Exploring Treatment of Crohn’s Disease With CBD
Using CBD to Treat Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a devastating autoimmune disease with no cure at present. However, patients with Crohn’s disease are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) as studies have proven that it’s effective and actually safer to use than traditional medication. CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and prevent diarrhea, suggesting CBD is an effective alternative treatment for Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
What is Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease and ulceration colitis are the two major categories of irritable bowel disease (IBD) with an estimated 1.6 million people suffering from IBD in America. Crohn’s disease is thought to be responsible for nearly half of those cases.
Crohn’s is an inflammatory disease that can affect the entire gastrointestinal system, yet it is most often found in the small intestine. Inflammation is the major cause of symptoms, which includes diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation which can lead to bowel obstruction, weight loss, and fatigue.
Children with Crohn’s may experience stunted growth and development due to a lack of nutrients. Many people require surgery to remove the infected part of the gastrointestinal tract. Since Crohn’s is chronic, patients will often experience symptoms for a period of time and later may not feel any symptoms at all. This will be a continuous cycle during the patient’s lifetime.
What Causes Crohn’s Disease?
Anyone can develop Crohn’s disease, but some factors such as age, ethnicity, and genetics can increase a person’s risk. Those with an increased risk range among men and women between the ages of 15 and 35, living in an urban area, and who have close relatives diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Gender is not a risk factor as men and women are both just as likely to develop the disease.
Based on scientific research, the most plausible cause seems to be genetic abnormalities, but environmental factors can also have an impact. For instance, more cases of Crohn’s disease are observed in developed, urban areas in northern climates. However, none of these factors alone are believed to cause Crohn’s.
Research On CBD For the Treatment of Crohn’s Disease
Research on CBD for Crohn’s disease shows it may be a reliable and safe treatment for Crohn’s disease.
Cannabis, which contains both THC and CBD, has been shown to significantly help in the relief of Crohn’s symptoms, even causing remission in some patients. Cannabis also improved the colon’s ability to function, helping patients absorb nutrients.
In a study of CBD taken alone, CBD significantly reduced inflammation and inhibited disease activity, making it a viable treatment option for inflammatory bowel diseases. The following studies demonstrate these effects of CBD treatment for Crohn’s:
Study Shows Cannabis Induces Clinical Response in Crohn’s Patients
Conducted by the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Tel Av iv University, 21 patients who could not find relief from Crohn’s with steroids and other medications participated in a study for eight weeks to test cannabis’ effectiveness on the disease.
Eleven patients smoked cannabis cigarettes twice daily while the other 10 were placed in a placebo group. Ten of the 11 patients found relief from their Crohn’s symptoms with cannabis, while five experienced complete remission of the disease. Three patients were also weaned off the steroids they had taken previously. In addition, none of the patients experienced significant side effects.
Cannabis Improves Quality of Life in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients
Another study by the Department of Gastroenterology at Tel Av iv University tested if cannabis would improve quality of life, weight gain, and disease activity in 13 patients with inflammatory bowel disease during a three-month trial.
Patients experienced an average of 4.3 kg (9.5 lbs) in weight gain and average increase of 1.4 in BMI (body-mass index), meaning cannabis improved the gastrointestinal system’s ability to absorb nutrients.
After answering a quality of life questionnaire, patients reported significant improvement in certain aspects of their life such as social functioning, ability to work, pain, and depression.
The study concluded cannabis was an effective treatment as it improved quality of life, decreased disease activity, and improved patients’ overall health.
CBD Improves Chemically-Induced Colitis in Mice
Researchers from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology at the Medical University of Graz in Austria and the Department of Medicine at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany tested administered CBD to mice induced with colitis.
CBD was administered to the mice orally, intrarectally, or intraperitoneally (i.e., through the abdominal cavity).
The results showed CBD significantly reduced inflammation in the colon and inhibited disease activity intrarectally and intraperitoneally, but not orally.
CBD as a Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
CBD primarily treats Crohn’s by interacting with receptors in the endocannabinoid system called CB2. The CB2 receptors are found on immune cells and can regulate the release of cytokines, a group of pro-inflammatory proteins. When CBD activates these receptors, it inhibits the production of cytokines, reducing inflammation and its associated symptoms. By performing the same actions, CBD can also treat ulceration colitis. The following are ways CBD treats Crohn’s disease:
CBD’s Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects
The damaging inflammation in Crohn’s disease is caused primarily by cytokines. The immune system releases cytokines in the system’s attempt to remove the bacteria it considers as foreign and harmful.
When the immune system cannot remove the bacteria, it forms clumps of immune cells around the bacteria leading to bowel obstruction, increased inflammation, and the many other symptoms patients experience.
Oxidation is also a prevalent issue in Crohn’s disease. First, it is an additional source of inflammation because it produces free radicals that damage cells. Second, oxidation happens at a faster rate in Crohn’s leading to a shortage of fat in Crohn’s patients.
CBD is well known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
In addition to binding with CB2 receptors, CBD also binds with other receptors to reduce inflammation. One such set of receptors is called TRPV1, which when activated promotes anti-inflammatory effects by slowing down the release of cytokines.
Another set of receptors CBD binds with is called PPARs. When PPARs are hyper-activated, they release cytokines; however, CBD binds to PPARs and inhibits this action. CBD has the same effect on GPR55 receptors which also produce cytokines when overstimulated.
As an antioxidant, CBD eliminates free radicals, preventing inflammation and protecting tissue in the GI tract from further damage.
CBD’s Anti-Motility Effects
Patients with Crohn’s disease have compromised gastric motility (motility is the movement of the digestive system and how its contents are transported). Crohn’s creates inflammatory hyper-motility, which is why diarrhea is common. To manage the related symptoms, a patient needs treatment to slow down their motility.
CBD has anti-motility effects as indicated by the study above regarding colitis-induced mice.
One way CBD affects motility is by slowing down muscle contractions in the GI tract. CBD accomplishes this by suppressing a neurotransmitter called ACH and by activating opioid receptors. Opioid receptors are known to affect motility and slow down muscle contractions.
CBD also promotes the body’s natural anti-motility ability by increasing the levels of anandamide, an endocannabinoid which can help regulate the digestive tract. Anandamide is broken down quickly by enzymes in the body, so CBD helps by inhibiting such enzymes, allowing anandamide’s effects to last longer.
CBD Know To Ease Pain Of Crohns
Pain is a common symptom in the life of Crohn’s patients and those with IBD. It is caused by inflammation, leading to abdominal pain, pain while using the bathroom, and general discomfort. Pain can also be caused by side effects of medications.
Fortunately, as a result of CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anti-motility abilities, pain relief can be found without the risk of serious side effects.
CBD provides pain relief when it binds with the CB2 and TRPV1 receptors. CBD interacts with CB2 receptors to reduce inflammation and desensitizes TRPV1 receptors to the point where they eventually do not send pain signals.