Around two in every 10 people in the UK suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS; a long-term condition that affects the digestive system.
Sufferers commonly report symptoms such as stomach pain and a change in bowel habits, which can be debilitating enough to affect everyday living. Other symptoms may include food sensitivities, bloating and increased gas.
It is not known what causes IBS, but it generally first develops in the 20s and 30s and is more prevalent among women.
There is no cure for the condition, although symptoms may ease over time, and treatment largely focuses on lifestyle factors and diet.
However, there is some evidence that CBD oil may ease sufferers’ pain and discomfort, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
A review in Molecules found that CBD can be useful for treating pain and inflammation, both of which are major factors in IBS. A 2020 study also discovered that CBD could, in some cases, have benefits for relieving chronic pain and reducing inflammation.
Further research published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine appeared to confirm these findings, pointing toward the fact that cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors.
Research also points towards the positive effects of THC (the psychoactive compound of cannabis) for people whose IBS manifests itself predominantly with diarrhea. In a small study, a single 5mg dose of dronabinol (a synthetic version of THC) led to a slowing of gut emptying through the large intestine – the cause of diarrhea.
Furthermore, IBS is closely linked to anxiety, with stress believed to be a key cause of flare-ups. Here, too, CBD can help – a 2019 Gallup Poll discovered that 37 per cent of CBD users take the supplement for to ease symptoms of anxiety.
It is thought that CBD can change serotonin signals in the body through the interaction with CB1, a receptor found in the central nervous system.
And while low serotonin levels are generally linked primarily with depression, there is also a school of thought that believes it could also be a cause of anxiety.
Meanwhile, a landmark study in the US – billed as the first of its kind – was launched in October last year to investigate CBD’s use as a formal anxiety treatment.
The Cannabinoid Anxiety Relief Education Study is targeting millions of CBD and cannabis users across the US to assess the potential role of cannabinoids in reducing anxiety and other co-morbid conditions, such as insomnia and depression.
However, research into using CBD to treat IBS is still very much in its infancy, and it should be used with caution. There are hopeful signs that it could ease the pain and inflammation associated with a flare-up, and ease any associated anxiety.
However, it is important to be aware that side effects of CBD can include digestive issues, which could prove particularly problematic for those who already suffer with a sensitive stomach.
While CBD has a range of uses – and comes without the worrying side effects that accompany a lot of traditional medication – so far the research has shown no clear benefit when it comes to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Charlotte’s Web announces long-term study into effects of CBD
The company behind renowned CBD brand Charlotte’s Web has teamed up with leading scientific researchers to examine the cannabinoid’s effects on physical and mental health.
Charlotte’s Web Labs (CWL), the research arm of the renowned CBD producer, has announced a long-term scientific collaboration with McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate.
Two distinct clinical trials will investigate the efficacy of a custom-formulated, hemp-derived high-CBD product, with results to be published in 2022.
The trials will be overseen by lead researcher Dr Staci A Gruber, Ph.D, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the MIND program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
Dr Gruber’s Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) Program, established in 2014, is the first of its kind, and is dedicated to studying the long-term impact of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical and adult use which utilises various clinical and cognitive tools as well as multimodal neuroimaging techniques.
MIND utilises valid, robust research models and supports numerous projects designed to address the impact of medical cannabis on important variables such as cognition, brain structure and function, mood, conventional medication use, quality of life, pain, sleep, and other health-related measures.
Through observational longitudinal investigations, survey studies, and clinical trials of custom-formulated cannabinoid products, MIND aims to examine the unique effects of cannabis and its constituents to determine the efficacy of cannabinoids for specific conditions and diseases and to clarify the overall impact of cannabinoid-based treatments on physical and mental health.
Dr Gruber is also conducting a number of other studies, including a longitudinal observational study of veterans who use Charlotte’s Web products.
Charlotte’s Web is the number one CBD brand in the USA and distributed through more than 22,000 retail locations, select distributors and online.
CWL is the research and development division of Charlotte’s Web, with an aim of advancing science around hemp-derived phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoid compounds.
“We are honoured to be working with Dr. Gruber, Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital on these important clinical trials,” said Tim Orr, president of Charlotte’s Web’s CW Labs division.
“Charlotte’s Web remains dedicated to supporting third-party research on hemp CBD investigated by some of the country’s top scientists.”
What is fibromyalgia – and can cannabis help?
With around one in 20 people in the UK and an estimated three to six per cent of the world’s population diagnosed, fibromyalgia is one of the most common pain conditions in the world.
Anyone can develop fibromyalgia – it affects around seven times as many women as men but can develop in either gender at any age – though its wide-ranging symptoms can make it a difficult condition to diagnose.
Alongside chronic pain, those affected may suffer with extreme tiredness, muscle stiffness, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and problems with mental processes such as memory and concentration – all of which can be attributed to a number of other ailments.
While the exact cause of the condition is unknown, it’s thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages carried around the body. In many cases, it can be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event such as injury, giving birth or the death of a loved one.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for fibromyalgia and no remedy to get rid of pain entirely. Instead, patients search for methods to alleviate symptoms, with many opting for a combination of treatments.
One which is growing significantly in terms of both research and usage is cannabis.
The remedy has long been associated with pain relief and as evidence of its benefits mounts, many fibromyalgia patients are choosing to give products such as gels and capsules a try.
In 2019, a study of 367 patients found that pain intensity decreased when treated with CBD. This was supported by Chaves, Bittencourt and Pelegrini in 2020, with the team finding that phytocannabinoids can serve as an ‘affordable yet well-tolerated therapy’ for symptom relief and quality of life improvements.
As usage rises, professionals are coming round to the idea of CBD as a prescribed treatment in fibromyalgia, and in 2018 Carly Barton of Brighton became the UK’s first fibromyalgia patient to receive a prescription for medical cannabis. Prior to that, she, along with thousands of others, had been paying up to £2,500 for three months’ treatment.
Despite many sufferers being reluctant to exercise for fear of aggravating symptoms, it’s another effective way to alleviate pain. Aerobic, resistance and stretching exercises have all been known to relieve pain and stiffness, increase strength and improve mobility in patients, while relaxation exercises such as yoga and t’ai chi can help with difficulty sleeping.
Research has repeatedly backed up these claims and shown that regular aerobic exercise can improve pain, function and overall quality of life, with a 2017 study stating that “aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises are the most effective way of reducing pain and improving global wellbeing in people with fibromyalgia and that stretching and aerobic exercises increase health-related quality of life”.
While regular painkillers may provide some benefits to fibromyalgia symptoms, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for the condition is antidepressants. The medication is known to boost the levels of certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that carry messages to and from the brain, and with low levels of neurotransmitters thought to be a factor in fibromyalgia, it’s believed that this boost may ease the widespread pain associated with the condition.
Many professionals also believe that talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling, are an effective way to manage symptoms and improve low mood associated with fibromyalgia.
How you can take part in a worldwide survey on cannabis and endometriosis
Do you have endometriosis and use cannabis to manage your symptoms? Here’s how you could take part in new research.
Researchers from Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales are keen to find out more about the potential use of cannabis to manage endometriosis pain.
They are looking for participants from across the world, who have been told by their doctor they have the condition and who consume cannabis – either through a prescription or illegally – to manage symptoms.
Results of this survey will help design an upcoming clinical trial to explore the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for endometriosis.
Endometriosis is the second most common gynecological condition in the UK, affecting around one in 10 UK women – although frequent misdiagnosis and a lack of understanding means this figure may be higher.
Despite its prevalence, according to Endometriosis UK, it takes an average of seven and a half years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis.
It happens when tissue similar to the lining of the womb starting to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue. A wide range of debilitating symptoms include pain in the lower abdomen and back, nausea and intense fatigue.
There is currently no cure for the chronic condition and treatment is limited to painkillers, hormonal contraception, or surgery.
However, there is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of cannabis in managing some symptoms such as pain and nausea, with some early suggesting cannabinoids can help with stopping the endometrial cells from multiplying, regulate nerve growth and reduce inflammation.
Researchers in Australia hope to continue to increase the information on cannabis use for endometriosis, and to plan a clinical trial to investigate the safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of a standardised and quality assured medicinal cannabis product for pain and associated symptoms.
This survey is open to patients worldwide who must fulfil the following criteria:
- Aged between 18-55 years of age
- Been told by your medical doctor that you have endometriosis
- And you must have used cannabis or cannabinoid-based products (eg CBD, cannabis oils, dried bud (flower) with known levels of THC and/or CBD, or non-legal cannabis) in the past three months specifically for the purpose of managing your endometriosis pain or related symptoms.
The survey expires on 31 March 2021, find out more here
Click here to participate
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