5 Best Strains to Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
An intestinal disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by bloating, abdominal cramps, pain, and continuous spasms. While some people complain of constipation, others suffer from diarrhea. In addition, food allergies and certain kinds of foods and drinks like cabbage, beans, dairy products, or citrus fruits can trigger IBS. Similarly, stress-related IBS is also commonly seen in patients, as it is found that the symptoms worsen with stress.
While IBS is a common chronic medical disorder, many people can address the symptoms by sticking to a healthy diet and leading a fit lifestyle. In some cases, medication helps. However, in severe cases, the patient must go for long-term treatment to manage the symptoms and holistically cure them. Patients are known to control their symptoms through counseling, physical and mental exercises, and making noticeable dietary changes.
Health practitioners often advise the regular use of probiotic foods and other over-the-counter drugs like anticholinergics, opioids, and antidepressants for relief. But unfortunately, sometimes, many of these treatment options or even lifestyle changes do not offer much respite from IBS. In such cases, medical marijuana can provide some rest for patients.
While a lot of research is ongoing in this context, especially the effects of cannabis on IBS symptoms and as a treatment option for the condition, it is certain that cannabis does help in controlling the symptoms of this medical condition.
Effect of Cannabis on Irritable Bowel Syndrome
In 2005, the Journal of Molecular Medicine published a study that gut health may benefit from the body’s endocannabinoid system. A review of this study in 2020 and published in the Journal of Gastroenterology mentions that cannabis can help relieve IBS symptoms since the endocannabinoid system (ECS) positively affects gut tissues.
IBS symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and poor appetite can be improved with the help of cannabinoids like THC and CBD in cannabis. Though studies continue even as we write, and researchers need more evidence to prove the link between gut health and cannabis, the 2020 study mentions that cannabinoids do not provide respite in inflammation.
Experts all across the board agree that cannabis can play a vital role in reducing pain. Specifically, the substance can help with colon contractions in the case of IBS. Various clinical trials involving a synthetically-created THC, dronabinol, show that it can effectively help manage contractions in the large intestine. Patients suffering from IBS and diarrhea as a marked disorder can find relief with THC.
Another research involving patients of Irritable Bowel Disease or IBD revealed that cannabis promoted gut health and reduced IBD symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and poor appetite. So, even though IBD and IBS are two different medical conditions, the results of this study show that patients having IBS have similar symptoms to IBD and can experience relief with cannabis.
How Does it Work?
The endocannabinoid system of the body is the one that regulates the moment-to-moment functioning of the body. It oversees many of the body’s critical functions, including processing emotions, pain control, learning and memory, sleep, inflammation, immune response, temperature control, and eating.
It is a colossal network comprising cellular and cannabinoid receptors and chemical signals. The network is spread across the body and brain. The cannabinoid receptors act like traffic police officers who keep a check on the activities of other neurotransmitters. For example, if the body is hungry, they immediately regulate the neurotransmitters responsible for communicating to the brain that the body needs food.
Molecules, called endocannabinoids, activate the cannabinoid receptors produced inside the body. The structure of these molecules is similar to cannabis molecules. Furthermore, these cannabis-like molecules are present in the human brain. Therefore, the logic behind cannabis being an effective method of tackling IBS symptoms lies in the fact that the molecules of cannabis plants can hijack the endocannabinoid molecules, delivering the required effect.
A clinical deficiency in the ECS can result in IBS, as the cannabinoid receptors are also responsible for proper functioning gastrointestinal neurotransmitters. Therefore, the two main types of cannabinoids present in cannabis, namely CBD or cannabidiol and THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, have been found to vitalize the ECS by regulating the neurotransmitters and receptors in the gut. Consequently, the ECS is directly responsible for promoting a healthy digestive tract.
Cannabis can also enhance the performance of other receptors, like opioids and serotonin, that can improve inflammation. It can also act as a mood enhancer, reducing stress and anxiety, which are symptoms of IBS. Similarly, some people suffering from IBS complain of poor appetite. In such patients, certain cannabis strains can activate receptors associated with hunger.
It is crucial to pick the right strain of cannabis for IBS treatment. Strains with either higher CBD content or a perfect balance between CBD and THC are best recommended. Both strains have anti-inflammatory properties and are suitable as painkillers. Of the two strains, though, CBD is not psychoactive.
Besides considering the type of cannabis strain, another vital aspect that needs to be assessed is the terpene. It is the chemical that gives cannabis its aromatic characteristics. It differs from strain to strain. Terpenes have been found to have a synergic effect with cannabinoids and are known for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. These chemicals also have qualities that protect the gastrointestinal tract. For IBS, the terpenes that are best suited are linalool, limonene, myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene.
How to Use Cannabis Effectively for IBS?
There are different ways of using cannabis. However, the best ways are vaporizing and smoking to relieve pain or other symptoms of IBS effectively. Not only are these two methods most popular amongst cannabis users, but these methods also yield better and faster results than other methods, as per studies.
Cannabis edibles are also a way out for patients not looking for immediate pain relief or respite from other symptoms. It is a slower process of ingesting cannabis since the absorption rates are lesser, but the effect remains behind for a longer time vis-a-vis the other two methods.
Which Cannabis Strains are the Best for IBS?
Based on anecdotal reports, the most effective cannabis strains have been mentioned below. However, please note that there are different strains of cannabis, and there is no confirmed scientific evidence yet that one is better than the other. Additionally, the effects are all subjective and depend solely on the person/patient using them – what suits one may not work for the other!
This strain of cannabis contains one of the highest ratios of CBD at 17%. The THC content is 6% in Cannatonic. Since the ratio of CBD to THC in this strain is 3:1, it is one of the most popular medicinal cannabis strains.
Due to its high CBD content, this strain is helpful in pain management associated with IBS. It also helps with other symptoms. The low THC content means that there are no psychoactive effects associated with THC.
ACDC has 20% CBD content. It is another common strain suggested to patients with chronic pain in IBS. It has no intoxicating effect because of its low THC percentage. However, users do experience a calming effect that helps them de-stress. It further helps in alleviating IBS.
This strain of cannabis has a higher content vis-a-vis CBD. It ranges between 14% and 23%. Since it has psychoactive properties, patients are advised to use this strain to manage specific IBS symptoms like nausea. To top it off, it helps users relax and reduce their stress levels, which helps alleviate IBS.
This cannabis strain has a balance between CBD and THC content. Therefore, it is highly effective in pain management in patients with IBS and related symptoms. In addition, white Widow is known to give an entourage effect, making it even more helpful in managing symptoms associated with IBS.
This marijuana strain has a good track record of managing chronic pain. Anecdotal evidence proves that this strain helps in offering relief from abdominal cramps. In addition, due to the presence of CBD, THC, and terpene called myrcene, the strain helps reduce symptoms of nausea in IBS patients. Blue Dream is often the first of many strains for IBS that is advised to first-time users of cannabis. The reason behind this is that the taste of Blue Dream is quite subtle and not as overpowering as many other strains of marijuana.