Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS affects 10 percent of the entire world’s population. That’s roughly 740 million people who are currently living with IBS. Are you one of them? This article outlines what irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is, its primary symptoms, and how medical cannabis can potentially treat it.
What is IBS?
IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a digestive disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. Approximately 10-15% of the North American population has IBS. Women less than 50 years of age are the most affected.
Unfortunately, 40% of patients that meet the criteria for IBS have not been diagnosed.
Many women are under-diagnosed and suffering from symptoms. You may have IBS if you have abdominal pain in addition to experiencing two out of three of the following symptoms.
- Pain during bowel movement
- A change in the number of bowel movements per day
- A change in the consistency of your stool (i.e. diarrhea or constipation)
There are multiple types of IBS. These include constipation-predominant, diarrhea-predominant, and both constipation and diarrhea-predominant types of IBS.
Case Study: Ontario Town Infected with IBS
There are numerous causes, including complex interactions of the nervous system of the gut and brain. One of the most common causes of IBS is a gastrointestinal infection (post-infectious IBS).
In 2000, the town of Walkerton, Ontario, experienced an E. coli contamination. Of the citizens who were affected, 28% of them went on to develop IBS.
The case of Walkerton, Ontario, demonstrates how healthy people with normal digestive function may develop IBS out of nowhere.
Are there any other signs that you may have IBS?
Chronic abdominal pain caused by emotional stress is an early sign of IBS. Abdominal pain after eating is another subtle sign that you may be developing IBS.
Is there a cure or treatment?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS.
There are no good treatment options for abdominal pain from IBS, either. Changing diet, avoiding gluten-containing foods, consuming fibre or probiotics are generally ineffective. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like Advil may worsen abdominal pain and result in complications such as stomach ulcers or life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding. Due to its addictive and fatal properties, opioids should be avoided in the treatment of IBS.
Even though there is no cure for IBS, there are effective treatments to help manage it.
One such treatment is using medical cannabis.
Inside every one of us is a biological system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is responsible for maintaining cellular balance, or homeostasis. This system is made up of a vast network of cannabinoid receptors that are located throughout our bodies.
Cannabis cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, and CBC can bind to our receptors like a lock and key mechanism. Naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors can be found along the gastrointestinal tract. A deficiency of endocannabinoids may be associated with IBS1.
In short, the multitude of endocannabinoid receptors that are littered throughout our body makes it possible for medical cannabis to exert such profound beneficial effects.
If nothing has worked for your IBS, there may be hope with medical cannabis.