Updated on January 31, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder with crippling side effects that hinder the lives of millions of Americans. What starts as chronic inflammation eventually begins to impact organs in the digestive tract. IBD affects the way these organs function and can lead to a host of adverse symptoms.
Since there is no cure for the two conditions associated with IBD — Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) — all treatment plans are aimed at managing symptoms and decreasing intestinal inflammation. If medication fails to do this, serious complications can develop. At this point, most doctors suggest aggressive treatment plans that include surgical options.
However, before a patient takes this drastic step, they should consider every potential treatment option. Medical marijuana has come into the picture more recently as a viable medication for IBD patients that should be considered before surgery.
For years, many doctors and researchers thought IBD and its requisite intestinal inflammation was caused by an autoimmune disorder. These types of conditions cause inflammation as the body begins to attack itself. Although doctors aren’t sure of the actual cause of IBD, they now believe it begins when the immune system attacks some harmless bacteria, a virus or even food in the gut.
Whatever the reason, both Crohn’s and UC produce similar symptoms, which include:
Almost half of the patients with UC and 75 percent of those with Crohn’s end up undergoing surgery for their IBD symptoms. Most choose to get surgery because their symptoms are becoming unmanageable and medication is no longer effective. However, in emergency situations, surgery also becomes necessary. Some of the most common IBD emergencies include:
Many different surgeries can aid IBD patients. Most involve removing a portion of one of the gastrointestinal organs. Because of this, you should always exhaust all other options before considering these procedures. The most common types of IBD surgeries are:
Cannabis is not a cure for inflammatory bowel disease. However, it has shown incredible promise as a treatment that aids gastrointestinal health. Using medical marijuana as an IBD treatment could act as a preventative measure. Some of the herb’s medicinal benefits could keep the serious complications associated with IBD from developing. It can also help lead to times of remission, periods where the patient is symptom-free.
But how does medical marijuana treat IBD? There are three main ways that the plant helps treat inflammatory bowel disease, leading to longer periods of remission and lessening the risk of surgery:
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease, check out our resources: