The mind-gut connection has been studied heavily in recent years, and it’s been found that there’s a lot more riding on gut health than previously thought. Conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (forms of IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can all have a wildly negative impact on someone’s quality of life.
Since these chronic illnesses have no cure, finding the right treatment can be a difficult and arduous journey. People will also respond differently to certain medications in terms of unwanted side effects, and this could deter them from seeking any further treatment. So is MMJ an effective palliative treatment for IBS symptoms? Let’s find out.
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS for short, is a gastrointestinal disorder that has a devastating impact on the large intestine. The disorder can cause a wide array of different symptoms, including:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Gas and bloating
- Mucus in the stool
- Intestinal damage (in rare cases)
The symptoms of IBS can flare up at any time, and generally affect more women than men. It is not fully understood what causes IBS, and for some people, the condition is continuous and unrelenting.
What is the treatment for IBS?
Because there is no direct cure for IBS due to its unknown cause, treatment can be difficult. The only way to manage a case of IBS is to treat the symptoms as opposed to the source. Prior to being prescribed medication, many sufferers are told to attempt at-home or natural remedies to help relieve their symptoms.
Home treatment options for IBS include:
- Increasing exercise
- Limiting caffeine intake
- Portion control and eating smaller meals throughout the day
- Stress management
- Probiotics to help restore healthy gut flora
- The avoidance of trigger foods such as fried or spicy dishes
If none of the aforementioned options work for a patient suffering from the condition, they may be put on medication to help ease symptoms. Medications commonly used in the treatment of IBS include:
- Muscle relaxants to help control muscle spasms
- Anti-constipation drugs
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)
- Loperamide (Imodium)
- Simetheicone (Gas-X)
Although these medications are designed to help treat the symptoms of IBS, they do not treat the disorder itself.
Medical marijuana and IBS relief
Humans have a number of different receptors in the brain that help send signals throughout the body. These signals control everything from pain to mood and all that’s in between. Specific receptors, known as cannabinoid receptors, are part of the endocannabinoid system. These receptors have a lot to do with how the digestive system functions.
Some researchers believe that conditions such as IBS are actually caused by a lack of these cannabinoid receptors, which leads to all those unwanted and painful symptoms. That’s where medical marijuana comes in. Although there are limited studies on the subject, some research suggests that consumption of medical marijuana can ease symptoms better than prior forms of treatment.
Can MMJ help IBS symptoms?
As mentioned above, the endocannabinoid system is partly responsible for how the gastrointestinal system functions. Marijuana has the ability to attach itself to these receptors and essentially turn them on inside the brain. When the cannabinoid receptors become activated, it allows for the proper signaling within the body, which can be a good thing when it comes to IBS.
What MMJ strain is good for IBS?
Different strains of medical marijuana will have different effects. Strains with high levels of THC (sativa), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, will cause the user to feel stronger effects due to the release of dopamine, a chemical related to the pleasure center of the brain. It can cause a person to feel relaxed and comfortable. This may be part of the reason why medical marijuana can help in the symptoms of IBS. Other strains of medical marijuana have less of the THC compound and more CBD (indica), the ingredient that can lead to symptom relief without causing cognitive impairment.
Researchers have found that there’s a sweet spot between both CBD-rich marijuana and THC-rich marijuana. The ratio of 1:1 was said to have the most potency when it comes to warding off unwanted symptoms of IBS. The indica strains, however, offer the most relief because they are far more effective when used to treat medical conditions.
Other popular strains for combating symptoms of IBS include:
- Critical Mass
- Valentine X
- Ringo’s Gift
- Stephen Hawking Kush
- Sweet and Sour Widow
- Blue Dream
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Gorilla Glue Strain
- Sunset Sherbet
- Wedding Cake
- White Widow
- OG Kush Strain
These strains are all effective at treating the symptoms of IBS because they possess high levels of CBD as well as THC. The ratios will vary in the aforementioned strains, but they all possess the ability to help improve muscle spasms, appetite, pain, inflammation, relaxation and stress relief, and mood disorders.