Can Medical Marijuana Be Used to Prevent IBD Surgery?


Can Medical Marijuana Be Used to Prevent IBD Surgery?

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.

IBD Causes and Symptoms

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:

  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Anemia

Reasons for IBD Surgery

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:

  • Severe attack of untreatable UC
  • Perforation, or hole, in the colon
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Uncontrollable intestinal bleeding
  • Perforation of the bowel
  • Fistula — severe ulcers which tunnel between different parts of the GI system
  • Abscess
  • Toxic megacolon

IBD Surgical Procedures

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:

  • Proctocolectomy: Removal of the rectum and colon
  • Colectomy: Removal of the colon
  • Ileum: Removal of the small intestine’s lower portion
  • Ileostomy: A permanent or temporary hole created in the abdomen for the elimination of waste

Preventing IBD Surgery with Medical Marijuana

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.

Treating IBD With Cannabis

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:

  1. Fights Inflammation: Cannabis has incredible anti-inflammatory properties. The two most common compounds found in the herb, THC and CBD, are known as cannabinoids and engage with our immune system’s cells. Not only do they hinder the proteins that cause inflammation, but they also encourage anti-inflammatory proteins. With cannabis helping to fight inflammation, patients can look forward to longer periods of remission.
  2. Lessens Abdominal Pain: One of the most debilitating symptoms associated with IBD is abdominal pain. Cannabis is a known analgesic or pain reliever that works with our body’s endocannabinoid system to block pain receptors sending messages to the brain.
  3. Helps With Weight Gain: Although most people would complain about gaining weight, many IBD patients are at risk of malnutrition because of severe nausea and the loss of appetite caused by the condition. While we joke about weed giving people the “munchies,” the hunger-inducing quality of cannabis is just what IBD patients need to eat regular meals and gain back strength.

Our advice can’t replace that of a doctor or dispensary staff member. Use our search engine to find a weed-friendly practice or dispensary near you today.

Additional Inflammatory Bowel Disease & Cannabis Resources

For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease, check out our resources: