Research on Cannabis and IBS Says it May Get You Up and Running Again

Christine Colbert August 5, 2020 0 comments

A new survey shows shorter hospital stays for IBS patients who consume cannabis.

A newly presented study is giving scientists more reason to analyze cannabis consumption for treatment of symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The study was presented online by Digestive Disease Week, after the May 2 (2020) conference was canceled due to COVID-19. In it, the authors correlated IBS and cannabis consumption with fewer readmissions to hospital.[1]Choi CJ, et al. Cannabis use is associated with reduced 30-day readmission among hospitalized patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a nationwide analysis. DDW 2020; Abstract #Mo1560.

The authors theorized that cannabis consumption may have eased symptoms of IBS. Using 2016 data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, they showed that thirty-day readmission rates among non-cannabis patients were higher (12.7 percent) than those who had consumed cannabis (8.1 percent).

The data they collected also showed lower hospitalization charges among cannabis consuming patients. However, researchers haven’t yet determined what all of that means. Not much research has been done in regard to cannabis and IBS. But there have been a few preliminary studies about how the ECS and cannabinoid therapy might affect the gastrointestinal system, which can give us a few clues.

ibs and cannabis represented by girl hunched over holding stomach

The Endocannabinoid System and IBS

A review published this year in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2020) investigated what role the endocannabinoid system (ECS) might play in IBS.[2]Pandey, Samiksha, et al. Endocannabinoid System in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Cannabis as a Therapy. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, 13 Nov. 2019, … Continue reading In it, they wrote that there is significant evidence supporting the idea that the ECS modulates the gastrointestinal (GI) system. But, they noted that much more research is needed — particularly cannabinoid research — to further ascertain how the ECS might be involved in the development of IBS.

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The researchers stated that until cannabis is removed as a Schedule I drug in the United States, there remains a rather large gap in knowledge. Scientists need the ability to conduct human trials in order to find out how IBS and cannabis interact in the human body. More study can also illuminate effectiveness, dosage, toxicity level and safety profile of cannabis for IBS treatment.

So far, we know that there are CB1 receptors in the GI tract. And it may be possible that cannabinoid treatment could influence these receptors. The ECS also plays a role in modulating inflammation, another avenue by which cannabis could potentially help.

What’s the Difference Between IBS and IBD in Cannabis Treatment?

While there has been little research in regard to IBS and cannabis, there have been numerous studies on cannabis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The two conditions are different, yet the authors of the review in Complementary Therapies in Medicine theorized that there were enough similarities to make some findings relevant.

So, what are the differences between IBS and IBD? IBS is a disorder or a syndrome, rather than a disease. Symptoms include chronic abdominal pain, constipation, gassiness, bloating, and nausea. IBS does not cause inflammation or IBD. However, some patients with IBD experience symptoms of IBS. And we know that CB2 receptors are highly expressed in gastrointestinal cells, which, when activated, can decrease inflammation.

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An animal study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (2009) showed that activating CB2 receptors protected against colitis, a condition where inflammation of the lining of the colon occurs.[3]Storr, Martin A, et al. Activation of the Cannabinoid 2 Receptor (CB2) Protects against Experimental Colitis. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2009, … Continue reading Another study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in 2019 concluded that CBD and palmitoylethanolamide — an endogenous fatty acid amide — could reduce inflammation-induced permeability in the gastrointestinal tract.[4]Couch DG, et al. Palmitoylethanolamide and Cannabidiol Prevent Inflammation-Induced Hyperpermeability of the Human Gut In Vitro and In Vivo-A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Controlled … Continue reading

ibs and cannabis represented by girl on bed holding stomach

Cannabis For Symptoms of IBD

An interesting study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (2014), found that cannabis consumption may help alleviate symptoms of IBD. But in a surprise twist, they concluded that cannabis could cause problems for patients suffering from Crohn’s disease. The authors drew their results from a survey of patients admitted to the University of Calgary Gastroenterology outpatient department.[5]Storr, et al. Cannabis Use Provides Symptom Relief in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease but Is Associated with Worse Disease Prognosis in Patients with Crohn’s Disease. OUP Academic, … Continue reading

A study published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2016), analyzed the consumption of cannabis for treatment of IBD and its implications. The authors concluded that while a significant percentage of IBD patients consume cannabis to alleviate their symptoms, objective evidence proving its efficacy remains unseen.[6]Ahmed, Waseem, and Seymour Katz. Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Millennium Medical Publishing, Nov. 2016, … Continue reading

Future Study of IBS and Cannabis

IBS is very common, and it affects ten to fifteen percent of adults in the United States. Symptoms are especially prevalent for patients when also experiencing stress. These symptoms of IBS can be disruptive to daily life, and there is no unified treatment plan. In fact, the causes of IBS remain unclear to science, and treatment can range from pharmaceutical medications to psychological treatment.

So far, science has discovered that IBS symptoms can occur in response to external stimuli. These responses cause spasms in the GI tract and irregular colon motility patterns. Scientists believe a healthy ECS maintains homeostasis in the body. This means further research into its effects on the GI system could provide more answers. But until we see more randomized, double-blind studies involving human IBS patients, conclusions will remain elusive.