Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) often refers to two different conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These two conditions, along with other types of IBD, are associated with painful symptoms. However, the results of a study suggest that cannabis could be used to address gut inflammation.
Cannabis and its effect on gut inflammation
According to cannabis users, the drug helps to relieve the symptoms of IBD. This inspired the researchers to verify the claims through this study on cannabis and gut inflammation.
The study findings suggest that cannabinoids can help control and prevent intestinal inflammation in mouse models. The researchers noted that this is the first time that a biological mechanism has been identified as the reason why some marijuana users have reported beneficial effects from cannabis on intestine inflammation conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. However, the inflammation usually affects the tail end of the small intestine. A patient with ulcerative colitis on the other hand suffers from the inflammation of the large intestine.
Around the globe, millions of people suffer from gut disorders, which occur when the body’s immune defenses mistakenly attack the lining of the intestine. In the study, the researchers learned that gut inflammation is regulated by two processes that are constantly in flux to accommodate changing conditions in the intestines.
Earlier studies already identified the first process, which involves a pathway promoting an aggressive immune response in the gut. But while this response helps eliminate dangerous pathogens, it can also harm the lining of the intestine when immune cells attack indiscriminately.
The second process, which was characterized in the study for the first time, is able to turn off this inflammation response through molecules that are transported across the cells lining the gut and into the intestine cavity.
The downregulation response needs endocannabinoid, a naturally produced molecule that is very similar to cannabinoid molecules in cannabis. If the endocannabinoid isn’t present, inflammation can flare up when the body’s immune system cells attack the intestinal lining.
Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids
The scientists posit that since cannabis use introduces cannabinoids into the body, these molecules may help ease gut inflammation in the same way that naturally produced endocannabinoids would. (Related: Supplements for IBS and IBD: 10 natural remedies to put out the fire in your gut.)
Professor Randy Mrsny, from the University of Bath Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, commented that while the study could explain why marijuana users have reported that cannabis relieves IBD symptoms, the findings only confirm the effect of cannabis on mouse models. The findings still need to be proven experimentally in humans. He added that the study results may be used to provide “a mechanistic explanation for anecdotal data that cannabinoid exposure benefits some colitis patients.”
The study is the first of its kind to identify a counterbalance to the inflammation response in the intestine, and the researchers are hopeful that the findings can be used to develop new and effective remedies to treat bowel diseases.
Professor Beth McCormick, from UMMS, noted that even if there is a lot of anecdotal evidence concerning the benefits of medical marijuana, it still lacks scientific data that can verify these claims. She acknowledged that the study has allowed the researchers to learn more about the molecules involved in the process and how both endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation.
Professor McCormick concluded that the study has given clinical researchers a new drug target to investigate to treat patients diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases. She noted that it could even be used to develop potential cures for other inflammatory diseases.
You can read more articles about research on the various medicinal applications of cannabis at CannabisCures.news.