It’s more than a gut feeling: Marijuana may help with gastrointestinal problems


If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s Disease or other lower-tract problems, medical marijuana may offer significant relief.

The ways in which cannabis can be used as medicine are just now being explored. For years, it has been clearly demonstrated that cannabis can help people undergoing chemotherapy with its unpleasant side-effects. Cannabis relieves the nausea caused by chemo, and stimulates appetite. Now, as further research into the brain has revealed that there are naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors in the brain, the potential benefits of marijuana are just beginning to be studied extensively.

Marijuana is commonly known as a muscle relaxant. Although that’s a simplification, it turns out to be mostly true when it comes to bowel disorders. Cannabis soothes spasms and cramping of the intestines, relieves painful gas, helps with acid reflux and slows the progress of digested material through the tract without causing constipation. People with multiple sclerosis, AIDS, Crohn’s Disease, IBS and other disorders that cause gastrointestinal problems find that cannabis improves their dysfunctions. A recent survey of MS patients confirms this. Although clinical trials still need to be done, there seems to be scientific support for the claims.

Cannabis interacts with naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors in the brain and elsewhere to ease cramps and better regulate the flow of digested material. Studies in guinea pigs, mice and rats show that cannabis can relieve diarrhea. This seems to be true of people, as well. In fact, marijuana has been shown to modulate both diarrhea and constipation. Cannabis also reduces stomach acid, which reduces acid reflux. These studies may lead to treatments for persistent gut problems that don’t respond to other treatments. However, when people who use marijuana are exposed to health challenges like cholera or E. Coli, cannabis may have the opposite effect.

Clearly, more controlled studies need to be done, but the results from animal tests and informal feedback from people already using cannabis to help with various medical conditions, are very promising. Millions of people suffer from gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Although these are different disorders, symptoms can include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation, weight loss, and cramping – all symptoms that respond favorably to cannabis. Cannabis not only works on receptors in the brain, but with the naturally-occurring receptors in the digestive tract itself. Cannabis also reduces inflammation, which is frequently a part of these diseases.

Because cannabis can relieve multiple symptoms with little to no side effects, it seems to be an encouraging treatment for GI tract disorders. Its ability to work both in the gut itself and in the brain hints at its promise in this area. Other commonly used medications for chronic GI disorders have more serious side-effects than pot.

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