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Introduction

In recent years, CBD, a compound derived from Cannabis, has shown great potential in treating gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. These include enteric infections, inflammatory conditions, such as, Crohn’s and Colitis, emesis, intestinal pain and disorders of motility. This is an introductory article to all the relevant research and studies with regards to CBD for digestive diseases.

Cannabis has gained a lot of interest in the medical community over the past few decades. This is after the discovery of a non-psychotropic compound in the plant called cannabidiol (CBD), that seems to have a wide range of therapeutic effects. The other majorly known cannabinoid called THC, also shows therapeutic effects, but it causes undesirable psychotropic effects, hence making it unsuitable for most applications. CBD, on the other hand, contains a wide range of pharmacological properties, counteracts the effects of THC, and maintains a high safety profile when being used to treat numerous conditions. These include mood disorders, skin conditions, cancer, addiction, anxiety, epilepsy and seizures, irritable bowel syndrome, the list goes on.

Brief Background on various Digestive conditions

Depending on whatever type of digestive illness you are suffering from, the therapies available differ widely. For the less severe forms of digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting, an antiemetic prescription is usually given. Similarly, antacids are utilized for relieving indigestion and high stomach acidity.

When it comes to complex gastrointestinal issues such as Colitis and Crohn’s disease, patients often look at a huge range of therapies. These could range from steroids, anti-inflammatory medicine, and antibiotics to immune modifiers, which are designed to suppress the natural immune response of the body, thereby exposing the patients to other serious risks.

As you can already imagine, taking so many different medications at the same time can take a toll on the patient. There have been reports of patients gaining weight, appetite issues, thinning of bones, low immunity, among other adverse effects. As a result, it is not rare for patients to seek other forms of treatment that are less adverse.

Among these, alternatives, CBD stands as one of the best among them due to its many therapeutic effects, including anti-inflammatory properties, yet without serious side effects. Take a look at what the research says below.

Studies concerning CBD for various digestive conditions

CBD and Colitis

Colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects millions of people the world over, however, the available treatments are disappointingly insufficient.  Cannabidiol has been shown to exert pharmacological effects such as being an antioxidant and inflammatory agent and also through mechanisms such as inhibiting the degradation of endocannabinoidal enzymes such as anadamide and 2-AG. Both of these effects are potentially beneficial to an inflamed gut.

As a result, scientists have been busy trying to find out both the effectiveness as well as mechanism of action of CBD with regards to colitis.

For instance, a team of researchers tested the effectiveness of CBD on mice that were induced by colitis via intra-colonic application of dinitrobenzene sulfonic acid. In their conclusion, the scientists stated that cannabidiol is a safe compound able to prevent experimental colitis in mice.

Another study investigated the effects of both CBD and THC when used alone and in combination to observe the effects on mice induced with acute colitis. As per the results, the researchers observed that both CBD and THC reduced inflammation in the gut lining, not to mention that they also reduced the occurrence of functional disorders when used together and also when CBD was used alone. The team recommended further studies to establish the potential therapeutic effects on humans.

Lastly, a different study noted that when given intraperitoneally, CBD is able to improve chemically induced colitis in mice. The researchers sought to find out whether rectal and oral application would also alleviate colonic inflammation, since this would form a more suitable method of delivery for human colitis. The results suggested that on top of intraperitoneal application, intrarectal delivery also represents a viable delivery method for treating inflammation in the colon.

CBD and Crohn’s Disease

Even in ancient medicine, Cannabis has been widely utilized in managing inflammation and disturbances in the bowel such as Crohn’s disease. Now, a recent prospective, placebo-controlled clinical study has bolstered the numerous anecdotal reports about CBD and its beneficial properties for Crohn’s disease. The mechanisms involved were not clear, however, the investigators suggested the high likelihood of peripheral actions on endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 and may also involve central actions.

Another randomized controlled trial also tried to assess the effects of CBD on patients with Crohn’s disease. It involved twenty patients aged between 18-75 years who received 10mg CBD or placebo twice everyday. The patients involved did not respond to standard treatment. Results based on 19 of the subjects who completed the study after eight weeks showed that CBD was safe, but had no beneficial effects on Crohn’s disease. However, the scientists affirmed that the dosage of CBD used was particularly low, and could be the cause of the results. Other reasons included the small number of subjects in the study as well as lack of synergy between CBD and other cannabinoids which seem to improve its efficacy.

 CBD for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic condition of the gastrointestinal tract affecting millions of people, and the prevalence is rising. The current medication include immunosuppressive therapies that offer limited benefits, lose effectiveness and come with adverse side effects.

In recent years, Cannabis preparations have been considered as potential therapeutic tools in controlling inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other disturbances of the gut. For instance, CBD is proving to be a promising pharmacological tool in this field. Although its activity in our bodies has been largely mysterious, now it is evident that the compound may exert effects even on extra-cannabinoid system receptor sites. These include peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma. This proves that CBD stands as a potential candidate in the development of new anti-IBD medication.

How Does CBD for Digestive Diseases Work?

Even though the many therapeutic effects of CBD have been established via many studies, its full range of activity in the body is still unknown.

In a bid to find out how it works on patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), scientists tested CBD on their intestinal biopsies. It was observed that partly, the activity of CBD is mediated through the selective PPAR-gamma receptor pathwayleading to reduction in intestinal damage. In the study, they found that CBD targets enteric reactive gliosis and offsets the inflammatory condition in human colonic cultures via this pathway. This makes CBD a truly novel therapeutic strategy for controlling IBD. A different investigation showed that CBD also reduces gastrointestinal inflammation and damage in rodents by activating the 1 and 2 cannabinoid receptors

Side Effects of using CBD

The side effects of using different concentrations of CBD extracts have been minimal in most studies. It is this lack of psychoactive effects as well as high safety profile of CBD that makes it stand out as a potential for treating digestive conditions. Some of the side effects documented in the various studies include:

  • Inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased tremor in patients with Parkinson’s at high dosages
  • Decreased appetite
  • Light headedness at high dosages
  • Sleepiness

Conclusion

The Cannabis plant has been known for centuries to contain beneficial effects in a variety of digestive issues. Now, scientists know that CBD, the non-psychotropic cannabinoid found in Cannabis, is most responsible for these properties. It has been shown to help with various conditions, including: emesis, nausea, diarrhea, colitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal pain among others.

Even though the available research on humans is still scarce, there is a lot of optimism that the mystery behind CBD’s mechanisms of action will be soon unraveled. This means that within the decade, there may be a whole new class of CBD-based drugs for treating digestive issues.

 

Research and Case Studies on the effects of Cannabis to treat Digestive Issues:

Colitis and Crohn’s

Irritable Bowel Syndrome