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Talking about gut health and bowels are not the most elegant pastimes. But problems with the digestive system are common. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition. According to advice from the NHS, it’s usually a lifelong problem, there’s no cure, but diet changes and medicines can often help control the symptoms. The exact cause is unknown – it’s been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress and a family history of IBS.

The symptoms associate with IBS are vast and varied, using the plainest language available, the main symptoms can include:

  • stomach pain or cramps 
  • bloating 
  • diarrhoea 
  • constipation

Secondary or less common symptoms can include:

  • flatulence
  • passing of mucus from the bowels
  • tiredness and a lack of energy
  • nausea
  • backache
  • problems with bladder control
  • incontinence

There are a number of recommendations which emphasise behavioural and dietary adjustments to manage symptoms, but what does the research tell us about the possibility of cannabinoids in treating or helping to manage symptoms? Knowing what we have seen in when searching for more broad and generic benefits of CBD, we’d expect to see very little published in this space. Fortunately, there are some interesting papers published and research has been done. More fortunately, there is one specific paper which gives an overview of the published literature and synthesises some of the main findings.

We’ll therefore use the paper titled ‘Endocannabinoid system in irritable bowel syndrome and cannabis as a therapy’ and draw some of the main assertions along with the references to additional sources, cited originally in this paper (note, the language used in this paper is fairly technical and scientific):

‘The endocannabinoid system comprises locally synthesized endocannabinoids with its receptors and ligands. The gastrointestinal tract also has this endocannabinoid system with CB ligands, anandamide, and 2-arachidonoylglcerol (2-AG) and different cannabinoid receptors like cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1), cannabinoid 2 receptor (CB2) causing a variety of function in the human body.’

Sources 123

‘Activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors decreases gastrointestinal motility, secretions, and hypersensitivity.’

Source 1

‘In the ancient period, Cannabis sativa was used to treat many gastrointestinal diseases. Now with few pieces of evidence, cannabis extracts are used for the study of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).’

Source 1

‘A recent study suggested the potential therapeutic use of Cannabis containing THCA in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) for its anti-inflammatory activity on the colon epithelial cells with less psychoactive side effects.’

Source 1

‘Many laboratory studies have shown the role of endocannabinoid systems in the inflammatory activity of IBD, decreasing inflammation with treatments of cannabinoids and ultimately decreasing the impact in the disease.’

Source 1

‘Cannabis shows an impressive effect against a broad spectrum of diseases recalcitrant to standard therapy. However, its use as a medical therapy has no scientific legitimacy proven by randomized controlled trials or any large-scale studies. Therefore, to prove the medical worth of cannabis in IBS, randomized control trials and large-scale studies are highly needed in present evidence-based practicing medicine.’

Source 1

To Conclude

The endocannabinoid system plays a potential role in the pathophysiology of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Endogenous receptors in the endocannabinoid system is pharmacologic target of many drugs.

Cannabis modulates different functions like immunity, inflammation in our body by activating receptors of endocannabinoid system and might show impressive effect on IBS treatment.

Despite any strong, large scale study, we can see the potential sparkle of cannabis being likely therapy in IBD and hence IBS as well.

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