Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that causes pain and discomfort in your bowel and colon.  Approximately 3 in 10 people suffer with IBS with a higher likelihood of onset in women than men.  IBS also affects young people more than those aged over 50 and can be linked to sufferers of anxiety and depression.

What Causes IBS?

Some possible causes for IBS have been identified as sensitivities within the colon and/or the immune system, however the exact cause of IBS still remains unknown.  

The main factors that affect IBS currently known include:

  • Severe bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Intestinal muscular contractions that are too strong or weak
  • Abnormalities in the nervous system
  • Changes in the microbial composition of the gut
  • Environmental stress factors (especially in early stages of development/childhood)

The main environmental triggers of IBS include:

  • Food
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental health issues
  • History of physical or sexual abuse

Food can also be a trigger for IBS.  Each sufferer may have different specific foods or food groups that affect them, however the main food triggers of IBS include:

  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Lentils
  • Cauliflower
  • Soft drinks
  • Fried food
  • Caffeine
  • Chilli/spicy food
  • High sugar foods

What are IBS Symptoms?

IBS can cause you to feel many unpleasant physical symptoms, with most revolving around the abdominal area.  The main experience of IBS sufferers involves a combination of pain and discomfort that can affect daily life.

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • ‘Churning’ stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloated stomach
  • Nausea
  • Gas and flatulence
  • Intolerance to certain foods
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Changes to the physical appearance of bowel movements
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Medical Cannabis & IBS

Emerging research has found that medical cannabis may be a useful treatment for IBS.

A study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research highlights the role of the endocannabinoid system in controlling a range of different gastrointestinal functions, including motility, gut–brain-mediated fat intake and hunger signaling, inflammation and gut permeability, and dynamic interactions with gut microbiota.

A study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine found that cannabis inhibits gastric acid secretion in humans and animals.  This means that antisecretory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vasodilator properties of cannabis might protect the stomach lining.

A study in the American Journal of Physiology, Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology determined that cannabinoids may play a role in the colon and gastrointestinal tract, by supporting motility (the ability for food to move through the body).

Patients experiencing IBS caused by inflammatory or other gastric conditions may find relief from full spectrum cannabinoid therapy, but most notably THC CBD, CBG and CBC.

Medical Cannabis and IBS Advice

You should always speak to your doctor first about any medical cannabis treatment options that might be available to treat your chronic pain.  Depending on the severity of your IBS symptoms and condition, doctors will usually adopt a “start low and go slow” approach (known as titration) to steadily increase the dosage of medical cannabis until a desired level of symptom relief is reached.

Always consult your doctor before taking any kind of medication, including for IBS.  You should not discontinue treatment with any other treatment unless directed by your doctor.

Plant-based medicines may help with:

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