Inflammatory bowel diseases, including Chron’s Disease and colitis, can have an extremely negative impact on one’s quality of life. Could CBD be helpful to those suffering? Read on to find out.
Chron’s Disease and colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that can be extremely painful and negatively affect quality of life. Although there is no cure for these diseases, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms. However, many treatments result in unpleasant side effects.
Current research shows that CBD could be effective in treating IBD. Keep reading to find out more about Chron’s Disease, colitis, and why CBD may be a promising natural treatment for both.
What are Colitis and Chron’s Disease?
Chron’s Disease is named for Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, who first described the disease in 1932 as an inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It commonly affects the small bowel and the beginning of the colon, but may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Colitis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory disease limited to the colon or large intestine. Those affected by these diseases may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Urgent need to move bowels
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Sensation of incomplete evacuation
And associated symptoms can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Irregular menstruation
- Weight loss
- Low energy
IBD affects roughly 1.6 million Americans. Men and women are equally likely to be affected, typically between the ages of 15 and 35. Both Chron’s and colitis are more likely in individuals whose family members have IBD, but it can also be brought on by environmental factors. It is more common in urban areas within developed countries, and while stress and anxiety are not the causes of IBD, they can contribute to making it worse.
How do Colitis and Chron’s work?
IBD affects your body’s response to normal, healthy bacteria. The body’s GI tract contains harmless bacteria that aid in digestion. Your body’s immune system typically kills foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but these harmless bacteria normally are not affected. In people with IBD, the harmless bacteria get confused with harmful invaders, and the immune system responds by sending out cells that produce inflammation. Although this is a normal immune response, in those with IBD, the inflammation does not subside. This leads to chronic inflammation, ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and more. In some cases, Chron’s can lead to tears in the lining of the anus that cause pain and bleeding. Inflammation can also cause a fistula to develop. Fistulas occur when an abnormal connection develops between loops of your bowel, bladder, vagina, or skin. It is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
CBD, Chron’s, and Colitis
There are several treatments recommended to manage the symptoms of Chron’s and colitis, but many cause unpleasant side effects. CBD is a natural alternative that rarely produces side effects, and the side effects that are produced tend to be non-serious in nature. Here’s how CBD may be helpful in treating symptoms of Chron’s and colitis:
Fights Inflammation: CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. When it enters the body, it reacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system to suppress inflammatory response by activating immune cells and suppressing cytokines and chemokines at inflammatory sites. This makes it a promising treatment for reducing conditions that cause chronic inflammation, such as arthritis, colitis, hepatitis, and certain cancers. Studies have shown that CBD can positively impact intestinal inflammation brought on by IBD and may be a promising treatment due to its non-toxic, non-psychotropic effects.
Effective at Fighting Autoimmunology: Because IBD makes the body attack healthy cells thinking they are foreign invaders, it is classified as an autoimmune disease. CBD works to suppress the immune system, making it less likely to react to what it sees as an attack. CBD is also rich in antioxidants. These work to protect cells that may be attacked and to and reduce inflammation caused by free radicals. Additionally, CBD targets inflammatory pathways, making it a promising solution in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Specific to IBD, CBD reacts with the CB2 receptor in the immune system and works to protect the GI tract.
CBD as an Antispasmodic: People suffering with IBD often experience colon spasms. These can be a sign or symptom of the condition. The colon’s muscles contract to help move feces along the lower portion of the gastrointestinal tract. During a spasm, the muscles lining the colon contract in an unorganized way, causing a significant amount of pain. Muscle contractions are caused by chemical messengers that originate in the central nervous system. These messengers travel to a muscle and force it to contract. When the body does not have the proper number of endocannabinoids, excessive chemicals are produced, causing muscles to contract continuously. When CBD enters the body, relaxes muscles and helps balance the endocannabinoid system to reduce the occurrence of spasms.
Relieves Stress and Anxiety: Although stress and anxiety are not underlying causes of IBD, they seem to be connected to the condition. Studies show that people with IBD are more sensitive to emotional troubles. Stress and anxiety can make the mind more aware of spasms in the colon, and the immune system, which may be the source of IBD, is negatively affected by stress. CBD is known to relieve stress and anxiety. It enters the body to increase serotonin levels and produce a calming effect. This sense of calmness can help make symptoms more manageable for those dealing with IBD. Another way anxiety can affect IBD symptoms is through its likelihood of increasing hypomotility. Hypomotility occurs when food moves too quickly through the GI tract, and can lead to a flare up as a result of a loss of fluids, poor digestion, and impaired nutrient absorption. CBD can help inhibit hypomotility states by elevating the body’s cannabinoid intake. It activates the CB1 receptor to slow the process of food through the body and reduces the likelihood of diarrhea.
Pain Relief: Those who live with IBD are often in pain. Chronic pain due to IBD can be felt anywhere in the belly, though it is most often reported in the lower abdomen. Pain can worsen after eating or after a bowel movement. Those affected have described their pain as cramping, stabbing, aching, sharpness, or throbbing. CBD provides relief to those experiencing chronic pain. Its anti-inflammatory properties are seen through the activation of CB2 receptors on immune cells, dampening the body’s sensitivity to pain. It also works to activate CB1 receptors, strengthening opioid receptor activation and increasing levels of anandamide, which are helpful in reducing painful stimuli.
CBD vs. Other IBS Treatments
There are many medications on the market recommended for the treatment of IBD, but several of these bring on unpleasant side effects. CBD, on the other hand, produces little to no side effects. It also provides several health benefits, which may be an added bonus for those using it to treat their IBD symptoms. When thinking about treatment options, keep the following medications and their side effects in mind.
Alosetron (Lotronex): This medication is designed to relax the colon and slow the movement of waste through the lower bowel. It has been known to produce rare, but significant, side effects and should only be considered when other treatments aren’t effective.
Eluxadoline (Viberzi): Eluxadoline can ease diarrhea by reducing muscle contraction and fluid secretion in the intestine and increasing muscle tone in the rectum. Side effects include nausea, abdominal pain, constipation. This medication has also been associated with pancreatitis.
Lubiprostone (Amitiza): Lubiprostone increases fluid in the small intestine to help with stool passage. However, it is generally only prescribed to women and is most recommended for those with severe symptoms who haven’t responded to other treatments.
Rifaximin (Xifaxan): Rifaximin is an antibiotic that can decrease bacterial overgrowth and diarrhea. However, some that take it can build a resistance, making diarrhea worse.
Linaclotide (LInzess): Linaclotide increases fluid secretion in the small intestine to promote easier bowel movements, but can also cause diarrhea.
IBD can be uncomfortable, painful, and even debilitating. And while some treatments may relieve symptoms, they can also produce unpleasant side effects that counteract any positive effects. CBD is an all-natural alternative that works on many levels to treat IBD and its symptoms. Those suffering should feel encouraged to explore the world of cannabinoids in detail to find out how CBD can help them enjoy a higher quality of life.