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Medical Cannabis and Irritable Bowel Disease

There are currently 270,000 Canadians living with some form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and the incidence rate among Canadian children living with the disease has risen over 50% in ten years. Researchers have also predicted that the number of IBD cases is expected to rise to 400,000 by 2030.

Observational research has shown that cannabis can be a welcomed addition to traditional Irritable Bowel Disease treatments. Cannabis has been subjectively reported to decrease pain and inflammation in the digestive tract as well as improve quality of life for those who suffer from IBD.

A significant portion of IBD patients, particularly those with severe disease, use cannabis to relieve symptoms of pain, nausea, and appetite and to improve their overall mood.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

There are two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. These diseases are an abnormal inflammatory response by the body’s immune system and produce severely inflamed or ulcerated bowels.

The 2018 Impact of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Canada report indicates that Canada has one of the highest incidence rates of IBD in the world. The report also states that onset of IBD usually occurs in childhood but may also have onset later in life. Individuals with IBD are at an increased risk of premature death and face an increased prevalence of bowel cancer.

The report concluded that more research is crucial to managing the rising number of cases of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and made several key recommendations. These recommendations included: increasing funding and research; introducing greater public and private investment in IBD research; recognizing that IBD is a national health priority; enacting a national public health campaign and introducing private and public programs that foster open access to washroom facilities. It stated, “to improve the current IBD care and awareness in Canada, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada must advocate to government, media, and the general public, and other key stakeholders to move these recommendations forward”.

Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Disease

In order to diagnose Irritable Bowel Disease a thorough medical history and physical examination is required. Tests may be ordered to rule out other diagnoses and may include blood tests, stool examination, endoscopy, biopsies and other imaging studies.

It is important to speak with your doctor if you have any of the symptoms of IBD including: bloody diarrhea, incontinence, constipation, pain or rectal bleeding with bowel movements, severe urgency, abdominal pain or cramps, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, night sweats or other intestinal complications.

Traditional treatment for Irritable Bowel Disease

Traditional therapies for IBD include pharmaceutical medication and in extreme cases, surgery. The goal of treatment is to reduce bowel inflammation that is causing pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids and aminosalicylates, are generally the first step in treating IBD.

Another class of pharmaceutical drugs that is commonly utilized are immune system suppressors. The goal of these drugs is to suppress the immune response which causes inflammation-inducing chemicals to be released into the intestinal lining.

If drug therapy and lifestyle changes are not sufficient to manage IBD surgery may be required. Surgery for ulcerative colitis involves removing the bowels and creating a permanent opening in the stomach lining. A colostomy bag is permanently attached and collects waste. In some cases part of the bowel will be removed leaving behind a shortened bowel without the need for a colostomy bag.

Surgery for Crohn’s disease involves removing damaged parts of the digestive tract and stitching the remaining intestines back together, forming a shortened intestinal tract. The benefits of this type of surgery are generally temporary and the disease often recurs. Medication to reduce inflammation is vital post-surgery. This will prolong the effects of the initial surgery.

Cannabis use for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The research on how cannabis may affect IBD is scarce but both growing and very promising. A 2011 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology sought to evaluate cannabis use in patients with IBD. Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease were given a questionnaire regarding current and past cannabis use, lifestyle factors, socioeconomic factors, medication and medical history.

The study concluded that cannabis use is common among patients with IBD. Patients reported that they used cannabis to control symptoms such as abdominal pain and depression and that it improved their quality of life. Researchers determined that further studies are needed to evaluate the effects of cannabis on Irritable Bowel Disease.

Due to the long period of prohibition on cannabis research has been difficult. Recent legalization should allow researchers to conduct ongoing trials on how cannabis use may benefit patients with IBD.

The GI Society, a Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, has provided IBD patients with significant information on their website Their video explains how cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, act on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the digestive tract to reduce pain and inflammation. It also suggests that subjective reports of cannabis use have been shown to reduce patients symptoms as well as improve their overall quality of life. The GI Society recommends alternative methods of ingestion, such as vaporizing, oils and edibles, as an alternate to smoking cannabis.

Subjective reports suggest that a multidisciplinary treatment approach is most beneficial to individuals suffering with IBD. Pharmaceutical treatments and lifestyle changes are crucial to managing IBD, but research shows that cannabis may also reduce symptoms.

Apollo Clinics Can Help

Apollo Cannabis Clinic is an evidenced based clinic who has been conducting observational research on medical cannabis and conditions since 2014. The staff includes health care professionals to assist patients of all ages and backgrounds.

In order to access Apollo’s services, begin by visiting to fill out an intake form. Once the information has been submitted and reviewed an Apollo representative will contact you to book an appointment with one of our doctors.

During the initial appointment individuals will disclose their medical history and past cannabis use, and the doctor will determine an appropriate treatment plan with regards to cannabis. It is important to be honest and open with the doctor as it will provide them the best chance at helping individuals manage their condition with cannabis.

Find out if medical cannabis is right for you.


Bodystream has merged into Apollo as of May 1, 2023, and here at Apollo we are looking forward to welcoming all new and existing Bodystream patients for free appointments with a medical cannabis healthcare practitioner.

Bodystream has merged into Apollo as of May 1, 2023, and here at Apollo we are looking forward to welcoming all new and existing Bodystream patients for free appointments with a medical cannabis healthcare practitioner.