Cannabis and Irritable Bowel Disease

Not a topic high on the hit list and certainly one that people generally avoid; but with so many people affected by Crohn’s Disease (CD) or Ulcerative Colitis (UC), and not withstanding, that the gastro-intestinal tract performs one of the most important functions of our body, a lot depends on the old "poop chute."

A poop chute

No, that's not what we mean.

The traditional route...

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis foundation of America (CCFA), these diseases take hold when good bacteria in the intestines are mistaken for bad bacteria and the immune system mounts a response.  Cells are sent and travel out of the blood to the intestines and an inflammatory response is produced.  However, the inflammation does not subside leading to chronic inflammation, ulceration and thickening of the intestinal wall.  The patient experiences abdominal cramps and pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and night sweats to name a few of the symptoms.

The patient with Crohns’ disease can be affected anywhere along the gastro-intestinal tract and can involve the entire thickness of the bowel wall.
Patients with ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, are affected in the innermost lining of the colon.

We all sympathize with the IBD sufferer.  So where do they go for help?

Current treatment involves the use of steroids, immune suppressors, antibiotics and biologic therapy’s, to help stop the proteins in the body from causing inflammation.  Dietary changes are also recommended as a part of the treatment plan.

Still crohns and colitis patients face a 70% chance of requiring surgery.

And then the alternative...

In 2007, a woman from Berlin was diagnosed with crohns disease.  Fatin Phoenix Ward’s story, to be published this spring entitled "The Medical Marijuana Healing Bible", tells of the excruciating pain that disappeared three days after taking CBD’s.

Fatin Phoenix Ward
This is Fatin Phoenix Ward who cured herself of Crohn's using dietary cannabis.

Dealing with this debilitating disease made it impossible for her to lead a normal life as a teacher and she found conventional medications made her worse.  She turned to her own research and began ingesting cannabis.  Sixty milligrams of dietary cannabis taken for the past seven years have resulted in the disease disappearing, the doctors say there is no longer any sign of CD.

During a debate on Procon.org, the CCFA said "Experimental evidence suggests that endocannabanoids, molecules found in the body that closely resemble compounds found in the cannabis plant, may play a role in limiting intestinal inflammation."  IBD patients have been found to have higher levels of cannabinoid receptors in their colonic tissue.  Several small studies have shown that a significant proportion of patients with IBD report smoking marijuana to relieve IBD related symptoms, particularly those patients with a history of abdominal surgery, chronic abdominal pain, and or/a low quality of life index.  Having said that, please note the current position of the CCFA is that is "does not endorse the smoking of marijuana by IBD patients, any current state-based medical marijuana programs, or the legislation of marijuana."

And the beat goes on...

Medical marijuana doctor

Research into medical marijuana has continued off the continental North America.  Here’s what other doctors and researchers are saying.

Dr. Adi Lahat, Doctor at the Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel, stated the following in their January 2012 digest article:

"In the present preliminary prospective study, we have found that treatment with inhaled cannabis improves quality of life in patients with long-standing CD and UC.  Treatment was also shown to have caused a statistically significant rise in patient’s weight after three months of treatment, and improvements in clinical disease activity index in patients with CD."

The article went on to say that the data demonstrated an improvement in patient’s health status, their ability to perform daily activities and their ability to maintain a social life.  Patients reported a significant physical pain reduction during treatment.
The results also showed there was a statistically significant improvement in patient’s ability to work after treatment.  

Simon Lal, MD, PhD, Gastroenterologist at Spire Manchester Hospital in England, stated in their October 2011 European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology article:

"Studies suggest that cannabinoids inhibit intestinal secretory responses.. Because the drug has a direct anti-inflammatory effect on intestinal tissue"

Timna Naftali, MD, gastroenterology specialist at Meir Hospital and Kupat Holim Clinic, Israel, stated in their August 2011 Israel medical Association Journal article:

"...of the 30 patients with Crohn’s disease 21 improved significantly after treatment with cannabis… the mean number of bowel movements decreased from 8 to 5 a day… the number of patients requiring steroid treatment was reduced from 26 to 4...15 of the patients had 19 surgeries during an average period of nine years before cannabis use, but only two required surgery during an average period of three years of cannabis use."

The decisions facing the IBD sufferer are far from ideal.  Those that use medical marijuana already know that it is an essential piece of the arsenal in controlling attacks.

I haven’t read Fatin’s book but there's hope from other's experience using cannabis as medicine.

Thanks for reading!