Of the many intestinal disorders that affect scores of people across the globe, one of the perpetrators is inflammatory bowel diseases. Inflammatory bowel diseases or IBD is characterized by the inflammation of the bowel and gut. There are two main forms of IBD conditions – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is estimated by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) that close to 3 million adults in the United States were diagnosed. In the year 1999, the number was close to 2 million – there has been a 50% rise in 20 years and the number isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
The exact cause of IBD is still in the shadows but there is a reason to believe that the scientific community feels strongly that it is because of the uncontrolled activation of intestinal immune cells in a genetically susceptible host. There has been an outcry for natural remedies to treat chronic inflammation of the gut, and people are starting to look out for such remedies. Thankfully due to the benefits of using CBD, millions have found a friend in Cannabidiol (CBD)… CBD for inflammatory bowel diseases? Let us see what science tells us…
Cannabinoid And Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Science On The Latter’s Side?
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gut and cause inflammation, bleeding, ulcers, pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. This is an inflammatory bowel disease, much like ulcerative colitis, which can also affect the large intestine. This results in symptoms that are very much similar to Crohn’s disease that causes a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
Surprisingly, the gut plays another role other than digestion – it is the center of the immune system and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is central to regulating the various other systems of the body. The endocannabinoid system interacts with receptors or target sites that are present over the body. The receptors are hooked onto with the help of the body’s natural cannabinoids. When there is a drop or malfunction in the endocannabinoid system, the whole body is thrown out of sync. By introducing a potent cannabinoid such as CBD, you can put the body’s endocannabinoid system back into the right orbit.
In a review of close to 51 scientific studies on cannabinoid treatment of animal model of colitis, 24 different compounds including synthetic cannabinoids such as THC, CBG, and CBD were found to be effective in reducing the intensity of colitis.
The studies were done in different countries and it showed that close to 10-12% of the people with IBD are using cannabinoids to treat their systems. The results of the scientific studies in humans were limited but promising nevertheless:
- A study in 2012 investigated 11 patients that had chronic Crohn’s disease and 2 patients who were suffering from ulcerative colitis. It was reported that after 3 months of treatment the patients showed an improvement in general health, social ability to pursue occupations, and a lowered level of physical pain, discomfort, and depression. There was weight gain seen in these subjects and an increase in the BMI (body mass index)
- A 2011 survey of 30 Crohn’s patients based in Israel showed that 21 of them showed an improvement in the condition and reduced symptoms. They required less need for medication and a reduced need for surgery.
- A 2013 survey of 292 patients found that close to half of them suffering from IBD had used cannabis in one form or the other, currently or in the past. Of those, 1/3rd reported reduced symptoms of abdominal pain, increased appetite, reduced nausea, and diarrhea. A few of them even reported that there was complete relief in symptoms during the period of use.
- A 2019 report was published that reviewed hospital records through the National Inpatients Sample Database, allowing researchers to access thousands of medical records. There were two reports, of which the first one looked at 615 hospitalized Crohn’s disease patients who were using cannabis and another group who weren’t.
Cannabis users were found to have:
- reduced bowel obstructions
- reduced fistula and abscesses
- reduced number of blood transfusions
- reduced IV nutrition requirements
- less structuring disease
- less colectomy surgery
The second report used the same database of medical records, including up to 6002 patients with Crohn’s diseases (2999 cannabis users and the rest 3003 were non-users) and 1484 patients with ulcerative colitis (742 cannabis user and 739 non-users). It was found out that:
- Crohn’s patients using cannabis have a lower incidence of cancer, less anemia, and shorter stays at the hospital.
- Ulcerative colitis patients using cannabis have lower postoperative infections and shorter stays at the hospital and lower hospitalization costs.
The Curtain Closer
The scientific paperwork in agreement with the benefit of CBD for inflammatory bowel diseases is piling up. It won’t be much longer till we start to see changes happening around that could rattle the pharma world for all.