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Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBD) : A Deeper Look At Cannabis As Treatment

The first records of cannabis use date back 5000 years. Early uses were medicinal – which is what we are slowly revisiting today. In the 20th Century, cannabis became illegal in most countries and was for decades. And now, there are still only 30 countries in the world where it is legal, making it difficult to properly research because of limited access, and possible prosecution for possession in most places.

Medical cannabis is a popular subject in Canadian culture. In fact, today, 5.3 million Canadians reported the use of cannabis products.

Although it has been legal in Canada since 2001 – and could be obtained through doctor-provided medical documentation since – it has only recently become legally accessible for recreational purposes to the public. The issue with the wider accessibility is that it is now easier to access cannabis from a recreational supplier.

So, those who need it for medical use are utilizing this option. The issue there is that it is not regulated, and with the complexities related to the treatment of various ailments, regulation is important. In fact, 46% of people using cannabis for medical purposes, are users without documentation who obtain it from unregulated sources.

Treating ailments and diseases can be very complex. Patients need to consult with a medical professional if they plan to use cannabis oil for medical purposes, so they can be informed about their options. This is also important because it provides patients with access to regulated products designed to treat their specific needs.

Cannabinoids/Endocannabinoid System

The cells in the human body actually have a network of neurotransmitters known as the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system interacts with receptors throughout the body, including ones in the brain, nervous system, muscles, fat, and digestive tract. This system can impact almost every element of the body’s operation, including immune function, metabolism, energy, bone development, mood, memory, and a laundry list more.

Cannabis has a naturally occurring element called cannabinoids, which are chemically similar to the human neurotransmitters in the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids act in a way that mimics the natural production of the receptors in this endocannabinoid system. This process has been shown to support homeostasis, resulting in the stabilization or relief of ailments associated with the endocannabinoid system.

The cells in the immune in our bodies have cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2 – attached to them. Each of these two types is responsible for a myriad of functions, and for the GI system specifically, they help with things like decreased nausea and vomiting, pain control, appetite, reduced secretion of gastric acid, T-cell reduction, and much more.

The psychological effects of ingested cannabis can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours to set in. Effects will plateau in the 2 to 4-hour range, and effects can last up to 24 hours.

Medicinal Cannabis And IBD

When it comes to inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD), cannabis shows a wealth of potential as a supplement or even as an alternative treatment.

The range of scientifically confirmed benefits includes a steep reduction in anxiety and depressive mood, which in turn is associated with a reported increase in the overall quality of life observed in patients surveyed.

In addition to this, medicinal cannabis allows for less traditional pharmaceutical drugs to be involved in the treatment, which can safeguard patients from potential side-effects observed with painkillers and other drugs involved in IBD treatment.

Potential Risks

The use of cannabis does come with some risks. Although not fatal, users who opt for unregulated options may suffer from more negative side effects because production and additives are unknown.

Short-term side effects can include fatigue, diminished motor skills, dizziness, anxiety, confusion, psychosis, hallucinations, short-term memory impairment, and decreased reaction times.

Long-term side effects can include addiction, depression, anxiety, cognitive functions, and brain development (when taken young).

Cannabis in Canada

Medical cannabis is highly regulated. In order to get a medical document to obtain it, you need to visit a healthcare practitioner and discuss your condition(s). Once the document is submitted, a healthcare professional who is versed in medical cannabis can help the patient register with a licensed producer to obtain their product.

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Watch BadGut Lecture about Medical Cannabis by Gastrointestinal Society


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