deficiencies and anemia which add to the symptoms of fatigue. This loss of energy often leads to patients not getting enough energy, further exacerbating their symptoms. Many Crohn’s patients also suffer from malnutrition which can lead to a decrease in muscle mass. With symptoms such as malnutrition, chronic fatigue, and the extreme abdominal pain patients feel, it’s understandable that many people with Crohn’s also suffer with depression and anxiety. If a patient is in the midst of a flare-up, the symptoms can be so debilitating that many patients find themselves unable to leave their home, leading to a negative impact on their social life and interpersonal relationships. 

4. Conventional treatments. There is no known pharmaceutical medication that can cure Crohn’s Disease. The available medications are prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms, relieve inflammation, and ameliorate the effects of malnutrition. Current conventional treatment options for Crohn’s Disease include immune system suppressors, corticosteroid medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), antibiotics, antidiarrheal medications, nutritional supplements, and surgeries to remove portions of the digestive tract such as the colon and/or rectum. The medications prescribed to Crohn’s patients can cause additional side effects that should be taken into consideration. Some of these side effects include dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, fever, nausea, muscle and joint pain, and chest pain. These side effects are often quoted as the reason why many patients are turning to medical cannabis as a healthier alternative.

5. How medical cannabis can help. Medical cannabis has long been known to help in the treatment and management of symptoms associated with inflammatory diseases such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and arthritis. Both CBD and THC, arguably the most medically important cannabinoids, are known for their ability to interact with the body’s own endocannabinoid system to regulate the body’s immune system and lower inflammation. These cannabinoids prevent the body’s immune system from releasing pro-inflammatory proteins and instead release anti-inflammatory compounds. As a result of these chemical interactions, patients suffering with Crohn’s Disease can expect medical cannabis to substantially relieve if not outright remove the negative symptoms caused by inflammation. Once the inflammation is addressed and removed from the equation, patients often experience immediate pain relief- no doubt also thanks to the analgesic properties of cannabis. Medical cannabis researchers at the University of Bath determined that cannabinoids, “activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the gut lining, promoting it to heal the inflamed lining of the gastrointestinal tract”. Some of the other ways patients with Crohn’s Disease can benefit from medical cannabis include lowering levels of anxiety and depression, suppressing nausea and vomiting, and improving sleep and general homeostasis by regulating the body’s endocannabinoid system.

When considering using medical cannabis for Crohn’s Disease, it’s important to know that the most effective protocol will not be the same for each patient. As all patients are unique, there are also unique cannabis strains and methods of administering medication. With medications ranging from tinctures and full extract oils to edible forms and fast-acting vaporizers, there are many safe and healthy options available for treating Crohn’s Disease effectively. It is strongly advised patients speak with a qualified medical cannabis practitioner to ensure that the correct strain, dosage, and method of ingestion is utilized in order to achieve the best possible results in treating Crohn’s Disease.


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