Approximately 700,000 Americans live with Crohn’s, a painful and debilitating inflammatory bowel disease. Patients with Crohn’s disease report that medical marijuana alleviates their symptoms, making it possible to enjoy a more fulfulling life.
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WHAT IS CROHN’S DISEASE?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract, but often occurs at the end of the small intestine and in the bowel. Inflammation often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue, and can lead to serious complications such as intestinal blockages, ulcers, and fistulas.
Disease origin is currently unknown. Crohn’s disease affects men and women equally. Symptoms can show up at any age, but appear most commonly between the ages of 15 and 35. Heredity appears to be a contributing factor; twenty percent of Crohn’s patients have a close relative with the disease.
Crohn’s disease is more common in industrialized countries and urban areas, suggesting that environmental triggers or a diet of refined foods might play a role. It could be that in susceptible people, the immune system overreacts to a virus or bacterium, and begins to attack cells in the digestive tract. Poor diet, stress, and smoking aggravate the inflammation.
There is currently no known cure for Crohn’s disease, but therapies and medications can help control symptoms and even produce long-term remission.
CROHN’S DISEASE SYMPTOMS
Crohn’s disease is unpredictable. In some cases symptoms are acute, and at other times the disease goes into remission and symptoms disappear. When inflammation flares up, painful and debilitating symptoms may include:
HOW MEDICAL MARIJUANA HELPS CROHN’S DISEASE PATIENTS
In 2011, the Israel Medical Association Journal reported findings from the first ever study on cannabis use in Crohn’s disease. Conducting retrospective interviews, researchers concluded:
“The results indicate that cannabis may have a positive effect on disease activity, as reflected by reduction in disease activity index and in the need for other drugs and surgery.”
Contemplating marijuana’s possible method(s) of action, study authors note:
“The observed beneficial effect in this study may be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis, but additional effects of cannabinoids may also play a role. Cannabinoids influence gastrointestinal motility and, in particular, have an anti-diarrheal effect, as observed in mice injected with cholera toxin.”
Of the 30 study participants, 21 improved “significantly” after treatment with cannabis. The need for other medication was also “significantly reduced.”
In addition to its positive effects on disease progression, medical marijuana is also a therapeutic treatment for a number of Crohn’s disease symptoms, including loss of appetite, fatigue, and trouble sleeping.