Cannabis. How can a drug scheduled in the United States as a narcotic with highly addictive properties and no medicinal benefits, and in Canada as a narcotic and a controlled substance, have positive effects on everything from seizures to irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety to nausea?
The answers lie within cannabis’ ability to help rebalance a deficient endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis primarily within our immune and nervous systems. Given the current standing of cannabis and government restrictions on clinical trials, those questions are difficult to answer.
In the absence of clinical trials, we are left with anecdotal evidence based on patients’ experiences — some of which we will compile and share over the coming months. These testimonies may shed light on what is possible when treating chronic ailments with a thoughtful, bio-individual approach to cannabis.
We’ve interviewed Natural Health Services (NHS) patients in the past about migraines, as well as ADHD in children, and PTSD (here and here). Let’s talk about cannabis and irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
First, what is irritable bowel syndrome?
The symptoms, which typically occur following meals, aren’t considered to necessarily be IBS until they have been present for at least six months. They include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Gas, bloating, and “fullness”
- Chronic constipation
- Mucus in the stool
- Uncontrollable urgency to have a bowel movement
The symptoms of IBS typically fluctuate in their occurrence and severity. In many patients, symptoms are significantly reduced — or even disappear — following a bowel movement. As always, talk to your doctor if you suspect you may have IBS. If you think you may want to try the cannabis route as your treatment of choice, you may want to self-refer and schedule an appointment with a physician at Natural Health Services.
Studies have shown that both THC and CBD can be of value when treating IBS. THC can reduce intestinal motility (spontaneous movement) and, thus, alleviated both colonic spasms and abdominal pain in IBS sufferers. We also know that the non-psychoactive CBD helps decrease inflammation. There is no clear-cut answer as to which will be most helpful to you, or what combination thereof. Best to get a prescription, get a journal and start experimenting with microdosing both.
Vaping the dried herb will help rebalance your system, but for a more targeted approach, you may want to try oils or a decarboxylated (or decarbed) product (Hydropothecary makes a beautiful milled decarbed product that you can encapsulate) that travel through the digestive tract.
One of NHS’ patients, we’ll call him YYC Sheldon, shared his dealing with IBS and the success he found with CBD oil with us.
When did you become a patient with NHS?
Early July 2017 (less than two months).
What condition(s) were you hoping to treat with medical cannabis?
IBS with pain levels sometimes hitting between 7-9 out of 10
Had you tried cannabis before?
Nope, I was worried about potential addiction.
Had you tried pharmaceuticals for your condition before? If so, can you briefly describe your success or lack thereof with the pharmaceuticals?
I have tried plenty of different medications over the years. I was only willing to try Marijuana after a horrific 2 1/2 month experience with a pharmaceutical, which I have since told my doctor “never again”. I truly did not expect marijuana to work for me. I have had numerous friends recommend marijuana for the last couple of years. I finally decided to get my license because a) I had basically given up and figured what have I got to lose and b) concerns regarding new legislation and wanting to ensure I’d be grandfathered in should marijuana actually be effective for me.
What method of ingestion did you choose, oil or dried flower or a combination thereof?
I have tried oil, cookie, and dried flower. I actually chose my producer based on the fact I was told this producer always had oils in stock. I had been told the oils and ingested usually take longer to take effect but also last longer. The oil and cookies do not seem work for me. The dried flower is a godsend, works within minutes and last until a new trigger occurs.
Can you describe how you medicate regarding when you ingest, how long it takes to take effect, what effect it has and for how long?
After less than one week of trial… I went to only vaped plant. I even bought a second vape to ensure I have one to carry with and one for home. I vape when I either feel an episode coming on or when it hits me like a bat. How many puffs I take (usually between 4-7) depends on if I feel an episode about to start or what pain level I’m at when I take it. If I am at a pain level seven, I am down to pain level 1 or 2 in 5-10 minutes and soon after at zero pain. How long it lasts depends, usually it last until something else triggers the IBS, usually days but I have had one day where I used it three times during the day.
What effects has the medical cannabis had on your health and your quality of life in general?
It is a godsend. During the last seven months, I missed over 60% of work days and too many social gatherings to count. I have only missed a couple of hours of work since my prescription arrived July 22 I think and no social gatherings. I use high CBD and minimal THC 1:20 and <1:13. I have received many “I told you so” s from the friends who had been recommending marijuana.
I think it is also important to note: I have had numerous people point out to me I appear happier and just look like I’m doing better. When I mention to them why, I have had predominantly positive reactions with only one negative. I have always been upfront with friends, family and co-workers about my medical situation. The vast majority who hear what has helped me have been extremely supportive which was an extreme shock. The reactions I have had has made it much easier to tell anyone who asks.
Thanks for sharing YYC Sheldon!
— Written by Kait Shane, Natural Health Services. Follow Kait on Twitter @Medikait.
For further insight into all things cannabis, don’t forget to check out The Cannabis Show (new episodes every Wednesday), and connect with us through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Cannabis Show is also available as an audio podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Overcast.