Cannabis for IBS: A Look at What We Know in 2022

With IBS affecting as much as 20 percent of the global population and being notoriously difficult to treat, many with IBS symptoms turn to alternative therapies for help. Cannabis just happens to be one of those alternative therapies. When it comes to cannabis and IBS, there has been legitimate medical interest and a lot of anecdotal reports about its effectiveness. But does cannabis help IBS? Take a look at what we know so far below.

Table of Contents

  • A Closer Look at IBS
  • Can Cannabis Help IBS?
  • Can Cannabis Cause IBS or Exacerbate IBS Symptoms?
  • Concluding Thoughts

First, a Closer Look at IBS

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is an ambiguous condition that is characterized by often debilitating digestive symptoms. These symptoms may be triggered by emotional distress and eating certain foods. Symptoms of IBS can include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Mucous in stool
  • Painful cramping

IBS is considered a “syndrome” because it is most often diagnosed when other conditions like Crohn’s disease, intestinal infections, or parasites are ruled out. In other words, the exact cause of IBS is not usually clear even though the symptoms can be consistent or similar among all IBS sufferers.

While the exact causes of IBS are not clear, researchers have been able to pin down a few things taking place in the body. For example, a ground-breaking study in 2021 found that IBS sufferers seem to have heightened levels of histamines in their intestines after eating certain foods, such as certain grains or proteins. This leads to inflammation and may trigger related symptoms. Therefore, an immune response is thought to be related to IBS, much like some level of disruption between how the gut and brain interact is speculated to be to blame.

Does Cannabis Help IBS?

Cannabis and IBS have been an ongoing topic of discussion for nearly two decades. In 2003, Ethan Russo—a pioneer in cannabis research—proposed that IBS may be related to cannabinoid deficiency in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Nevertheless, there has not been enough clinically documented information to conclude that cannabis treatment for IBS should be recommended.

Numerous studies have been done to examine whether cannabis and cannabinoids could hold therapeutic potential for IBS. However, many studies have been animal-based, and some human studies have not offered conclusive results. What we know for certain is cannabinoid receptors are distributed throughout the gut and nervous system, and activation of these receptors may offer key benefits, such as:

  • Decreased gut secretions and intestinal motility
  • Decreased nausea
  • Better levels of pain control
  • Inhibition of pro-inflammatory production by the immune system

A retrospective study in 2020 did find that cannabis use may potentially be associated with a decreased level of medical care for IBS sufferers. For example, cannabis users with IBS were less likely to have an upper GI or lower GI endoscopy and experienced shorter hospital stays than non-cannabis users.

Can Weed Cause IBS or Exacerbate IBS Symptoms?

In theory, it would be unlikely for cannabis use to cause IBS or worsen IBS symptoms. As noted above, the exact causes of IBS are not totally clear, but they do seem to have some relationship to complicated biological functions like immune response and the interaction between the gut and brain.

There can be exceptions for some people and some cannabis products, however. For example, an individual may be sensitive to ingredients used in certain cannabis extracts or products, such as MCT oil or flavor additives in edibles. With this in mind, IBS sufferers may be better suited to more natural forms of cannabis than to try cannabis oil for IBS or certain edibles.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis and IBS

While many people find cannabis seems to help with IBS, so far, scientific research doesn’t offer a firm answer. Just the same, if you are an IBS sufferer who finds relief with cannabis, be sure to stop in and see us or take a look at our menu at Lucid. We’re always happy to help customers looking for wellness benefits from premium cannabis products.

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