Though there are key differences between different IBDs, there is one constant across them all: inflammation. Although IBS isn’t always associated with inflammation and its symptoms don’t necessarily have an identifiable cause, inflammation is often either the main cause or side-effect. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, fatigue, an unwillingness to eat, vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficiency, constipation and/or urgent and more-than-normal bowel movements (diarrhea).
Crohn’s and colitis also tend to include rectal bleeding, which in turn increases fatigue. There is no known cure or treatment for IBDs, and in the worst cases of Crohn’s, surgery may be needed to remove the most severely inflamed parts. Sadly, surgery is not always effective, and can lead to further complications later on. It is estimated that approximately 14.1% of people in the US suffer from IBS, and many are undiagnosed.
IBDs are often classed under autoimmune diseases, as it involves the body’s immune system attacking elements of its own digestive system (although IBS is a functional bowel disorder, not an autoimmune disorder). There are thought to be several main causes of IBDs, including: reduced biodiversity of intestinal gut microbiota; intestinal permeability, which is further exacerbated by the fact that there are fewer intestinal microbiota, inducing an uncontrolled immune response; and potentially some genetic causes, which are not properly understood.
Endocannabinoids play an important role in the functioning of the gut, including the control of intestinal inflammation. Stress and anxiety is also thought to trigger IBS attacks in some instances, and it is not surprising that a “flare-up” of an irritable bowel condition is going to cause anxiety in many. Some even suggesting that phytocannabinoids can help overcome a “cannabinoid deficiency” – a condition that could help explain why cannabis can help overcome IBS, fibromyalgia, migraine and other treatment-resistant conditions.
There are a huge number of cannabinoid receptors in the gut and, though the evidence is anecdotal at the moment, it does not seem surprising that cannabis is particularly helpful in managing IBDs due to this fact. THC and CBD also seem to be metabolized by liver enzymes and throughout the digestive system, and cannabinoids represent an excellent prospect for treatment of IBDs.