There’s no way around it, Crohn’s Disease is awful. It can interfere with daily life in a very extreme and intrusive way, causing severe pain and many an urgent trip to the bathroom. Many Crohn’s patients don’t respond to conventional treatments or have trouble managing the severe side effects of immunosuppressant drugs. So, they turn to cannabis. But, can cannabis really send Crohn’s into remission? How does it help the disease? Here’s what the current research has to say.
Crohn’s Disease is still largely misunderstood.
When the GI tract is continuously inflamed, the body cannot properly absorb the nutrients it needs to survive. This leads to all sorts of short and long-term problems.
Many conventional Crohn’s drugs seek to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system, which is continually attacking the gut.
Researchers think that this is where cannabis can help. Compounds in the herb called cannabinoids have immunomodulatory effects. They prevent the immune system from releasing pro-inflammatory proteins and trigger anti-inflammatory compounds instead.
The herb has this effect because it engages a large network in the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of a series of cell receptors, their corresponding molecules, and the proteins that make and break down these molecules.
Cannabinoid receptors are found all throughout the gastrointestinal tract. They are specifically found on immune cells, indicating that the ECS is important for immune function.
In a 2013 review, authors Rudolf Schicho and Martin Storr explain that patients with irritable bowel disease produce fewer endocannabinoids, the body’s natural THC.
They also state that certain cannabinoid receptors are overexpressed (upregulated). Upregulation is a sign that the intestinal tract is calling out for more cannabinoid inputs.
Scientists are far from pinpointing exactly how the endocannabinoid system is implicated in Crohn’s. Yet, the current discoveries on the subject hint that cannabinoid therapies are serious contenders in the treatment of the disease.