How Could Cannabidiol Benefit the Gut?
Diagnosed with Crohn’s Gut disease at 18, Dan McMahon has years of experience with gut issues and many of the ways to treat it.
Even with 22 pills a day, including steroids, bi-monthly injections and dietary advice from his gastroenterologist, the pain and discomfort was always there. However, a few years ago, his father suggested that he try cannabis, but simply smoking “regular” cannabis had no positive effects. Then one day, a friend gave him a CBD oil-infused blueberry muffin, and after his initial disappointment over the lack of “buzz”, realised that he wasn’t really in any pain, for the first time in years.
How Could Cannabidiol Benefit the Gut? He states that CBD has given him back quality of life that he never thought he would see again and has enabled him to avoid prescription medications, and takes CBD products almost every day now. Another patient with Crohn’s disease has stated that cannabis use along with pharmaceutical medications has allowed him to have only one other flare-up of his symptoms in five years, and avoid surgery. Crohn’s disease, along with ulcerative colitis, is known as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), after the root cause of the disease.
But what evidence is there to back up these claims? In one study of 30 Crohn’s disease patients before and after cannabis use, 21 patients “improved significantly” and were able to reduce usage of pharmaceutical medications. At first, 15 of the 30 patients needed a collective total of 19 surgeries over an average period of 9 years before cannabis use. During an average period of 3 years of cannabis use, only 2 patients needed surgery. In comparison, the National Institute of Health estimates that 70-90% of patients with Crohn’s disease will need surgery. Almost two-fifths, 39%, will need repeat surgeries. All 30 patients reported improvements in their symptoms, the number of patients requiring steroids fell from 26 to 4, and the mean number of bowel movements fell from 8 to 5 daily.
This was thought to be due to the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids, which can regulate immune cells and the amount of inflammatory chemicals they produce. In another, placebo-controlled trial, 10 of the 11 patients who received cannabis cigarettes showed a clinical response, with 5 reaching “remission”.
But how could Cannabidiol benefit the gut? And what about CBD itself? A study on both mice with intestinal inflammation and biopsies of patients with ulcerative colitis, the other IBD, found that CBD could ease inflammation in both by reducing the activation of glial cells. These are a type of nerve cell that communicate with the immune system. In the biopsies of human patients, CBD significantly reduced glial cell activation and inflammatory activity of other immune cells in a dose-dependent manner. That means a higher dose of CBD produced a stronger effect. This could be seen in both biopsies of patients who were in “remission”, and those having flare-ups. The strongest effects were seen on the glial cells. Other components of hemp, including other cannabinoids and some of the many terpenes, have also demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects. However, more research on low-THC, whole hemp extracts is required for the management of IBD.