Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
When you have diverticulitis, you have an infection or inflammation in your diverticula. Diverticula are small pouches found in the digestive system that don’t cause harm on their own. But, when they become infected or inflamed, they can result in abdominal pain, as well as symptoms like fever and nausea.
As a powerful painkiller and anti-inflammatory, cannabis works wonderfully for patients dealing with the most common diverticulitis symptoms. In addition to using other drugs to fight off infection, a patient can use medical marijuana to reduce their symptoms and make the recovery process more comfortable.
While a decent amount of research on cannabis treatment for Crohn’s disease is out there, scientists still don’t have much on inflammatory bowel disease. Both diseases involve GI inflammation, just like diverticulitis. To expand on the current knowledge, Allegretti et al. surveyed IBD patients about their marijuana use to understand its relation to symptom relief.
The team asked patients who attended an IBD clinic to fill out a 46-question questionnaire. First, patients needed to provide basic demographic information and report their IBD symptoms. Then, they were asked if they had ever used cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. Medical users then added if they used it to treat IBD-related symptoms, as well as how effectively cannabis worked for them.
Out of 292 patients who finished the form, 48 of them (32%) said they used cannabis medically. Those who used it to treat their GI issues mostly rated medical marijuana as “very helpful” or “completely relieving” for their symptoms.
Many studies — like the one we talked about above — suggest marijuana medicine could have a positive effect on bowel inflammation. But, Naftali et al. wanted to look at its benefits in a controlled trial.
So, they worked with patients with severe Crohn’s disease who didn’t find success with steroids and other standard remedies. Over eight weeks, half of the patients received THC-rich cannabis cigarettes, while the other half took a placebo. The researchers checked in with the subjects at the beginning and every two weeks afterward, and the patients completed quality of life and side effect surveys.
Out of 11 patients who received marijuana, five of them had complete remission, compared to one out of 10 in the placebo group. Five other patients in the cannabis group had a large decrease in symptoms. In addition, three of the patients using medical marijuana were able to stop taking steroids.
According to previous research, certain variations in someone’s endocannabinoid system could affect how IBS patients experience diarrhea. So, Wong et al. conducted a placebo-controlled study to see how a synthetic cannabinoid, dronabinol, impacted IBS patients’ diarrhea symptoms.
The researchers divided their subjects into three groups — one that took a placebo, one that had 2.5mg of dronabinol and one with 5mg of dronabinol. They observed the patients’ colonic functions before and after giving them their assigned dose. Then, they looked at their colons before and after a meal consisting of a high-calorie milkshake.
Dronabinol reduced all subjects’ colonic motility, or the movement of their bowels. Regardless of the source of their diarrhea, patients with an inflamed GI had symptom relief from the treatment. Interestingly, it lowered motility the most for patients with diarrhea problems, and those who didn’t have diarrhea didn’t have to worry about constipation.
As you can see, medicinal marijuana can help you manage the symptoms of digestive tract disorders like diverticulitis. To learn more about the condition, read our comprehensive guide to cannabis and diverticulitis. Ready to get treatment? Get in touch with a cannabis-friendly doctor near you today.