Chron’s and Colitis Disease (IBD)

May is dedicated to raising awareness around Chron’s and Colitis Disease, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)[i]. In Australia, IBD is becoming more complex, more prevalent and more severe. Over 80,000 Australians suffer from IBD and by the end of next year this number is set to grow to over 100,000.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

IBD is an umbrella term that is used to described disorders involving chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Types of IBD are:

  • Crohn’s disease, which can occur anywhere in the digestive tract from the anus to the mouth, and inflames the entire thickness of the intestinal wall.
  • Ulcerative colitis, where inflammation is limited to the surface layers of the large bowel (colon).

IBD is a painful and in some cases debilitating condition that can lead to life-threatening complications.

 

IBD Symptoms

IBD symptoms vary, it is dependant on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. The most common symptoms of IBD are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Cramping

What causes IBD?

The exact cause of IBD is unknown, however, there are risk factors for developing a form of IBD. These risk factors are:

 

Natural Treatments for IBD

The first-line treatment for IBD is typically medication, however, more people are seeking natural treatments to ease their symptoms. Natural treatments are also known as alternative, integrative or complementary medicine.

Here are four natural treatments for Crohn’s disease.

 

Probiotics

The gastrointestinal tract contains ‘good’ bacteria, which offers protection against ‘bad’ bacteria and helps your body with digestion. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are living microorganisms that can be consumed. These probiotics can be found in some foods or there are probiotic supplements. Foods that contain probiotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Pickles
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut

 

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are food for intestinal bacteria and for probiotics. By adding prebiotics to your daily diet, you may experience the improved function of your normal intestinal bacteria. Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that can be found in:

  • Honey
  • Whole grains
  • Bananas
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Artichokes

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties which could potentially help reduce IBD symptoms[viii]. Because IBD causes inflammation in the digestive tract, omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may be able to have some effect on inflammation. It is then possible to reduce some symptoms that IBD inflammation causes. However, high doses of omega-3 fatty acids may be harmful, which could result in suppressing the immune system and an increased bleeding risk. Patients have reported diarrhea and abdominal pain because of fish oil supplementation.

 

Medical Cannabis

Medical Cannabis is Cannabis that has been prescribed by a health professional to help alleviate or relieve symptoms of a medical condition[ix]. Patients can legally access Medical Cannabis in Australia if they are suffering from terminal diseases or chronic illnesses, and conventional medicines have not worked for them, or they have suffered unwanted side effects. Medical Cannabis works by interacting with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

As cannabis gains more attention in the press, there is growing recognition of a fraction of IBD patients using cannabis for symptomatic control of their IBD, reported slightly improved management of their cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain and joint pain[x]. However, it is important to note that CBD does contain side effects such as dry mouth, nausea, and interactions with P450 metabolised medications.

A recent study conducted a survey among 838 Australians suffering from IBD with the goal to discover the rate of cannabis usage for IBD symptom management. It was found that 92.7% of the survey participants endorsed cannabis as an effective alternative for symptom management[xi]. However, the survey also discovered that only 3 of the respondent’s access cannabis via a legal pathway. Many patients are using illegally sourced cannabis to manage their IBD. Further clinical trials are required to validate or refute, the efficacy of symptom control for IBD.

For more information regarding medical cannabis access please visit the TGA’s website here.

Endnote

By as early as next year, it is expected that over 100,000 Australians will be suffering from Chron’s or colitis. Please visit Chron’s and Colitis Australia for more information to get involved this May!

Disclaimer: This is not an inducement to use Medicinal Cannabis. Medicinal Cannabis doesn’t work for everyone. If you think Medicinal Cannabis is right for you please check with our doctors.

Citations:

[i] https://www.crohnsandcolitis.com.au/awareness-month-2021/

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4961083/

[iii] https://www.healthline.com/health/inflammatory-bowel-disease#causes-and-risk-factors

[iv] https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2019-02/Updated%20IBD%20Factbook.pdf

[v] https://uhra.herts.ac.uk/handle/2299/10017

[vi] https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(18)34685-7/pdf

[vii] https://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6633

[viii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19160277/

[ix] https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/medicinal-cannabis/

[x] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5193087/

[xi] https://academic.oup.com/crohnscolitis360/article/2/2/otaa015/5821009