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Medical Marijuana and Constipation

What Is Constipation?

Constipation is the inability to pass stool or difficulty having a bowel movement. It is also defined as not passing stool at least three times per week. Millions of people suffer from constipation in the United States every year and it is more likely to affect women. People who are elderly, pregnant or have recently had surgery may also develop constipation.  The symptoms of constipation are typically straightforward. Having to strain to have a bowel movement and not having enough bowel movements is a telltale sign. Other indicators are hard stool, small stool with a remaining sense of a full bowel after passing, stomach pain, bloating and nausea. Untreated constipation or constipation that does not naturally relieve itself can lead to severe complications. These complications include fecal compaction and rectal prolapse, both of which are painful.  The causes of constipation are very numerous and range from lifestyle choices to medication. As mentioned above, certain groups are at higher risk. People who do not exercise enough are also at higher risk for constipation, as are people who do not eat enough fiber. Many medications can cause constipations, include opiate pain relievers. Overuse of medications that help bowel movements can also cause constipation. Underlying medical problems are a common cause of constipation, though poor diet is the most common. Medical conditions that can cause constipation include multiple sclerosis, lupus, diabetes, stroke and irritable bowel syndrome.

Medical Marijuana and Constipation

Medical Marijuana as a Laxative 

One of the first line treatments for constipation are medicinal and natural laxatives. Laxatives work in a number of ways. They can perpetuate movement of feces. They can also loosen or soften fecal matter that is proving difficult to pass. Laxatives are typically taken orally or as a suppository. When they are effective, they clear the bowels and intestines of stool, thus relieving constipation. 

Research shows that medical marijuana can treat digestive disorders, of which constipation is one. Constipation can also be caused by digestive disorders that are treated with medical marijuana. Furthermore, medical marijuana can substitute or reduce dosage of certain medications that cause constipation, such as opiates. This shows that medical marijuana may not only treat constipation itself but some underlying causes. 

According to Medical Marijuana: The Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and Political Ideology by Peter J. Cohen, one of the earliest examples of marijuana as medicine for constipation comes from China around 2700 BCE. Of course, the several thousand years that have passed since then have seen marijuana be touted as a cure for numerous conditions that it is not shown to cure. However, constipation is not one of them. While the evidence that marijuana can aid in bowel movements is largely anecdotal, much of it stems from the attestation of recreational and medical marijuana users. 

Marijuana to Prevent Constipation 

Constipation comes and goes, even in those with chronic constipation. Once medication, food or the body helps hard or large feces to pass, the constipation is gone. However, it typically comes back. Healthy individuals who do not suffer from chronic constipation will likely have the condition again as well, but it will not be as resistant to treatment as in those with chronic constipation. Individuals who have chronic constipation, are taking medication that causes constipation or have a condition that makes constipation more likely can take certain measures, such as increased fiber intake, to prevent constipation. 

A University of California, San Francisco study found that pain sufferers on opiate pain medications were able to reduce their doses if they coupled their medication with medical marijuana. This decreases the potential for side effects, such as constipation, while on the drug. Furthermore, research into marijuana as treatment for digestive disorders has shown that there are receptors that react to the components in marijuana in the human digestive system. This proves that medical marijuana treatment can affect digestive symptoms. However, more research is required to discover all of the components of medical marijuana that can affect digestion and evacuation of fecal matter. Research will also show if there are more benefits in regard to digestion than have already been discovered.

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