Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or spastic colon, ranks as the most common gastrointestinal disorder, affecting 35 million Americans. As a chronic disorder affecting the colon, IBS is diagnosed based on the symptoms experienced by the patient. IBS is classified as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, meaning that it is apparently of spontaneous origin because the biological mechanism which leads to the diseased state is unknown. First documented in the Rocky Mountain Medical Journal in 1950, research recognizes that painful cramping, nausea, chronic diarrhea or constipation. IBS commonly leads to stomach pain, gassiness, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or both.
Although the exact cause of IBS remains unknown, it is known that, like many physiological processes, the gastrointestinal tract is controlled by the body’s endocannabinoid system. Experts report that the colon muscle of an IBS sufferer is overly sensitive, causing it to spasm after even the most mild stimulation because of a disruption in the communication pathway between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. Cannabis provides significant medical efficacy in the treatment of IBS because it is made up of hundreds of organic chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids, which are able to bind to the same receptors in the brain as the body’s own gastrointestinal tract regulating endocannabinoids. Medical cannabis is able to fill in the missing pieces of the homeostasis puzzle when the body fails to regulate its own endocannabinoid production.
The most abundant psychoactive cannabinoid known for producing the feeling of being high, THC, is also known for being an effective reliever of pain and nausea, which are two of the most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. CBD, the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid works is a powerful anti-spasmodic that also produces calming effects in patients. Experts report that, in the treatment of IBS and many other conditions, the medical efficacy of each individual cannabinoid found in medical cannabis increases dramatically when they work together in a process known as the entourage effect. For example, CBC works synergistically with THC to increase the amount of the gastrointestinal regulating endocannabinoid, anandamide, that is in the body at any given time. More anandamide in the system equates to reduced pain because it prevents excessive spasms in the gut wall.
The effectiveness of cannabis and its derivatives for treating IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders has been known for centuries. Many of those suffering from IBS report that symptoms of the condition, like abdominal pain, nausea, cramping and irregularity of bowel movements are more manageable or even alleviated with the use of medical cannabis. The experiences reported by IBS patients shows that medical cannabis is ideal for broad-spectrum relief, and is often an effective treatment even when the condition has been non-responsive to more commonly prescribed treatment options.
Medical research demonstrates that this interaction between medical cannabis and the colon can result in improved motility, calmed spasms, and pain relief. Recent research has shown that endogenous cannabinoids play crucial neuromodulatory roles in controlling the operation of the gastrointestinal system, and can control gastrointestinal motility and inflammation. A study conducted in Italy in 2003 found that THC, the most common cannabinoid known for its strong psychoactive properties, reduced intestinal motility, thereby alleviating colonic spasms and abdominal pain.