ProjectCBD provided a detailed summary of some of the recent research on cannabis for treating irritable bowel disease (IBD).
In early June, ProjectCBD, a nonprofit started in 2010 to provide education and promote research on cannabidiol (CBD), published an article covering several studies on the effects of CBD on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (1). “Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for two chronic disorders of the gut: Crohn’s disease, characterized by inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract; and ulcerative colitis, which involves inflammation and sores along the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum,” the article explained (1). “Symptoms of both include diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain, reduced appetite, and weight loss.”
ProjectCBD also explained how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) functions in the gastrointestinal system, specifically how receptors interact with cannabinoids and how the ECS promotes balance within the body (1).
The most recent study the article highlighted was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on March 15th, 2023 (2). The article, titled “A Survey of Cannabis Use among Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD),” surveyed 162 adults, all with confirmed IBD (2). Abdominal pain was the most frequent symptom participants used cannabis to treat, followed by joint pain, back pain, and others (2). “Almost all (84% to 94%) reported an improvement of symptoms and quality of life, considered cannabis beneficial to their health and would recommend it to other patients with IBD,” the study noted in the Results section (2).
“The use of medical cannabis to relieve symptoms is frequent in patients with IBD, although knowledge about cannabis among patients and physicians is limited,” the authors of the study concluded (2). “In spite of symptom relief and perception of benefit, almost half of the users had stopped consuming cannabis. Our study supports the need for more investigation in this area, as well as an increase in educational programs for patients and physicians.”
ProjectCBD also covered a 2022 study on cannabis use and inflammatory bowel disease symptoms with surveys conducted with participants in New York and Minnesota (3). This study, titled “Medical Cannabis Use Patterns and Adverse Effects in Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” surveyed 236 participants self-reporting IBD who had purchased medical cannabis in New York or Minnesota (3). Most participants reported mild to moderate symptoms, most used products with high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content through vaping, and the median frequency of usage was at least once in the past week (3). “[Medical cannabis] users with IBD perceive symptom benefits and report decreased emergency room visits without serious adverse effects,” the authors concluded (3). “Further studies are needed to confirm these results with objective measures of healthcare utilization and disease activity.”
ProjectCBD's article concluded with discussions of two recently published reviews on cannabis for IBD. The first review covered 10 years of literature up until 2022 and noted the positive results seen with cannabinoids for treating the symptoms of IBD while also addressing the drawbacks of the studies, as noted by the authors (1). A second review supported the conclusions of the first, the article stated, and ended with the authors suggesting that gastroenterologists discuss cannabinoids with their patients to review the benefits they may provide (1).