Medical Monday: Cannabis and Crohn’s

Crohn’s Disease affects roughly 3.2 out of every 1,000 people in north America and Europe. This chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition primarily attacks the digestive system, anywhere from the mouth to the anus. The symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, anemia and ulcers. Part of what makes this disease so frustrating is its effect on the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, leaving many with deficiencies. Some patients lose their appetite, or have restricted diets to manage flare-ups. The disease equally affects men and women; currently there is no cure, but ways to alleviate the symptoms and hope for remission.

Thankfully, more people with Crohn’s are able to access cannabis to treat their symptoms. Medical marijuana has shown promise in treating the condition.

Daniel Towns had been coping with painful symptoms for a few years before being officially diagnosed by a physician as a sophomore in college. He had been self-medicating with cannabis – one of the only things that would alleviate the pain and discomfort. He shared his story at the United Patients Group.

“Cannabis was popular in ancient medicine as a cure for ailments of the stomach and digestion, but we are truly living in a new age here in 2014: medical researchers have finally begun to expose these hidden links with relation to Crohn’s Disease,” writes Towns. “Even with such high tradition in natural medicine, doctors and scientists explained the phenomenon very recently— the term ‘endocannabinoid’ was termed in the mid-1990s after a series of breakthroughs pinpointed THC-sensitive receptors in the brain. These receptors were found to relate to a range of psychological and physiological responses that include the functioning of the gastrointestinal system.”

Towns isn’t the only one who has experienced the benefits of medical cannabis to treat inflammatory diseases. Cannabis has long been known as an anti-inflammatory substance — it has been shown to also help with acne, arthritis and muscle pain. This is because our endocannabinoid system, made up of receptors, helps to mediate pain and inflammation. The cannabinoids CBD, THC, and THC-a have been found to be particularly helpful in treating Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel diseases.

While research is still severely limited due to the legal restrictions on cannabis, there have been a few studies that have shown cannabis’ promise in treating Crohn’s. One study, completed in 2013, found cannabis helped the subjects with Crohn’s patients manage their symptoms. Cannabis helped the disease go fully into remission for 45 percent of the test subjects. Other subjects reported an improved appetite and better sleep with few side-effects.

Many patients in northern Arizona treat Crohn’s with cannabis. Here at High Mountain Health, we ensure patients are treating their symptoms safely and with the right medicine. Don’t be discouraged — it might feel like an uphill battle at times — but there are plenty of strains out there to help with pain and inflammation.

— Words by Taylor Haynes

 

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