Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that impacts an estimated 780,000 Americans. The disease is more prevalent among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35 and researchers have estimated that between six and 15 new cases of Crohn’s disease are diagnosed per 100,000 people each year. However, despite the prevalence of this disease, the causes of Crohn’s continue to elude the medical community.
Science and Symptoms
Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This differs from ulcerative colitis, another inflammatory bowel disease, which is limited to the colon.
While symptoms of Crohn’s vary from patient to patient, symptoms related to inflammation of the GI tract include persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding,abdominal cramps and pain and constipation. Other general symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and night sweats.
There is no cure for Crohn’s. Those living with the disease may be prescribed medications such as steroids and immunosuppressants to slow the progression of the disease and anti inflammatory medications can be used to treat symptoms. If these aren’t effective, a patient may require surgery.
Another treatment that has led to success for some of those suffering from Crohn’s disease is cannabidiol. When CBD is ingested, it interacts with receptors in the stomach, brain, and large and small intestines. Once these receptors interact with CBD, they can stimulate the body to prevent symptoms of illness like nausea, stomach acid irregularities, and vomiting.
Researchers have studied the effectiveness of CBD in treating the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and found some promising results. Here are three studies looking at the power of CBD and other cannabis-based substances and how they can help people living with Crohn’s disease.
The Role of Cannabis in the Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
This year, the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases journal published a study commissioned by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. The study reviewed clinical, scientific, and regulatory information related to medical cannabis use in inflammatory bowel disease. According to the report, cannabis use is common among IBD patients, with the majority of patients using cannabis to control IBD-related symptoms including pain, nausea, poor appetite, and sleep disturbances.
According to the study, animal models of cannabinoid chemistry and physiology show evidence of the substance’s anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal, and nociceptive-limiting properties. Additionally, human studies have shown the impact cannabis has on controlling symptoms and improving quality of life. The report also cites a study of 292 IBD patients in the United States. According to the study 12.3 percent of IBD patients reported current cannabis use. These users noted significant improvement in abdominal pain, poor appetite, nausea, and diarrhea. However, despite this promising anecdotal evidence, the IBD journal report indicates no studies have established true disease modification given the absent improvement in biomarker profiles or endoscopic healing.
Cannabidiol reduces intestinal inflammation
In 2011, researchers in Italy released a study looking at the impact of CBD on intestinal inflammation, one of the contributing factors in Crohn’s disease. The study examined the use of CBD on tissue biopsies from 18 subjects between the ages of 33 and 65 who underwent a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer. Eight of the subjects were in good general health without any previous medical or surgical history and 10 of the subjects had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
The findings of the study suggest CBD oil is a potent compound that is able to modulate experimental gut inflammation. The study demonstrates that during intestinal inflammation, CBD is able to control inflammation and the subsequent intestinal apoptosis through the restoration of the altered glia-immune homeostasis. The researchers concluded that CBD appears to be a promising therapeutic agent that modulates the neuro-immune axis, which has been recognized as a new target in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disorders.
Treatment of Crohn’s disease with cannabis: an observational study
In 2011, the Israel Medical Association Journal released the results of the first study examining the response of patients with Crohn’s disease to cannabis use. The study included 30 Crohn’s patients who were legally using cannabis because they’d had few results using conventional treatments.
All 30 patients rated their general medical well-being as improved after cannabis use. Twenty-one patients had a notable improvement after treatment with cannabis use. While 26 patients required corticosteroid therapy prior to cannabis use, only four patients were still maintained on corticosteroids after cannabis use, suggesting a possible corticosteroidsparing effect of cannabis. Additionally, only two patients required surgery during the three years of cannabis use.
Crohn’s disease in the US
Crohn’s disease costs the United States an estimated $3.6 annually. Additionally, the cost of healthcare for those living with the disease is $8265 per year. These numbers illustrate the need for innovative treatments to help suffers mitigate their symptoms and continue living their lives.
Before taking CBD, those living with Crohn’s disease should first consult their doctor to determine if the substance is right for them. Medical professionals and scientists agree more research into CBD is needed to determine its effectiveness in treating the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. However, CBD is already providing relief for hundreds of people living with Crohn’s. If you’re one of them, share your story in the comments.