Updated on January 11, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Vomiting, nausea and feeling full even if you’ve only eaten a little food may be signs that you suffer from a condition known as gastroparesis. This rare disorder prevents the stomach from emptying properly leading to a whole slew of gastrointestinal issues.
Doctors aren’t always sure what causes patients to develop gastroparesis. It’s believed that in most cases it’s caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the movement of muscles in the stomach. It’s the vagus nerve’s responsibility to signal muscles to contract, pushing food into the small intestine. If the nerve is damaged, food stays in the stomach for longer than normal.
The most common ways patients develop an injury to the vagus leading to gastroparesis is by diseases, infection or surgery in this area of the body. Some symptoms that may develop in patients with gastroparesis include:
Unfortunately, there is no cure for gastroparesis. Patients who suffer from this condition struggle with symptoms for years, and it can even be a lifetime ailment. The disorder can lead to other serious complications, including decreased quality of life. Although some medications do help mitigate symptoms, cannabidiol (CBD) could be the treatment that gastroparesis patients need.
Researchers have just recently discovered how influential the endocannabinoid system is to many bodily functions. It’s this system’s job to bring balance and equilibrium to the body. It does this through a series of receptors found throughout the body. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in sensations of pain, mood and even digestion.
Cannabinoid receptors found in the gastrointestinal system are called CB1 receptors, and they regulate many essential functions, including:
Although the negative symptoms associated with gastroparesis are associated with the condition’s impact on the vagus nerve, the side effects could be exacerbated due to low levels of the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids and fewer active endocannabinoid receptors. This leads to increased levels of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Cannabis is an amazing plant, and its healing properties are undeniable. The cannabinoids contained within it mimic our body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids, which are essential to proper bodily homeostasis. CBD is a cannabinoid in marijuana that can be extracted and used medicinally. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid in cannabis, it has no psychoactive properties. This means CBD will not get users high.
CBD can be used to treat several different medical conditions effectively, including gastrointestinal disorders like gastroparesis. Since there is no cure for this condition, doctors attempt to manage its negative side effects using various treatment methods. CBD makes up for any cannabinoid deficiencies a patient may be experiencing due to their gastroparesis.
CBD binds to endocannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestinal system, which allows these types of medications to modulate nausea and vomiting and to act as an analgesic to any abdominal discomfort the patient may be experiencing.
Most patients with gastroparesis must visit a professional nutritionist to discuss diet changes. Although this helps, they also are prescribed a series of medications, including drugs to increase stomach motility and prevent vomiting and nausea. However, many of these drugs lose their effectiveness over time, and some can even cause serious side effects.
CBD meds are all-natural and don’t produce the high commonly associated with medical marijuana. Although further testing will prove the effectiveness of these holistic treatments, research has shown very mild side effects associated with CBD. And unlike other medications, CBD can tackle multiple symptoms related to gastrointestinal issues like gastroparesis.
CBD also comes in multiple forms, so patients can find something to suit their individual symptoms and lifestyle preferences. Some common types of CBD products include:
Though there are many kinds of CBD products on the market, not all of them may be appropriate for patients with gastroparesis. This condition makes ingesting food difficult, which means edible CBD products may be ineffective since it requires patients to eat CBD-infused foods and wait for the digestive process to send the meds into their bloodstream. Gastroparesis patients suffering from nausea and vomiting may not be able to do this.
Topicals are also ineffective for this condition, as they typically focus on external issues that can be treated by applying creams or ointments to the skin.
The best CBD products for gastroparesis patients are either tinctures or vaporizers. Tinctures can be placed under the tongue and are absorbed into the bloodstream, and vaping CBD allows patients to inhale the beneficial medications. Both methods are quick and effective.
CBD is still federally banned because it is derived from the marijuana plant. However, you can make an appointment with a marijuana doctor in your state to discuss CBD medications and receive a recommendation for your state’s medical marijuana program.
Learn more about Gastroparesis and what makes medical marijuana an effective treatment for Gastroparesis’s symptoms.