Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
When it comes to your digestive system, does marijuana for diarrhea work? According to many happy patients, it does. Good health begins in your gut. Medical cannabis works like a dietary supplement or food when your body absorbs it. It even has some control over your gastrointestinal system. Keep reading to learn why this miracle herb is a beneficial natural treatment when you’re suffering from diarrhea.
Diarrhea is water and loose bowel movements or stool. If you have three or more loose bowel movements in a day, you have diarrhea. Acute diarrhea doesn’t last very long and is a common issue for many people. It typically lasts for no more than a couple of days and will go away on its own.
If your diarrhea lasts for more than the common one to two days, it could indicate a more serious problem. For instance, if you have chronic diarrhea continuing for more than four weeks, it could be a sign of a chronic disease, and you’ll want to have your doctor check you out right away.
Anyone can get diarrhea, no matter what age they are. Adults in the U.S., on average, have acute diarrhea at least once annually. Children have it at least twice a year on average. Those visiting other countries and consuming contaminated water or food may end up with traveler’s diarrhea.
The primary symptom of diarrhea is when you pass watery, loose bowel movements more than a couple of times a day.
With diarrhea, you may also experience symptoms such as:
If an infection causes your diarrhea, you may experience:
Diarrhea could lead to malabsorption and dehydration.
A study shows diarrhea-related death in children in the U.S. declined significantly from the 1960s and into the 1980s. Between the first three years and the last two years of the study, there was a 40 percent increase in the diarrhea-related death rate. And, while mortality among children in the U.S. did stabilize, it seems to be growing recently.
Perhaps surprisingly, several types of diarrhea exist, including:
You have acute diarrhea when you have three or more loose, watery bowel movements a day lasting for 13 days or less. When you have it 14 days or more, doctors call it persistent. Infectious agents like bacteria, viruses or parasites usually cause acute diarrhea, and the condition doesn’t require medicine unless you’re immunocompromised.
This type lasts two weeks or longer. Persistent diarrhea may result from an underlying condition, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome.
If your diarrhea continues for more than a month, it’s chronic diarrhea. Like persistent diarrhea, chronic, inflammatory bowel conditions, like colitis and Crohn’s disease, are often associated with it.
Traveler’s diarrhea is an intestinal and stomach infection occurring due to unsanitary food handling. If food handlers don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, they can transmit the infection to others who are consuming the contaminated food.
Certain developing countries have a higher risk of contracting traveler’s diarrhea, such as the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Your risk of traveler’s diarrhea will depend on where you’re consuming the food. You have a relatively low risk if you’re eating food you prepare on your own, and a higher likelihood if consuming food from street vendors. The E. coli bacterium is the most common offender.
Four other mechanisms of how the illness occurs can put diarrhea under a whole different classification. These types of diarrhea include:
All types of diarrhea can lead to dehydration and keep your body from performing its essential functions. If left untreated, this can result in other serious problems like:
You can avoid these complications by receiving proper treatment promptly.
Acute diarrhea is typically harmless. But you’re at risk of dehydration with chronic diarrhea due to fluid loss. Dehydration can be life-threatening, so it’s crucial you’re drinking lots of fluids. You may be suffering from dehydration if you experience:
If you experience any signs of dehydration, see your doctor.
Your small intestine works to absorb nutrients. Small intestine malfunctions leading to chronic diarrhea can result in malnutrition.
Diarrhea can hinder your absorption of nutrients and lead to malnutrition. Additionally, malnutrition makes you more susceptible to infections resulting in diarrhea. Symptoms and signs of malnutrition include:
When your intestines don’t absorb fluids, minerals or electrolytes stay in your stool, and when you have a bout of diarrhea, they get flushed out. Your body needs the right electrolyte balance to support organ functions, maintain blood chemistry and help in muscle actions.
While studies of the mental effects of diarrhea are limited, there may be a link between certain symptoms and corresponding emotional responses. Some responses may include:
For instance, diarrhea is common in people with HIV/AIDS and is quite distressing to them.
One study, in particular, shows an association between diarrhea and poor quality of life in patients with certain illnesses like HIV/AIDS. These patients claimed their diarrhea was controlling them — it made them feel dirty and ashamed. Not being able to control where and when they experienced diarrhea caused these patients with a great deal of emotional distress.
Diarrhea often makes individuals fearful of being humiliated in public if they experience fecal incontinence. It leaves these individuals feeling like they need to limit their activities to avoid the possibility of this happening. Living a more inhibited life can result in conditions such as:
Symptoms of diarrhea can also lead to anxiety when it undermines the individual’s sense of control over their health and increases feelings of vulnerability.
Facts related to diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
The Cleveland Clinic estimates:
If your diarrhea is short-term and mild, you typically don’t need to take anything for it. You may try to alleviate symptoms with over-the-counter medications like loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate.
Diarrhea will stop on its own without treatment in a couple of days. Your doctor may prescribe you certain medications or another treatment if home remedies and lifestyle changes don’t stop your diarrhea.
If you have a condition causing your diarrhea, such as inflammatory bowel disease, your physician will prescribe treatment to control the condition. They may also refer you to a gastroenterologist.
Common diarrhea treatment methods are listed below.
The ideal way to replace your fluids is by drinking water, but water doesn’t contain essential electrolytes, salts and minerals like potassium and sodium. Your body needs these. Along with water, eat soup for sodium and drink fruit juices to get your potassium. Don’t drink apple juice, however, because it can make your diarrhea worse.
If you experience more occurrences of diarrhea or an upset stomach by drinking fluids, your doctor may suggest you receive your fluids through a vein in your arm.
The doctor may suggest an oral rehydration solution for children like Pedialyte to replace fluids or prevent dehydration.
If parasites or bacteria are causing your diarrhea, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. However, antibiotics won’t help if you have diarrhea due to a virus. Side effects of antibiotics could include:
See your doctor if you’re experiencing side effects from the antibiotics. They may prescribe you another treatment.
While medical cannabis does treat diarrhea and constipation, in some cases, it could cause them too. Patients who vaporize or smoke medical pot don’t experience these symptoms. But, if you use oils or edibles to treat your illness, you could experience these side effects.
According to some earlier studies, THC can slow your digestive tract down. Oils and edibles could have ingredients in them affecting how slowly or quickly your digestive system processes food.
With common cases of this condition, diarrhea can go away without treatment, but if it persists, an individual may become extremely dehydrated or pass blood in their stool. Medical marijuana is a potentially beneficial treatment option for bowel disorders and stomach problems. With the use of cannabis as an alternative treatment option, symptoms of diarrhea have subsided greatly, and the overall condition of the patient improved as well.
Cannabis works as a motivator for the anodyne part of morphine, which stimulates the central nervous system and serves as a natural appetite booster. Medical marijuana makes a phenomenal stride in the department of speeding up your digestive tract to recover faster from your condition.
Cannabinoid receptor agonists interrupt and delay gastric emptying in both rodents and humans. They could also hinder gastric acid secretion. THC and other synthetic and natural cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory properties. The cannabinoids in cannabis for diarrhea helps stop the cramping by relaxing intestinal smooth muscle contractions.
Your body has cannabinoids called anandamides affecting the neurological systems. These systems control your gastrointestinal system. Internal and external cannabinoids have great control over gastrointestinal inflammation and motility, according to research. Additionally, they help reduce gastrointestinal fluid secretion.
Although researchers are still building evidence, those with a basic understanding of medical cannabis know how it relieves symptoms in different conditions. Medical marijuana can significantly help with gastrointestinal system disorders like nausea and poor appetite.
Activated cannabinoids can:
Cannabinoids like CBD and THC enter your body in the gut through key receptors. They work as anti-inflammatories while signaling your brain to improve regulation of your systems.
Like with most conditions, medical cannabis for diarrhea works by treating the symptoms. Therefore, when choosing your medical cannabis strain, you want to specifically target the symptoms you’re experiencing with your diarrhea. As mentioned above, weed can help with abdominal pain and cramping, inflammation, nausea, loss of appetite, depression and anxiety and other symptoms.
Below are some common strains to target these specific symptoms.
Abdominal Pain and Cramping
Loss of Appetite
Depression and Anxiety
Medical cannabis is a plant with a complex chemical form and isn’t the same as taking a pill. Budtenders can grow the plants in a lab to create different variations of strains to help with different conditions and symptoms.
Administering your marijuana and diarrhea treatment is also part of this equation and also has different variations. You may consume cannabis in many ways. Each way will have its benefits and drawbacks, and you don’t get the same dosage in each delivery method. You’ll likely go through a trial-and-error phase before you get marijuana’s medicinal value perfectly tailored to your symptoms.
However, once you find the methods working for you through experimentation, you’ll begin seeing the benefits. Patients have tried these delivery methods with success, and they could be a good starting point for you.
A cannabis doctor will be able to give you recommendations for your symptoms, but you’ll still have a lot of leeway in finding the right cannabis and diarrhea treatment strain and delivery method that’s right for you.
If you’re interested in beginning marijuana and diarrhea treatment, need more information or are seeking consultation from a medical cannabis physician, visit our website to begin your search for a doctor or find a dispensary. MarijuanaDoctors.com pre-screens all their cannabis doctors to ensure they’re licensed and experienced to prescribe marijuana for your qualifying condition. They’ll help you tailor the perfect medical weed treatment regimen for your unique situation.