According to the irritablebowelsyndrome.net website, IBS is defined as “abdominal discomfort or pain associated with changes in bowel habits that occur at least three days per month during the previous three months.” Patients who suffer from this condition also face other symptoms that are painful, inconvenient -to say the least, -and lower their quality of life.
There is no known cause for this idiopathic condition, however, in 2003 Dr. Ethan Russo suggested that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), along with fibromyalgia, migraine, and other related conditions, may be linked to an endocannabinoid deficiency; treatable with cannabinoid medicine. Moreover, research suggests that the endocannabinoid system affects gut motility and visceral hypersensitivity, which are significant factors that contribute to abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating associated with IBS. A 2004 study demonstrated that cannabinoids “decrease motor activity in the stomach and decrease gastric emptying,” which eases the uncomfortable and painful abdominal cramping; significantly decreasing bathroom visits after a meal. Furthermore, the study showed that “cannabinoids could also act at the peripheral terminals of vagal afferents to alter visceral perception;” relieving the hyper internal pain sensitivity, common in people that struggle with IBS. Slowing down gut motility is not the only benefit that cannabis offers to people dealing with IBS. A study published in 2008 highlighted that, due to its anti-inflammatory properties and “its ability to knock out nerve pain,” cannabinoid treatment can calm sensitivity and inflammation in the intestinal lining.
Unfortunately, IBS is also associated with depression which can also be treated with medical marijuana. A 2016 study indicated that cannabidiol (CBD), immediately “eases anti-social and reduce anxiety-like behavior in minutes;” these findings suggest that medical marijuana is a better option over common antidepressant pharmaceuticals, which may take up to six weeks to become effective.
An article published on the marijuanadoctor.com website discusses the best strains of marijuana for patients with IBS.
The hybrid blue dream is an excellent choice to treat IBS-related-depression, because of the way it interacts with the body it doesn’t make its users feel tired or sleepy; you can go on about your day. Another option is the Indica hybrid Pennywise, which also has a calming and peaceful effect on its users.
Strains recommended for the treatment of diarrhea are the Sativa-dominant Jean Guy, which reduces cramping while boosting its users’ energy levels. If a patient with IBS is feeling lethargic because of this symptom, then the Lemon Jack strand is a great option, it is “suitable for daytime use. Its effects are like drinking a strong coffee but without any ill effects on your stomach.”
Chronic abdominal pain can be treated with Jack Herer, a Sativa-dominant hybrid packed with painkillers, such as pinene; a major terpene component in this strand, which reduces tissue inflammation, stress, and pain. A second option available for treating pain is the Sativa-dominant hybrid Harlequin. It provides its users a “painless and mellow feeling. You won’t feel ‘high’ and [you] can go about your day as usual after taking Harlequin.”
Despite the available scientific research that demonstrates the benefits of using medical marijuana to treat IBS, conventional treatment revolves around antibiotics, IBguard, laxatives, peppermint oil capsules to reduce symptoms, anti-diarrheal tablets, antispasmodics, and antidepressants. Many of these medications have serious side effects that only add on to the stress, pain, and frustration that patients already feel due to their condition. IBguard, for example, is a non-prescription option that helps patients with their dietary management. Side effects include, but are not limited to nausea, vomiting, or heartburn. Headaches, mouth sores, and severe stomach and abdominal pain are among the more severe side effects of using the peppermint-oil tablets. Lastly, though it may be rare, some patients may have an allergic reaction to the product, symptoms of an allergic reaction include rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, trouble breathing. Another prescription drug used to treat IBS is Xifaxan, an antibiotic used to treat diarrhea associated with IBS. These tablets are said to provide up to 10 weeks of relief, and patients “can be retreated with Xifaxan up to two times if symptoms come back.” The side effects reported include nausea and an increase in liver enzymes.
Floridamarijuana.net reached out to a patient recently diagnosed with IBS; we asked him a few questions regarding his condition. D. Lopez (who prefers not to share his name), a young 22-year-old student from Florida Atlantic University, who aspires to become a firefighter, was diagnosed with IBS earlier this year. His physician recommended IBguard to treat his abdominal cramps and reduce his painfully frequent visits to the bathroom. After getting tired to deal with the side effects that the medication caused him, D. Lopez decided to go a different route.
Florida marijuana (F.M.): How and when did you find out about your condition?
D. Lopez (D.L.): Well sorry if it’s too much information, but it was when I found a lot of blood after I used the bathroom. I would feel cramps and have trouble using the restroom, but I never thought much of it; until I encountered the blood. It was around mid-April that I found out.
F.M.: What was your experience dealing with doctors?
D.L.: It was a bit rushed, to be honest. He seemed to dismiss me as soon as he had the chance. Almost like my condition didn’t mean much or wasn’t a big threat. He did, however, give e good advice on how not to agitate it.
F.M.: Once you were diagnosed, what treatment was suggested by your doctor?
D. L.: He told me to stay away from dairy and artificial sugars. Along with a prescription called IBguard, that didn’t really do much but make me feel nauseous.
F.M.: What treatment do you follow now?
D. L.: I stopped taking the pills, and I started watching my diet. It helped me much more.
F.M.: Have you dealt with depression due to IBS?
D. L: No, but I get extremely frustrated in the actual moment.
F.M.: Have you tried cannabis to treat your condition? If so, have you felt a difference between the antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals vs. medical marijuana?
D. L.: Yes, I have. It [the result] is so much better than the pills. In every sense of the word. I don’t bleed, I don’t feel bloated, I don’t feel cramps, and it has helped me use the restroom without complications.
F.M.: Could you expand a little bit more on that difference?
D.L.: Sure! So, when I use marijuana, I can feel my gut relax. I don’t seem to bleed since using the restroom is much more comfortable, and I feel more inclined to eat healthier. While being on the pills makes my stomach upset and honestly made me have more diarrhea than anything else.