Role of Medical Marijuana in Gastrointestinal Disorders Treatment
The Gastrointestinal Tract
The gastrointestinal tract (also known as the GI tract) is a hollow organ system forming a passage from our mouth to anus, made up of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anal canal.
The primary purposes of the GI tract include ingestion, digestion, absorption, and excretion. Food and liquids are ingested through the mouth. The pharynx allows for the swallowing of food through its muscular walls. The esophagus functions as a channel for swallowed food from the pharynx to the stomach. Digestion occurs in the stomach, where the food is broken down into nutrients. Absorption of nutrients from food takes place in the small and large intestines, where nutrients are transported to the bloodstream. Excretion occurs in the anal cavity, where waste is removed from the body.
Structural Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gastrointestinal Disorders refer to conditions or diseases that affect the GI tract. Structural GI disorders are those in which the bowel does not function properly as a result of a structural abnormality. These may be diagnosed through medical tests such as CT scans, endoscopic exams, and x-rays. The following are a few examples of structural GI disorders:
Hemorrhoids: A swollen and inflamed vein or group of veins in the anus and lower rectum. Symptoms include painful bowel movements, irritation around the anus, and bleeding after defecation. Internal hemorrhoids are those originating in the rectum, whereas external hemorrhoids originate in the
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the GI tract, including Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is a characterized by ulcers and chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the large intestine, which is made up of the colon and rectum. Crohn’s disease may affect any part of the GI tract through inflammation of all layers of the bowel’s lining. Symptoms of IBD include abdominal pain, diarrhea, unintended weight loss, and
Colon cancer: A malignant tumor arising from the inner wall of the large Colon cancer usually originates as polyps, small noncancerous clumps that form inside of the colon. Symptoms include unintended weight loss, rectal bleeding, and persistent change in bowel movements.
Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Functional GI disorders (FGIDs) are common disorders that are a result of abnormal function of the GI tract. FGIDs are characterized by persistent GI symptoms. The primary features of a FGID include motility, sensation, and brain-gut dysfunction. Unlike structural GI disorders, FGIDs are difficult to detect through routine medical tests as they often lead to negative results. Over 20 FGIDs have been identified. The following are a few examples of FGIDs:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A common condition involving recurrent abdominal pain and bowel habits of constipation, diarrhea or alterations of
Constipation: A condition characterized by difficulty Symptoms include defecating less than usual, difficulty defecating, nausea, and pain in the abdomen.
Functional dyspepsia: A condition characterized by upper abdominal discomfort or pain. Symptoms include burning pressure, bloating, nausea, and feelings of The causes of functional dyspepsia are largely unknown, although some evidence suggests a genetic predisposition.
Medical Marijuana to Treat Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Disorders
Medical Marijuana may be used to treat symptoms of Gastrointestinal Disorders. Increased research on the medical use of cannabis has provided insight into its role in improving GI disorders, specifically through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vital, complex cell-signaling system which is responsible for maintaining bodily homeostasis.
The ECS is composed of enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids, which are a family of neurotransmitters produced naturally by your body. Endocannabinoids interact with receptors found throughout your body, including the immune cells, brain, glands, and connective tissues. These molecules bind to cannabinoid receptors to regulate various functions such as metabolism, sleep, memory, and reproduction.
The ECS exhibits a protective role in the GI tract. Research has suggested that the ECS is a therapeutic target against various GI disorders. Cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), interact with your ECS. Cannabinoids found in cannabis exhibit the same function as endocannabinoids, specifically they bind to receptors in your ECS.
One study examined the therapeutic use of cannabis in inflammatory bowel disease, as the ECS may be involved in regulating inflammatory responses. A retrospective study compared the effects of cannabis on patients suffering from Crohn’s disease. Researchers found that 70% of patients found significant improvements in disease symptom severity after using cannabis. Some patients were also able to cease all prescription medication use.
Although most studies have analyzed how cannabis affects IBD, it may also play a key role in alleviating the symptoms of other GI disorders. Studies have shown that cannabis may treat symptoms associated with GI disorders. For instance, cannabis may help patients suffering from abdominal pain, decreased appetite,vomiting, and may help to reduce nausea and diarrhea.
Further research is required to determine the clinical efficacy of cannabis and its constituents for different GI disorders; however these studies provide insight into how cannabis affects symptoms related to GI disorders.
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