Here’s What Research Says About Using CBD for Crohn’s Disease

Kat Austin

Kat Austin

Here’s What Research Says About Using CBD for Crohn’s Disease

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As CBD use spreads far and wide, we are beginning to come to terms with just how many different uses the cannabis-derived supplement may have. People are using it for all sorts of issues, like muscle pain and inflammation or anxiety. Impressively, CBD may also be useful for managing certain severe symptoms, and in some cases even chronic illness. One condition that’s got a lot of CBD buzz surrounding it is Crohn’s Disease. It’s not that surprising really, since Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can frequently be found on most states’ lists of medical marijuana ‘approved conditions’. Of course, there’s still a lot we don’t know about CBD, but gastrointestinal issues are one area where there is already a good bit of science to help iron out the details. Can CBD help with Crohn’s Disease and related conditions? Let’s let the research speak for itself.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are two forms of an inflammatory gut condition that fall under the umbrella term “Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” To date, there is no cure for these bowel conditions, and treatments typically involve medication to help manage the many symptoms related to these disorders. Although it varies by condition and case, these symptoms usually include diarrhea, blood in the stool, severe stomach pain, appetite loss, unexplained weight loss, fever, or fatigue.
The condition is not considered to be fatal but can lead to other serious, sometimes fatal conditions. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, approximately 1.6 million Americans currently have some form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and approximately 70,000 cases are diagnosed every year. The condition, which usually affects patients for life, can easily disrupt daily activities and cause unending discomfort, and usually requires diet changes and extensive medications. 

Research Regarding CBD for Crohn’s Disease

Because Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and related disorders are characterized by inflammation of the intestinal tract, it’s easy to see why researchers were interested in cannabinoid-based treatment, but a 2008 study brings even more evidence to the light. This study shows that people suffering from a range of treatment-resistant inflammatory issues, including inflammatory bowel syndrome, may have an underlying cannabinoid deficiency. In many cases with these inflammatory conditions (including IBS, migraines, fibromyalgia, and more) Anandamide or another endocannabinoid (a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in the body) is able to inhibit inflammatory activation. With this in mind, researchers set out to experiment with cannabidiol as a treatment for one of these inflammatory conditions, ulcerative colitis.

A study from 2009 shows that CBD was effective at managing, and possibly preventing ulcerative colitis in mice. CBD doses resulted in less inflammation and even prevented colon injury caused by the condition. In 2010, this study was extended to include THC, alone and in combination with CBD. Again, CBD showed the ability to improve conditions in rat models with colitis. According to this study, the evidence “further suggests that this phytocannabinoid, which is devoid of psychoactive properties, could help alleviate symptoms in human IBD.”

At this point, researchers could definitely see a link between CBD and managing Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and other inflammatory bowel conditions, but they still weren’t quite sure how it works. Then, in 2011, a new study emerged to show CBD’s interaction in the neuroimmune axis, resulting in the reduction of inflammation in human colonic cultures from Ulcerative Colitis patients.  This study was one of the first to truly conclude that CBD “unravels a new therapeutic strategy to treat inflammatory bowel diseases.”

The paramount research focuses on enteric glial cells (EGC), or the specific cells that activate inflammation within the gut. As these glial cells proliferate, they release neurotrophins and proinflammatory cytokines, which further the inflammatory response from the immune system. CBD treatment showed to mediate the production of enteric glial cells to reduce the inflammatory response and protect the gut.

Researchers also looked at the application of systemic topical CBD (including CBD suppositories) and found similar anti-inflammatory results. An overview of Cannabidiol in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Disease was released in 2013, and it emphasized the importance of finding treatment options that can be used in combination with existing IBD drugs to increase efficacy. The study notes that Cannabinoids have been renowned for their anti-inflammatory effects for some time, with THC’s psychoactive effect posing limitations on how cannabinoid medications can be used. The study notes that CBD offers the same gut-protective properties as other phytocannabinoid, but psychoactive effects are absent, indicating the great potential of CBD as an IBD medication. 

Should You Use CBD for Crohn’s Disease?

If you suffer from Crohn’s Disease, you may be elated to hear that CBD may help. Of course, there are multiple things to consider before getting started with CBD for Crohn’s Disease, colitis, or other related conditions. For instance, CBD may react with some medications, so it’s always best to talk to your doctor before you start using CBD.

Plus, the best CBD dose will vary for every person, so it’s crucial that some thought and consideration goes into planning your CBD routine. For new CBD users, it may be best to start with a very small dose and gradually increase until you notice your symptoms improve. It’s also important to understand how to tell if you take too much CBD, which could result in some very mild side effects. 

Either way, CBD may be a good idea. When compared to standard prescription medications used for Crohn’s Disease, like steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-inflammatory drugs, CBD’s side effects are very mild. For instance, side effects listed for common immunosuppressive drugs sometimes prescribed for Ulcerative Colitis include an increased chance of infection, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, hair loss, and more. In comparison, the most common adverse reactions reported for CBD are tiredness, diarrhea, and appetite changes. 

In many cases (with a doctor’s guidance) CBD can be used concurrently with other medications and may help manage residual symptoms or sudden flares. If you and your doctor decide to try CBD for Crohn’s Disease, you’ll want to choose a product (or range of products) that best for your lifestyle and dosing needs. 

How to Choose the Best CBD Products for You

The CBD market is pretty expansive, so choosing a CBD product for you may not be so cut and dry, especially for those who have never used CBD before. Of course, there are a few types of products that are great for helping new users test the waters, but also work well for experienced users who need real relief. If you’re considering trying CBD for Crohn’s Disease or a related condition, you may want to try the following:

CBD Tinctures: These oral supplements are meant to be taken sublingually, and they offer a few benefits that make them perfect for new users. First, they can be measured in small increments, which means it’s easy to slowly scale your dose until you find a dosage that works for you. Plus, tinctures are taken sublingually, or by placing drops under the tongue, which means much of the digestive system’s filtering is bypassed. For this reason, tinctures are often preferred by people using CBD for chronic issues because they are efficient and effective. 

CBD Vaporizers: A vaporizer can be a little bit more difficult in terms of measuring your dose, but the effects don’t mess around. With effects that kick in after only a few minutes, it’s easy for new users to “stack” up their doses until they find relief. This gives the opportunity to start slow and build up to an effective dose, which can help fight new-user jitters. Plus, the near-instantaneous effects make this a powerful weapon against chronic issues that respond to CBD, and it’s ultra-portability makes it great for managing symptoms while on the go.

CBD Capsules: Capsules are convenient, pre-measured doses that make it simple for people to add CBD to their existing routine without too much fuss. However, the pre-measured doses can be difficult for users who don’t know how much CBD to take since the dose has to be measured in set increments every time. For most users, though, a 10mg or 15mg capsule is plenty and takes the guesswork out of measuring each time a dose is needed. 

CBD Drinks: Infused beverages or drink mixes are super convenient, tasty, and offer pre-measured doses of CBD. Many drink-type CBD products also feature water soluble CBD. Although we’ve yet to see any research comparing the effects of these water soluble CBD molecules to regular CBD, it’s probably safe to assume that water soluble CBD is more easily processed by the body (because we’re made of mostly water). Many people love the convenience of using CBD drink mixes in their daily routine, and this may be an optimal way to dose while you hydrate.

CBD Topicals: Topical cannabidiol products are absorbed through the skin to help reduce inflammation and discomfort from all angles. In some cases, CBD topicals may be used alone. For severe conditions that respond to CBD, it may be best to use topicals in combination with an oral systemic product instead. Applying CBD topicals directly to the stomach area may help reduce discomfort related to inflammation. 

No matter which CBD product you choose, you should proceed carefully and monitor the effects of CBD in order to design a thorough, effective CBD routine. If you’re looking for more information on choosing a CBD product to help manage your symptoms, you may want to read “The Many Forms of CBD: Choosing the Best Product for You.”

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