One of the worst parts of Crohn’s Disease (CD) is the nausea. The overwhelming, all-consuming waves that make it impossible to eat, even when you’re starving. Feeling like you may projectile vomit at any given moment can really put a strain on physical activities as well.
For this reason alone, cannabis can provide serious relief for CD patients, but it also helps alleviate other debilitating symptoms of the disease. In 2011, a study of cannabis and CD was published in the Israel Medical Association Journal, and 21 out of 30 patients showed a significant improvement in symptoms. Additionally, there was a substantial reduction in the need for other standard forms of treatment.
I am all too familiar with the standard forms of CD treatment: the steroids that make my skin crawl and alter my moods drastically, the anti-anxiety medication that is highly habit-forming and increases my anxiety tenfold, the immunosuppressives that rip holes in my stomach lining with all the vomiting, and the painkillers wreaking havoc on my liver. When I was on the hamster wheel of discovery, in the beginning stages of my diagnosis before I became my own advocate, I tried many forms of treatment that only worsened my symptoms.
In another pilot study regarding CD and cannabis, Rudolf Schicho and Martin Storr note, “The immunosuppressives cause the same side effects that the disease causes: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Mesalamine frequently was reported to cause rash, itching, and photosensitivity. Steroids have a host of common side effects including anxiety, depression, irritability, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain; and, with chronic use, bone thinning, glucose intolerance, peptic ulcers, and the Cushingoid state.”
Crohn’s Disease belongs to a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and is marked by inflammation of the digestive tract. Unlike other forms of IBD, CD can affect any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to anus. Most often, a CD patient will also experience several comorbidities, or co-existing conditions, such as anxiety, migraines, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, or endometriosis.
Despite the positive anecdotal and clinical evidence, I have yet to find a doctor who embraces cannabis as a possible treatment option. For the last several years, I have treated my CD holistically. I came to CBD slowly, after a ton of research, and it drastically improved my symptoms. Even though I was safely managing my pain and anxiety along with other symptoms, every gastroenterologist I saw dismissed it and insisted on pharmaceuticals.
It has been my experience that the moment you mention homeopathic or holistic in relation to CD in front of a mainstream medical doctor, an implication of negligence ensues. Because I refuse their suggested form of treatment that will cause long-term and potentially fatal side effects, they imply I don’t care about my health. It doesn’t matter that my CD is in remission, which never happened with pharmaceuticals.
That isn’t to say that there are not times where pharmaceuticals are warranted, or that some of these treatments don’t work for a select few, but there are safer options. Unfortunately, with so much opposition remaining in mainstream health, and arbitrary laws still in place, those safer options aren’t always accessible. Even when they are, having your doctor dismiss your experience or curiosity is discouraging.
My most recent GI doctor didn’t even consider for one minute that CBD could be a formidable form of treatment for me. Even after my last colonoscopy, where my GI tract went from looking like swiss cheese to one lone ulcer, his consternation remained. He refused to discuss recent studies I brought with me, or to even acknowledge the improvement.
A randomized study completed in Israel showed that cannabis caused complete clinical remission in 45% of CD patients and a significant reduction in 90%. Complete clinical remission means that a patient doesn’t experience flare ups, or intensified symptoms.
Dr. Shivangi Amin, a family medicine and pain specialist expert in medical cannabis, tells bud.com that cannabis-based treatment can help with a patient’s overall quality of life, which is rare for a CD treatment:
“Cannabis has been used by many of my Crohn’s disease patients. I find that even though this is a disease with inflammation of the gut, cannabis use in these patients improves the symptoms associated with the disease such as pain and fatigue. This allows these patients to have a better quality of life.”
Diana-Ashley Krach is a freelance writer, journalist, and content creator whose work can be found on Everyday Feminism, Ravishly, and Playboy. She is the co-host and creator of Your Highness Podcast and founder of Good Vibes Marketing Agency. You can find her on Twitter or on her website.