Digestive Disorders

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Medical Cannabis Treatment for Digestive Disorders

Several types of diagnosable digestive diseases affect the gastrointestinal tract (GI), which consists of small and large intestines, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, liver, and esophagus. The U.S. National Health reports that up to 70 million Americans are affected by the litany of all digestive diseases. Some of the most common include:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): This condition involves backed up stomach acid that goes into your esophagus. The symptoms are like those of acid reflux but instead of occurring a healthy one or twice a month, it occurs daily. Persistent heartburn, bad breath, tooth erosion, nausea, and pain are common and altering symptoms for this condition.
  • Celiac Disease: This condition involves a serious sensitivity to gluten where the immune system attacks it time and time again. This disease targets your villi, which helps you absorb nutrients from the foods you eat, and it will likely get damaged if the individual continues to eat gluten.
  • Crohn’s Disease: This disease is an inflammatory condition and affects the terminal ileum which connects the end of the small bowel to the beginning of the colon (although it can affect other areas of the digestive tract too). Abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight-loss, and fever are key symptoms for Crohn’s disease.
  • Ulcerative Colitis: This condition is similar to Crohn’s disease but affects the colon instead. It is an inflammatory bowel disease. Sores and ulcers develop along the colons lining and are marked by the frequent and urgent bowel movements, pain with diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): This condition is chronic and should occur in the patient at least three times a month for several months in order to be diagnosed. The occurrence of this condition includes stomach pain or discomfort as well as drastic differences in stool from one day to the next. Bloating is also a common symptom in this condition.
  • Hemorrhoids: This condition entails inflammation of the blood vessels at the end of your digestive tract. They can be painful and itchy as well as involving bright red blood in the toilet when you move your bowels.
  • Diverticulitis: This is a condition where small pouches form on weak spots in the lining of your digestive system (most commonly the colon). These inflamed pouches are called diverticula and are common among older adults. Fever and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms in this condition.

Many of the digestive disorders share the same symptoms, all of which have been alleviated with cannabis based on a 2017 European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology study, reporting the “review sheds light on the role of cannabis in the gut, liver, and pancreas and also on other GI symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, anorexia, weight loss, and chronic abdominal pain.”

Signs and Symptoms of Digestive Disorders

MedlinePlus points out the signs and symptoms of digestive disorders that can co-occur, including bleeding, bloating, heartburn, nausea, weight gain or loss, diarrhea, constipation, and problems swallowing. Other common symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, and irregular bowel movements.

Diagnosing digestive disorders are most often found after performing a colonoscopy, upper GI endoscopy, and endoscopic ultrasound, among other tests. While surgery, an intrusive treatment of any digestive disorder could be necessary, less invasive methods to control the conditions include lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, as well as medication.

Digestive Disorders and Medical Cannabis

Inflammation is a major cause of digestive health concerns. The two main cannabinoids found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have potent anti-inflammatory properties and can be vital in reducing the inflammation in your digestive disorder as well as playing a key role in the alleviation of the symptoms.

One of the most compelling studies on medical cannabis and digestive disorders was published in a 2013 edition of the medical journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease, specifically proving the plant properties alleviate more than one condition.

“The prevalence and perceived effectiveness of marijuana use has not been well studied in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) despite increasing legal permission for its use in Crohn’s disease,” according to the study. After the survey, up to 16.4% of patients studied confirmed medical cannabis was “very helpful” for nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Several other studies as far back as 1990 confirm medical cannabis can alleviate specific digestive disorder conditions. In the Annals of Internal Medicine, a person living with 23-year-old ulcerative colitis was studied based on cigarette and cannabis use, showing that “this case suggests marijuana may ameliorate” the condition. Meanwhile, current news sources further confirm medical cannabis can help all three conditions above. 

With so many GI conditions causing inflammation and chronic pain, cannabinoids like THC and CBD in medical cannabis that already prove to help certain digestive disorders lends hope to the litany of other conditions.   


Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.

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Data Last Updated 01/12/2022

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