Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) is a broad term that describes conditions with chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common inflammatory bowel diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Both illnesses have one strong feature in common. They are marked by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. Normally, the immune cells protect the body from infection. In people with IBD, however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign substances and it attacks the cells of the intestines. In the process, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines where they produce chronic inflammation. When this happens, the patient experiences the symptoms of IBD.
Neither ulcerative colitis nor Crohn’s disease should be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder that affects the motility (muscle contractions) of the colon. Sometimes called “spastic colon” or “nervous colitis,” IBS is not characterized by intestinal inflammation. It is, therefore, a much less serious disease than ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. IBS bears no direct relationship to either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Excerpts below from:
CDC Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Crohn’s Disease Survivor Shona Banda Tells How Medical Marijuana Oil Helped
“I had gotten to the point that I didn’t want to be a burden didn’t want to do anything, I was literally waiting to die. And that’s when I accidentally found the oil. Within three days, I no longer needed my cane, I could stand upright, and that was it. My life changed forever.”
About Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a condition of chronic inflammation potentially involving any location of the gastrointestinal tract, but it frequently affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the large bowel. In Crohn’s disease, all layers of the intestine may be involved and there can be normal healthy bowel between patches of diseased bowel.
Symptoms include persistent diarrhea (loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements), cramping abdominal pain, fever, and, at times, rectal bleeding. Loss of appetite and weight loss also may occur. However, the disease is not always limited to the gastrointestinal tract; it can also affect the joints, eyes, skin, and liver. Fatigue is another common complaint.
The most common complication of Crohn’s disease is blockage of the intestine due to swelling and scar tissue. Symptoms of blockage include cramping pain, vomiting, and bloating. Another complication is sores or ulcers within the intestinal tract. Sometimes these deep ulcers turn into tracts—called fistulas. In 30% of people with Crohn’s disease, these fistulas become infected. Patients may also develop a shortage of proteins, calories, or vitamins. They generally do not develop unless the disease is severe and of long duration. Until recently an increased risk of cancer was thought to exist mainly for ulcerative colitis patients, but it is now known that Crohn’s patients have an increased risk of colon cancer as well.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that is limited to the large bowel (the colon). Ulcerative colitis does not affect all layers of the bowel, but only affects the top layers of the colon in an even and continuous distribution. The first symptom of ulcerative colitis is a progressive loosening of the stool. The stool is generally bloody and may be associated with cramping abdominal pain and severe urgency to have a bowel movement. The diarrhea may begin slowly or quite suddenly. Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss are common, as is fatigue. In cases of severe bleeding, anemia may also occur. In addition, there may be skin lesions, joint pain, eye inflammation, and liver disorders. Children with ulcerative colitis may fail to develop or grow properly.
Approximately half of all patients with ulcerative colitis have mild symptoms. However, others may suffer from severe abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea, nausea, and fever. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis do tend to come and go, with fairly long periods in between flare-ups in which patients may experience no distress at all.
Complications of ulcerative colitis are less frequent than in Crohn’s disease. Complications can include bleeding from deep ulcerations, rupture of the bowel, or failure of the patient to respond to the usual medical treatments. Another complication is severe abdominal bloating. Patients with ulcerative colitis are at increased risk of colon cancer.
Unlike Crohn’s disease, which can recur after surgery, ulcerative colitis is “cured” once the colon is removed.
The peak age of onset for IBD is 15 to 30 years old, although it may occur at any age. About 10% of cases occur in individuals younger than 18 years.
Impact of the IBD as a Chronic Disease
IBD is one of the five most prevalent gastrointestinal disease burdens in the United States, with an overall health care cost of more than $1.7 billion. This chronic condition is without a medical cure and commonly requires a lifetime of care. Each year in the United States, IBD accounts for more than 700,000 physician visits, 100,000 hospitalizations, and disability in 119,000 patients.
Cannabis Hope for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Chemicals found in cannabis could prove an effective treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, say, scientists.
Laboratory tests have shown that two compounds found in the cannabis plant — the cannabinoids THC and cannabidiol — interact with the body’s system that controls gut function.
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which affect about one in every 250 people in Northern Europe, are caused by both genetic and environmental factors. The researchers believe that a genetic susceptibility coupled with other triggers, such as diet, stress or bacterial imbalance, leads to a defective immune response.
Dr Karen Wright, Peel Trust Lecturer in Biomedicine at Lancaster University, presented her soon-to-be published work at The British Pharmacological Society’s Winter Meeting in London.
She said: “The lining of the intestines provides a barrier against the contents of the gut but in people with Crohn’s Disease this barrier leaks and bacteria can escape into the intestinal tissue leading to an inappropriate immune response.
“If we could find a way to restore barrier integrity in patients we may be able to curb the inflammatory immune response that causes these chronic conditions.”
Dr Wright, working with colleagues at the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health in Derby, has shown that cells that react to cannabinoid compounds play an important role in normal gut function as well as the immune system’s inflammatory response.
“The body produces its own cannabinoid molecules, called endocannabinoids, which we have shown increase the permeability of the epithelium during inflammation, implying that overproduction may be detrimental,” said Dr Wright.
“However, we were able to reverse this process using plant-derived cannabinoids, which appeared to allow the epithelial cells to form tighter bonds with each other and restore the membrane barrier.”
The research was carried out using cell cultures in a dish but, interestingly, when the team attempted to mimic the conditions of the gut by reducing the amount of oxygen in the cells’ environment, much lower concentrations of cannabinoid were needed to produce the same effect.
Dr Wright added: “What is also encouraging is that while THC has psychoactive properties and is responsible for the ‘high’ people experience when using cannabis, cannabidiol, which has also proved effective in restoring membrane integrity, does not possess such properties.”