Irritable Bowel Disease / Colitis

IBD encompasses several different types of chronic inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Most IBD onsets between ages 15-35 and often has a familial incidence. Infectious agents and dietary factors may be involved.

 

                IBS – Irritable bowel syndrome affects the small and large intestine. Symptoms include cramping or intestinal pains that are relieved with a bowel movement. Constipation or diarrhea can occur. Other symptoms include bloating and mucous in the stools. It is increased by stress and may be associated with food allergies and intestinal inflammation.

 

                Crohn’s Disease – This is an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the bowel wall associated with bloating, loss of appetite, diarrhea and malaise. It has a higher incidence in Jewish people and is familial.

 

                Ulcerative Colitis – This is an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the lining of the colon and rectum. Often bloody diarrhea accompanies this disease.

 

                Diverticulitis – Diverticulosis describes the occurrence of pouches in the wall of the large intestine. This is a natural consequence of aging. Diverticulitis occurs when a diverticula becomes inflamed and painful, often containing bacterial overgrowth.

 

Standard medical treatments:

Avoidance of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, fatty foods, sorbitol

Laxatives or anti-diarrheal medicine

Fiber, questran

5-amino salicylic acid compounds

Antispasmondics – Bentyl

Steroid therapy

Pain medicine

Surgery

 

Supportive and alternative treatments:

Nutritional – eliminate food allergens, sugar, wheat

Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, flax oil – anti-inflammatory

Probiotics – restore microbial balance of healthy bacteria

Herbal –

Hops – calms the digestive system

Chamomille – calmative

Slippery elm – coats the GI lining

Marshmallow root – protects the GI lining

Herbal antibiotics – goldenseal, berberine, oregano oil

Homeopathy

Stress management

Ayurvedic therapies

Acupuncture

Meditation

 

Irritable Bowel Disease and Cannabis

Cannabis has two physiological effects that make it a good choice of medicine for IBD, as an anti-inflammatory and an immune modulator. Examining gut samples from healthy people and IBD patients, researchers at the University of Bath Hospital in England recently (2011) found that the presence of CB2 cannabinoid receptors increases in IBD patients as their disease progresses. The researchers believe that the presence of CB2 receptor only during the disease-state may be linked to its known role in suppression of the immune system, a property that is of benefit in autoimmune disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. They also found that the CB1 receptor helps to promote wound healing in the lining of the gut. In addition, the CB1 receptor has specifically been found to inhibit motility of the intestine, so that cannabis can act to slow down diarrhea and reduce intestinal spasms.

“This gives us the first evidence that very selective cannabis-derived treatments may be useful as future therapeutic strategies in the treatment of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis,” said Dr. Karen Wright from the University’s Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Patients using medical cannabis for the relief of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease report that it relieves painful cramps and increases their appetite.  This last effect is very important; Crohn’s patients are often undernourished. Ingestion of cannabis is a good way to take it in for intestinal disorders, as the medicine is delivered directly to the digestive tract. For example, encapsulated cannabis is released directly into the small intestine after the capsule is digested, providing long-lasting action up to 8 hours, often used as an overnight dose.