IBS affects around 3 out of every 10 people worldwide and is also known as spastic colon, irritable colon, mucous colitis, and spastic colitis [1]. IBD is an inflammatory bowel disease which is an inflammatory bowel disease. IBS is a conglomeration of symptoms that occur together pain in the abdomen, bloating and excess gas, mucus in the stool diarrhoea and constipation. IBS sufferers report differing severity and duration of the symptoms. However, it’s understood that the symptoms last at least 3 months for at least 3 days per month. In particularly severe cases, IBS can cause intestinal damage, but this is uncommon.

What causes IBS?

The cause of IBS isn’t currently well understood, and diagnoses are often based on symptoms. Some believe that diet, poor sleep, hormones, stress and changes in gut bacteria may all trigger symptoms. Unfortunately, diet affects everyone differently which makes it challenging to understand the triggers for each patient.

Other causes may be abnormalities in the gut flora (bacteria), severe gastrointestinal infections, and increased inflammation or overactive immune response in the digestive organs.

Another cause may be abnormalities in the digestive system nerve function which causes poorly coordinated signals between the brain and intestines.

What are the treatment options?

The most common treatment options for IBS include diet changes, management of lifestyle and stress, medication and counselling.

More than 50% of IBS sufferers report fatigue. IBS is related to insomnia – difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and reporting of poor sleep quality.

One study found that the intensity of their IBS symptoms predicted the severity of fatigue [2] and another study found that poor sleep predicted more severe IBS symptoms the following day [3].

Does cannabis have any potential effect on Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Whilst there is currently no definitive evidence that cannabis can cure or treat IBS, the research shown below shows that medical cannabis may result in decreased gastrointestinal inflammation, less frequent constipation, cramping and reduced abdominal pain after using CBD to help alleviate symptoms of IBS.

A study conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo detailed the importance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is for gut health. Referenced in this study was a study conducted in 2004 which found that the ECS contains a powerful pain blocking mechanism that then mitigates the pain response in IBS sufferers, in fact, they found that cannabinoids demonstrated the ability to block peripheral, spinal and gastrointestinal mechanisms that promote pain in IBS, headache, fibromyalgia and related disorders.(i)

Another study studied 30 patients who were diagnosed with Chrohn’s disease and were given access to cannabis to manage their symptoms and pain. The patients that were given access to legal medical cannabis were chosen as normal conventional treatments had failed them and left them in chronic pain. The study found that all 30 patients reported an improvement in their general well-being after using cannabis and 22 patients managed to reduce their usage of corticosteroids after using cannabis. Another note from this study was that before the use of cannabis, 26 of the patients required corticosteroid therapy, however, after the introduction of the legal cannabis therapy, only 4 patients were still maintained on corticosteroids.(ii)

 

Citations:

  1. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs#:~:text=IBS%20is%20common%2C%20and%20affects,than%20men%20to%20be%20affected.
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23869173
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25142761