Treating Gastritis with Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is proven to regulate and improve gut health and function. It can relieve symptoms of pain, inflammation, heartburn, appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting in gastritis.
What is Gastritis?
Gastritis is caused by inflammation of the mucosa, the protective lining of the stomach. The mucosa is a thick mucus that coats the lining of the stomach. It prevents stomach acid from dissolving stomach tissue. It also has glands that generate stomach acids and digestive enzymes. When the mucosa becomes inflamed and swollen, it produces less acid, enzymes, and mucus that protects the stomach lining from digestive liquids.
Acute gastritis develops quickly, but is usually temporary with short periods of pain. Chronic gastritis happens slowly over time and can be more severe. Chronic gastritis is more likely to damage the lining of the stomach and its protective cells.
Gastritis is commonly caused by a bacterial infection of Helicobacter pylori, one of the most common human infections. Not everyone with this bacteria will develop gastrointestinal disorders, but it is a leading cause.
Other factors that cause gastritis are regular, ongoing use of pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or NSAIDS. These medications reduce substances that protect the stomach lining. Excessive, chronic stress and age contribute to gastritis, as well as smoking and excessive alcohol use. Gastritis could be the result of other conditions, including HIV/AIDS or gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s Disease.
Autoimmune gastritis is common in people with autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, where the immune system begins attacking the cells of the stomach lining.
Symptoms of Gastritis
Symptoms of gastritis are heartburn, indigestion, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting (sometimes with blood), hiccups, dark stools, and chronic upset stomach.
Gastritis is treated with antibiotics if the doctor determines the H. pylori bacteria is in the digestive tract. It can also be managed with medications, including over the counter prescription antacids or acid blockers.
Medications used for gastritis often have negative side effects, including diarrhea, constipation, gas, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and insomnia.
To reduce symptoms, people with gastritis should avoid alcohol, smoking, pain relievers, foods that irritate the stomach, and eat smaller meals more often.
Medical Marijuana and Gastritis
Medical marijuana relieves symptoms of gastritis without the negative side effects of pharmaceutical medications. Cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system to improve overall gut health and proper functioning. It can also reduce pain, inflammation, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and other symptoms in gastritis.
The Endocannabinoid System and Gastrointestinal Health
Marijuana has been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders for centuries. We now know the reason that medical marijuana is able to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms. It interacts with the endocannabinoid system, the most important regulatory system of the body. The endocannabinoid system regulates all gut health and function.
Endocannabinoids produced naturally by the body are very similar to the cannabinoids in marijuana, such as THC and CBD. When the body is not producing endocannabinoids sufficiently or they degrade too quickly, it leads to illness and injury. The cannabinoids in medical marijuana step in to help regulate the health and function of our most vital bodily organs and functions.
Cannabinoids in cannabis bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, both of which are in the stomach and gastrointestinal system in high densities. When cannabinoids bind to these, the promote health and homeostasis of the gastrointestinal system.
People with gastrointestinal disorders have a greater number of CB2 receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that the body expressed more CB2 receptors due to illness, so they could be activated by cannabinoids or endocannabinoids. Since cannabinoids bind to these receptors, it makes them effective in relieving gastrointestinal symptoms.
Relieving Symptoms of Gastritis with Medical Cannabis
Medical marijuana relieves the following symptoms of gastritis:
Constipation and diarrhea
Nausea and vomiting
Heartburn and acid reflux
Pain and inflammation
Stress, anxiety, and depression
Insomnia – sleep problems
Constipation and Diarrhea – THC is shown to slow the movement of the gut and can relieve diarrhea. CBD is shown to speed the movement of the gut and can relieve constipation. Medical marijuana can help with these symptoms of gastritis or side effects of medications used to treat gastritis.
Nausea and Vomiting – Medical marijuana is commonly used to relieve nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and other gastrointestinal disorders. The ability of THC and CBD to relieve nausea and vomiting is well-researched and documented through numerous clinical trials.
Comparison studies of pharmaceuticals used for nausea and vomiting and marijuana show that medical marijuana relieves nausea and vomiting more effectively than the top pharmaceuticals for these symptoms. It is also less harsh and preferred by patients.
Appetite Loss – THC has the unique ability to stimulate appetite while relieving nausea and vomiting at the same time. This allows patients with serious conditions to better absorb nutrients and keep food down.
Medical marijuana is commonly used to stimulate appetite in people undergoing harsh treatments (cancer, HIV/AIDS), as well as, those with gastrointestinal disorders, cachexia (wasting syndrome), and eating disorders.
Marijuana with THC improves appetite and provides weight gain or stabilization, according to studies.
Heartburn and Acid Reflux – People with gastritis experience heartburn and acid reflux. Medical marijuana can relieve these symptoms without the negative side effects of using antacids.
In 2009, Dutch researchers at the Academic Medical Centre, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Amsterdam found that 10 milligram doses of THC significantly reduced symptoms of GERD in a clinical trial of adult volunteers. GERD is a severe form of acid reflux.
Pain and Inflammation – Medical marijuana can reduce abdominal and stomach pain and inflammation in gastritis without the negative side effects of traditional pain relievers and anti-inflammatories that aggravate these symptoms.
Over use of pain medications and anti-inflammatories is a factor that causes gastritis. These medications cause stomach issues even in those with healthy gastrointestinal systems. Studies show that patients who use medical marijuana are able to reduce or eliminate harsher medications and still find the same relief of pain and inflammation.
Pre-clinical studies show that medical marijuana reduces inflammation in inflammatory bowel diseases, such as colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
A clinical trial from Israel demonstrated that Crohn’s patients reduces or completely eliminated Crohn’s Disease symptoms after using medical marijuana. Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes symptoms similar to gastritis.
Medical marijuana is able to relieve inflammation in many chronic inflammatory conditions, including skin conditions, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
Medical marijuana also relieves pain effectively across many conditions. This is demonstrated through dozens of clinical trials. It provides pain relief without any unwanted side effects that aggravate the stomach, very important for people with gastritis.
Stress, Anxiety, Depression – Stress is also a huge factor in gastritis. Chronic stress can cause gastritis or aggravate its symptoms. Studies show that medical marijuana reduces and relieves stress in people with chronic illnesses. Clinical trials and patient surveys indicate that patients find relief of anxiety, stress, and depression with medical marijuana. A majority of people with chronic illnesses use medical marijuana to treat these secondary symptoms.
Insomnia and Fatigue – People with gastritis experience insomnia and fatigue from the illness. Medical marijuana can relieve both of these symptoms with the proper choice of strain. Indica strains and products are relaxing and induce sleep. They are commonly used to treat insomnia and sleep disorders. Sativa strains are energizing and uplifting. They can relieve symptoms during the day when you need to be active and productive.
Using Medical Marijuana for Gastritis
Marijuana’s interactions within the endocannabinoid system are what makes it so safe and effective across so many medical conditions, especially gastrointestinal disorders like gastritis. Marijuana can relieve most of the symptoms that people with gastritis experience. It can do so with more safety and far less negative side effects than pharmaceuticals currently used to manage gastritis.
Many chronic inflammatory diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases are approved for medical marijuana treatment. Chronic pain that results from these conditions is usually an approved condition in states with medical marijuana programs.
When using medical marijuana for gastritis, both THC and CBD are beneficial for pain, inflammation, and nausea. THC is best for heartburn, appetite loss, sleep, diarrhea, and depression. CBD is best for anxiety, constipation, and fatigue. CBD can also be used with THC to reduce THC’s intoxicating effects.
Low doses of THC for medical use are often non-intoxicating because they are below the threshold of intoxication or what recreational users consume. This is demonstrated in formal studies where patients find relief of symptoms with low doses of THC without intoxication. This includes cannabis with lower percentages of THC or under 5 milligrams of THC. Therefore, some forms and doses of THC can be used without intoxication. However, if intoxication from THC is a concern, choose a cannabis strain or product with equal or higher amounts of CBD.
1:1 CBD to THC ratios may produce mild euphoria for some patients, while others find them non-intoxicating. A 10:1 or higher ratio of CBD to THC will be non-intoxicating for all users. Other ratios that are non-intoxicating for most users include 2:1, 3:1, or 5:1 CBD to THC ratios. CBD can also be used alone for pain or anxiety relief, if THC isn’t needed for other symptoms. The THC to CBD ratio that you choose will depend on your individual needs, symptoms, and how the medicine affects you.
Patients should also consider the time of day relief is needed when choosing a strain type (indica, sativa, or hybrid). Sativa and sativa dominant hybrid strains and products are energizing and best for daytime use when you are active. Indica and indica dominant hybrid strains and products are relaxing and best for nighttime use or improved sleep and relaxation.
To use medical marijuana effectively without any unwanted side effects, patients should be knowledgeable about strain types, THC and CBD ratios, dosing, and ways to use medical marijuana.
Soothing the Stomach: Controlling Intestinal Inflammation with Cannabis
As readers know, we’ve written about IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) multiple times, specifically in response to its high prevalence. IBS occurs more than 200,000 times in the US each year. Partially spurred by processed foods, IBS is naturally more common in developed nations and as readers can guess, continues to grow in incidence. By the numbers, many of our readers will identify with the intestinal pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation brought on by IBS. Unfortunately, the cause of IBS is not well understood, and likewise, no single cure exists; treatment can sometimes ease symptoms.
As we’ve reported previously, cannabidiol (CBD), one of the most discussed molecules produced by the cannabis plant, has shown promise at healing inflammation and restoring normal intestinal motility, which is the ability of the intestine to move along/process food. Most studies have utilized rodents with CBD administered via body cavity injections. Currently researchers are seeking to establish whether these results can be duplicated in human subjects, as supported by anecdotal evidence. However, duplication poses an obvious practical issue in humans due to method of administration. Injecting CBD into the stomach each day? Yikes. Toward the goal of transitioning studies to humans, the next logical step is to test oral CBD on mice. Should this method prove to be as effective as injection, researchers will possess a stronger indication of oral CBD as a plausible treatment of IBS in humans.
One research group, from Naples, Italy, set out to conduct such research. However, rather than only test pure CBD, the research group also tested a high CBD extract made from cannabis (standardized to contain 63.9% CBD). This extract is similar to high grade CBD oil currently available in the medical cannabis market. As we’ve previously reported, initial research into the metabolism of cannabinoids suggests that CBD may experience an “entourage” effect in the presence of other cannabinoids. Numerous research groups have reported the phenomenon of CBD extract out-performing pure CBD in pain and inflammation applications. While this observation appears well supported, we do not fully understand why it is occurring. Additionally, proponents of medical cannabis have an obvious interest in reporting greater success of a plant-based CBD compound vs. a lab-produced one. That said, reports touting the entourage effect have come from all areas of research.
To replicate IBS in mice, researchers induced colitis or intestinal inflammation via administration of DNBS (dinitrobenzenesulfonic acid), an inflammatory chemical that causes damage to the intestine but rarely death. The administration of DNBS “caused both a significant decrease in body weight and a significant increase in colon weight/length”, which can be used as a measure of inflammation. Treatment of mice with the CBD cannabis extract given by injection at 5-30 mg/kg “did not modify the loss of body weight” but reduced the increase in colon inflammation. Oral administration of the extract at 10-60 mg/kg performed similarly. Unfortunately, pure CBD, regardless of injection or oral, had no effect on either parameter.
However, as mentioned, aside from inflammation, researchers chose to measure intestinal transit. A successful IBS medication should not only ease pain but also restore motility. To accomplish this measurement, researchers fed mice food mixed with charcoal. Upon sacrificing the mice at the end of the study, researchers cut open the colon to see how far the leading edge of the charcoal had moved, dividing this distance by total length of the colon in each mouse. This allowed researchers to adequately compare intestinal movement in rodents of different sizes. To mimic the accelerated intestinal movement caused by IBS, researchers applied croton oil, a particularly pungent oil from the croton tree, then applied CBD and CBD extract. CBD extract, again, both in injected form and administered orally via stomach tube 30 minutes before charcoal meal ingestion, reduced the excess movement brought on by croton oil in a dose-dependent manner. Pure CBD, in this case, duplicated these effects, although only at the 5 mg/kg dose.
To answer our original question, this investigation would seem to imply that oral administration of CBD and CBD extract can be as effective as body cavity injection in rodents, which would therefore suggest the same in humans. This is a good sign for those suffering from IBS. Of course, not all rodent experiments duplicate in humans. Perhaps more importantly, however, we are again seeing a large performance difference between pure CBD and CBD extract. Further research may therefore focus on comparing different types of extracts with different ratios of cannabinoids to pure CBD. In any case, plant based medicine should not be overlooked. Medical cannabis patients experiencing IBS may currently attempt to treat symptoms by using a high CBD extract. Of course, this treatment should not replace any traditional treatment recommended by physicians, and as always multiple medicinal approaches may complement one another.
Pagano E, Capasso R, Piscitelli F, Romano B, Parisi OA, Finizio S, Lauritano A, Di Marzo V, Izzo AA and Borrelli F (2016) An Orally Active Cannabis Extract with High Content in Cannabidiol attenuates Chemically-induced Intestinal Inflammation and Hypermotility in the Mouse. Front. Pharmacol. 7:341. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2016.00341