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Irritable bowel syndrome, sometimes known as IBS, appears to be on the rise in North America. In the past, the condition has gone by many different names, changing as the medical field’s understanding of the condition has evolved.

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Today, the cause of IBS is still under plenty of debate. Some have theorized IBS is caused by imbalances in gut flora, while others suggest it’s primarily a problem with the muscles of the colon, resulting in motility issues. Other theories abound.

While more research is needed to confirm the cause, patients right now need effective treatments to help them manage the symptoms of IBS. One question is whether or not medical cannabis could help.

If you have IBS and you’ve been wondering what could help you, you might want to consider these facts about medical cannabis and the condition.


1. Medical Cannabis Could Assist with an Endocannabinoid Imbalance

One theory about IBS suggests it’s caused by a deficiency of endocannabinoids. These substances are produced naturally in the body. Chemically, they’re very similar to substances like THC and CBD, which are found naturally in cannabis.

It’s known endocannabinoids play a role in the gastrointestinal tract, which lends credibility to this theory. Some preliminary research has also demonstrated that people with IBS tend to have lower levels of endocannabinoids.

Medical cannabis could help correct an endocannabinoid deficiency by supplementing the body’s natural supply with cannabinoids. In turn, this could help reduce symptoms of IBS.


2. It Could Affect Intestinal Flora

Another interesting research finding was the effect medical cannabis had on gut flora. Specifically, cannabis appeared to change the ratio of Firmicutes bacteria relative to Bacteroides microbes, which live in the intestines.

The reason for this isn’t yet clear, but it does seem that medical marijuana could play a role in promoting healthy gut flora. New research is demonstrating just how important gut flora is for good overall health, and more research over the next few years will likely demonstrate just what role medical marijuana could play in achieving better health.


3. There Are Many Receptors in the Gut

Another thing to note when it comes to medical cannabis and IBS is the number of CB1 and CB2 receptors located in the gut. CB1 receptors primarily affect the nervous system, while CB2 receptors tend to affect systems such as the immune response.

The number of endocannabinoid receptors in the gut suggests there could be a role these substances play in a number of bodily functions, including digestion and immune response.


4. Cannabinoids Can Help with Muscle Spasms

Another interesting research finding has been that cannabinoids seem to help with muscle spasticity. This term refers to painful muscle spasms, often in relation to spinal cord injuries and other neurological damage.

It’s interesting to note the role muscles play in IBS, however, as IBS is usually understood to primarily affect the motility of the GI tract. This means the muscles don’t function as they should. Instead of the usual slow movements, the muscles become spastic and hypersensitive. This can lead to either diarrhea or constipation. IBS was even referred to as “spastic colon” in the past.

Given medical marijuana’s effect on muscle spasticity, there’s reason to believe it may be able to reduce these issues in cases of IBS.


5. It Can Help Control Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting aren’t the most common IBS symptoms, but they can be frustrating nonetheless. Research on medical marijuana as a treatment for cancer patients has demonstrated how cannabis can be used to control these symptoms, however, and there’s reason to believe it may also be able to help those with IBS.

Is medical cannabis right for you? It could be. If you have IBS and want to know more about how medical marijuana could help you, talk to your doctor or the staff at a medical marijuana clinic.


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Dr. Michael Verbora

Michael earned an MBA from the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering a Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. A member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, Doctors for Responsible Access and the Canadian Pain Society, he has completed over 2,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and has presented many talks in community and hospital settings while serving as student health physician at Seneca College and Medical Director, Canabo Medical Clinic.

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