How can cannabis aid IBS?

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is becoming a common condition in the western world. According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world. It is estimated that at least 5 million Canadians suffer from IBS, with an additional 120,000 people developing the condition every year. While it can affect anyone, females between 20 and 39 are the most likely demographic to be diagnosed.

In Canada, the economic and health-care related costs of IBS exceed $6.5 billion annually. Causing frequent work and school absenteeism, IBS can significantly erode an individual’s productivity and quality of life. Canadians suffering from IBS symptoms are absent from work an average of 13 days each year, representing an additional $8 billion of lost productivity.

These patients tend to present with alternating bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation with abdominal pain and bloating. Some patients have periods of nausea and bloating only relieved by a bowel movement.

How is it currently treated

The spasming of the intestines in IBS have made anti-spasmodics the drug of choice, but the use of anti-anxiety drugs has a strong place in IBS’s treatment. Anxiety is the biggest trigger for IBS and leads to more frequent and severe bouts of the symptoms. These are called “co-morbidities”, diseases and conditions that tend to be frequently paired with one another.

How can cannabis help?

CBD’s qualities as a muscle relaxant, as well as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety drug) make it advantageous to IBS sufferers as it treats both the symptoms and causes of IBS: the bowel spasms and the generalized anxiety. The biggest reservation most patients have is their reluctance to use cannabis throughout the day. This reservation can easily be reduced by CBD’s non-psychoactive properties. Patients can use CBD several times daily without experiencing any mind-altering effects. The use of ingestible oil products has gained popularity for their effectiveness and the duration of the effects. Oils avoid unnecessary odour, inhaling cannabis, and the need for pipes or vapourizers.

Those IBS sufferers who experience nausea, vomiting or reduced appetite will need to gravitate towards the intoxicating THC. THC will reduce the nauseated feeling through regulating the centers of that brain that can trigger vomiting. Additionally, THC decreases the perception of pain and can stimulate appetite.

Cannabis isn’t without risks for those facing gastric and digestive issues. Patients who have undergone certain gastric procedures should be careful when using cannabis products. Namely, those who have undergone gastric bypass or gastric sleeve procedures. These surgeries drastically reduce the volume of the stomach and overeating, or consuming certain foods could result in discomfort, nausea or injury. As mentioned, THC in many strains of cannabis causes an increase in hunger for many people, and cannabis users with these surgical histories need to be cautious. Humulene, a terpene found in certain strains of cannabis, is known to reduce appetite even in the presence of THC.

As always, if you have any questions regarding cannabis and digestive issues such as IBS, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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