Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Have you ever felt bloated after eating a meal, even if it wasn’t big? Or have you ever eaten something that did not wholly agree with you? You might recall a time in your life when you’ve experienced dyspepsia, commonly called indigestion. It’s possible you experience dyspepsia regularly and do not know why or how to manage it. In this article, we will explore the causes of dyspepsia and available treatments. We’ll also look at medical marijuana and how it might be an effective treatment for patients who experience frequent indigestion.
Dyspepsia has a couple of different names, such as indigestion or upset stomach. It is very common and affects about one in four Americans every year. It may only happen once in a while, or it can persist for months. Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine a specific cause, which can be frustrating for patients who want indigestion to stop.
Dyspepsia is not a disease. Instead, it is a term to describe a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, including:
Individuals with indigestion may also experience heartburn, but heartburn and indigestion are not the same.
There are many possible causes of dyspepsia, such as swallowing too much air. Other times, the source remains unknown.
A few common causes include:
Sometimes dyspepsia is a sign of a more severe condition. The following conditions can cause dyspepsia:
Many times, dyspepsia does not have any complications. However, it can make life less enjoyable. With that said, because dyspepsia can be a sign of a serious condition, you’ll want to look out for certain symptoms. If you experience any of the following, call your doctor:
If you go to your doctor to treat indigestion, they will likely suggest you do the following:
The right treatment mainly depends on the cause of your dyspepsia. For example, if a bacterium like Helicobacter pylori causes your indigestion, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic such as amoxicillin. If you have heartburn with your indigestion, they might prescribe an acid reducer like Zantac or a proton pump inhibitor such as Prevacid. Lastly, your doctor might prescribe a prokinetic to help your stomach empty faster.
Depending on the medication your doctor prescribes, you may experience specific side effects.
Antacids like Tums may cause the following side effects:
Medications that decrease stomach acid production like Zantac may cause:
Prokinetics such as Urecholine may cause:
Marijuana can help treat a wide array of conditions, including those that cause indigestion, such as stress, IBS, anxiety or depression. Patients who suffer from dyspepsia due to opioid use may also benefit from medical marijuana treatment. Here are a few reasons to consider medical cannabis for quick, natural relief.
According to an article published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, marijuana is beneficial for stomach pain and discomfort. That is because cannabis activates cannabinoid receptors in the gut and alters gastrointestinal (GI) motility and secretion. Motility refers to the movements of the digestive tract. When the GI tract does not function properly, it can cause motility issues leading to disorders such as GERD, IBS or gastroparesis – all possible causes of indigestion. Also, cannabis is clinically recognized as preventing or relieving nausea. With this knowledge, scientists can develop cannabis medicine that specifically targets cannabinoids in the GI tract to treat a wide variety of stomach issues.
Cannabis stomach medicine is nothing new. Doctors have been using cannabis to treat stomach ailments for centuries. For example, Galen, a doctor in the Roman Empire, probably used cannabis to treat stomach pain and gas. Li Shih-Chen, a scholar and pharmacologist, first used marijuana as a treatment for nausea in 1578. In the 19th century, it was a common remedy in India, and in the early 20th century, physicians mixed it with morphine as a stomach medicine in America. However, American drug laws restricted research for most of the 20th century, until states began passing new marijuana laws in recent years.
Individuals who experience a lot of stress, or who struggle to manage stress, may experience dyspepsia more than those who are not as tense. According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, many studies show stress impacts the GI system. For example, researchers found stress, anxiety and a negative outlook increase the chance that patients with gastroenteritis will develop IBS.
Also, patients with GERD and anxiety notice worsening symptoms during stressful events. Some evidence shows continuous stress causes inflammation in the lining of the stomach, which can cause stomach pain and dyspepsia. Stress also increases movement in the gut and fluid secretion, which can lead to a range of symptoms from diarrhea to discomfort. Lastly, stress may lead individuals to overeat or drink too much alcohol – both which can cause dyspepsia.
Medical marijuana helps patients unwind when stress becomes overwhelming. For many patients, cannabis is a great way to take time out, recharge and even have a good laugh – all natural, healthy ways to relieve stress. With that said, patients must realize that for cannabis to work as a stress reliever, they must take an appropriate dose. As researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago found, though low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reduce stress, too much THC can increase stress and anxiety.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression may cause dyspepsia. Marijuana might help patients enjoy better mental health, which in turn could improve dyspepsia symptoms.
According to a researcher at the University of Washington, the two main chemical ingredients in cannabis, THC, and cannabidiol (CBD), both play different roles when it comes to anxiety. Lower levels of THC seem to reduce anxiety, while high levels increase it. On the contrary, pure CBD appears to decrease anxiety in all doses. Overall, many people report using marijuana to treat anxiety. Speaking with a certified cannabis doctor will help you determine the right amount of THC and CBD for your needs.
Likewise, cannabis may help stabilize mood by restoring normal endocannabinoid function, thus relieving depression. According to scientists at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions, marijuana may be effective at reducing depression resulting from chronic stress.
If you experience pain for any reason, whether it is from a chronic condition or temporary illness, your first reaction might be to reach for an over-the-counter medication like aspirin or ibuprofen. However, if you also commonly experience indigestion, it might be better to avoid pain medications and use medical marijuana for pain relief instead.
Common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen might impact stomach health. NSAIDs can cause minor complications such as indigestion or stomach discomfort, as well as more severe issues like stomach bleeding. Some NSAIDs even increase the risk of a heart attack.
Prescription painkillers can also be problematic regarding dyspepsia because constipation is a common side effect of opioid use, and constipation can cause dyspepsia. Around 90 percent of individuals who use opioids, even if they only take these drugs once, experience constipation as a result.
People have used cannabis around the world for centuries as a pain reliever. Several clinical trials provide evidence that cannabis is effective for pain. However, it will require more research to confirm the best dose of marijuana for pain relief.
Medical marijuana can successfully treat a wide range of conditions associated with dyspepsia. For example, patients with stomach cancer who experience dyspepsia may benefit from marijuana therapy because cannabinoids have been shown to inhibit tumor cell growth.
Also, cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties. Many conditions that cause dyspepsia also cause inflammation. For example, gastritis, which is inflammation of the stomach lining, causes indigestion symptoms such as stomach pain and nausea. Marijuana may help reduce gastric inflammation, providing dyspepsia relief. Lastly, multiple preclinical studies show cannabis protects the stomach lining from damage.
Individuals experiencing dyspepsia might find cannabis relieves a variety of their symptoms, including:
The type of strain you choose for your relief depends on several different factors. You’ll need to consider the time of day you feel most comfortable consuming marijuana and think about the effects you want to feel. For example, if you do not wish to experience psychoactive effects, but still want relaxing pain relief, you might consider a product with high CBD levels. Here some strains that may help relieve indigestion.
There are several ways to consume medical marijuana, each of which has disadvantages and advantages. It’s up to you which method to choose and what you feel comfortable with. Here are common ways to consume medical cannabis.
Before taking medical cannabis for dyspepsia, it is essential to consider the possible side effects. Medical marijuana specialists recommend starting slow and small with cannabis to avoid or reduce side effects.
Cannabis side effects include:
Although dyspepsia is usually not something to worry about, it can be a sign of a serious underlying condition. It certainly can make life less comfortable. If you frequently experience indigestion, you might feel afraid to eat certain foods. If symptoms are severe enough, you may even resist going out in public. Medical marijuana can potentially help you cope with dyspepsia, and it may even treat the underlying cause.
If you would like to learn more about medical cannabis and how it can help you feel healthier and happier, MarijuanaDoctors.com is here to help. We acknowledge people have been using cannabis to heal a range of illnesses for thousands of years, but the medical community is only recently taking it seriously. We also know the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card and finding a certified doctor can be confusing, especially since laws vary between each state. We designed our site to help patients navigate the world of medical marijuana and connect with reliable doctors and dispensaries. Register today and find a qualified doctor near you, or sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay on top of the latest medical cannabis news and research.