How does Medical Marijuana help with Crohns Disease?
Categorized under the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBL), (also spelled: chrons disease, chrons,chrome disease, chrones disease, chrones) Crohn’s disease is a persistent illness that results in the inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Any section of the digestive tract, commencing from the mouth to the anus, can be targeted and infected by the disease, but generally the ileum (final segment of the small bowel), and the start of the colon (large intestine) are more frequently affected.
Crohns disease is not the same as ulcerative colitis, which is a different type of IBD. Although ulcerative colitis symptoms are much like those of Crohn’s disease, both diseases affect different segments of the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis only infects the colon (large intestine).
Signs and Symptoms
Indications of Crohns disease symptoms break out when the infection causes:
• Rectal bleeding – may cause ulcers, with pus, mucus or blood in the faeces
• Diarrhea – can be of mild or severe nature, it is accompanied by hurried need to reach the toilet. Tenesmus, need to empty the bowels with the failure to pass anything, is also usual
• Anal fissures – tear or cracks in the mucosa that outlines the anus. Skin tags may also appear
• Abdominal pain and cramps – the infected area experiences mild to severe pains and cramps. With Ileum being the usual infected area, the abdomen’s lower right area is typically the most affected site. Oftentimes, Crohns disease is mistaken with appendicitis. Degree of pain experienced varies from patient to patient, although, an unexpected intensification of the pain may specify problems
• Mouth ulcers
• Over tiredness and fatigue
• Unplanned weight loss
• Appetite loss
• Anemia – caused due to excess loss of blood
Variation in symptoms can occur depending on the different segments of the digestive tract infected. These include:
• Malnutrition may result when the disease grips a large part of the digestive tract, causing ineffective food absorption, resulting in undernourishment
• If the disease just hits the small intestine (ileum), it may not cause diarrhea
• Severe illness can follow a serious disease outbreak
• Chronic pain in the abdomen, with the absence of other signs and symptoms may occur due to the disease affecting the small intestine
Other symptoms may accompany the disease. Although, it is uncertain why these symptoms occur, an explanation for their occurrence is that when the inflammation targets the digestive tract, the immune system may prompt inflammation in other parts of the body, too. These include:
• Skin rashes
• Liver inflammation
• Arthritis (pain and inflammation in joints)
• Uveitis (inflammation in the eye)
The chronic nature of the disease allows patients to experience remission, lengthy periods with mild or no symptoms. Following remission are periods when the signs and symptoms of the disease break out and become very bothersome.
Crohn’s disease treatment
Even though at present no remedy for Crohns disease exists, there are ways that can help in suppressing the symptoms and side effects caused by this disease. Different treatments are carried out to release the symptoms in order to encourage and continue lengthy remission periods, to inhibit the inflammation course and progression, and to avoid surgery if the option exists.
Many people vouch for medical marijuana as they state that consuming cannabis helps them avoid side effects and complications from the steroids that have been prescribed to them. Problems can also be caused by immune suppressors if the person does not consume cannabis.
Corticosteroids, steroid medication, are prescribed to offer relief to the inflamed areas. These may be supplemented with medication used to lessen inflammation in the infected areas. Immunosuppressant medications, that are used to subdue the immune system, are also used to provide treatment for Crohns disease. Occasionally, surgical procedures are performed to remove the infected section of the digestive tract. When the signs and symptoms of the disease are controlled, additional medication are used to retain the remission periods. This medication may have many dangerous and painful side effects, all of which can easily be muted by the use of Cannabis. Cannabis works towards inhibiting intestinal secretory responses, which means that they have more advantages than one. Many doctors believe that without the use of marijuana, the treatment of Crohn’s Disease would be very difficult indeed.
Marijuana use for Crohn’s disease
Marihuana use is perceived to be advantageous due to the key effect of cannabinoids, which may generate feelings of happiness, health, safety and comfort. Administrating cannabis by smoking (or vaporizing) is often the favoured form of intake because it allows the cannabinoids blood levels to quickly rise, allowing for the key effect of well-being to be reached rapidly. Nevertheless, taking cannabis orally reduces the inflammatory influence in the digestive tract just as well. Taking Cannabis can be very helpful in putting up a tolerance against the side effects of other prescribed treatments. It helps sail through the medication process without having to go through all the painful side effects that occur due to the immune suppressors and steroids.
A research conducted by Schicho and Storr showed that the cannabinoids in marijuana are anti-inflammatory and reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease in a large number of IBD patients with limited side effects. The study gave an 8 week treatment of cannabis rich with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which decreased the activity index of Crohn’s disease in 90% of the patients without any serious side-effects.
The cannabinoids found in medical marihuana have a reaction with the colon’s CB receptors, brain, intestines and the nervous system to help fight the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. THC provides a healing effect as it can help in the closing of wounds in the colon. The white blood cells (Leukocytes) defend an organism and offer protection from diseases by causing or controlling inflammatory responses. Marijuana aids in this process.
The receptors of cannabinoid in the brain reduce the pain, provide relief from nauseous feelings and abate unpleasantness. These receptors also control the intestinal tract’s heightened activity i.e. motility and manage its secretion as well. THC has proved to be useful in reducing motility and constrain secretion that is a consequence of an inflamed gut. This in turn provides relief from diarrhea.
Experts on medical marijuana
Adi Lahat, MD is a well reputed doctor at the Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases that wrote an article on Digestion in 2012. This article stated that when treatment is administered around the process of inhaling cannabis, it improves the overall quality of life of CD patients. The article was titled “Impact of Cannabis Treatment on the Quality of Life, Weight, and Clinical Disease Activity in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients: A Pilot Prospective Study” – in it, the doctor states that the same improvements have been made apparent in patients suffering from Ulcerative Colitis.
The use of Cannabis has also shown an effective gain of weight in patients after three months worth of use. Their social life and their ability to perform daily activities have significantly risen allowing every aspect of their life to be drastically improved.
Simon Lal, MD and PhD is a Gastroenterologist at Spire Manchester Hospital and Spire Manchester Clinic Hale (England) stated in his article titled “Cannabis Use amongst Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease” that patients who suffer from Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis should inhale Cannabis as it shows a great improvement in relieving them of symptoms such as diarrhea as the drug has an anti-inflammatory effect on the intestinal issue. It also relieves the patient of any kind of pain that they might be experiencing in the abdominal area.
Timna Naftali, MD, Specialist in Gastroenterology at Meir Hospital and Kupat Holism Clinic (Israel) stated in his study titled “Treatment of Crohn’s Disease with Cannabis: An Observational Study” that out of 30 patients who were suffering from Crohn’s Disease, 21 showed drastic improvements due to the use of Cannabis. Their mean number of bowel movements alone came down to five from a whopping eight. The number of patients who required steroid treatment lowered from 26 to 4. These are great results to go by.
Studies conducted on Crohn’s disease patients
Half of the patients of Crohn’s disease who smoked medicinal marijuana went into complete remission as compared to the ones who received a placebo. Patients took medical marijuana for eight weeks during a clinical trial and its findings were published in the medical journal “Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology”.
The study was conducted in Israel’s Meir Medical Centre and included 21 people with severe, intractable Crohn’s disease. 11 of them were given two joints of marijuana to smoke every day over the duration of eight weeks. These “standardized cannabis cigarettes” comprised of 23 percent THC and 0.5 percent cannabidiol (CBD). The remaining ten subjects were given placebo cigarettes to smoke, which contained no active cannabinoids.
Investigations revealed that five out of the 11 patients who received medical marijuana went into a complete remission of Crohn’s disease. The other five test subjects experienced a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease. There were no serious side-effects reported, conversely, patients reported better sleeping patterns and improved appetite.
Another study conducted in 2011 by Naftali observed patients of Crohn’s disease and discovered that after using medical cannabis, 21 out of the 30 subjects underwent a reduction in their symptoms and did not need to prolong their use of legal medication. Furthermore, 15 out of the 30 patients who went through a total of 19 surgeries all combined during the last nine years, needed only a meagre 2 surgeries between them all, approximately three years after trying medical marijuana.