How Medical Marijuana Helps Treat Constipation
- Medical marijuana offers a safe and effective treatment for constipation
- How medical marijuana relieves constipation
- Studies on medical marijuana and constipation
- Best ways to use cannabis products to improve constipation
- Best medical marijuana strains for constipation
Medical marijuana and constipation aren’t often heard together in the same sentence. However, there are some cases where patients suffering from, let’s call it clogged pipes, could benefit from enjoying some marijuana along with their meals.
Almost everyone will suffer a bout of constipation at some point in their lives. Generally, the problem is resolved within a day or two. However, chronic constipation is a serious health threat. It may also result in other painful issues such as hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, urinary incontinence, and fecal impaction.
This uncomfortable condition is not a disease unto itself, but a symptom of other systemic problems. If an individual has fewer than three bowel movements a week, this may indicate a chronic issue — and possibly one that could be treated with cannabis.
The most common causes of constipation are side effects of medications such as opioids and poor diet and lifestyle choices. Triggers for constipation include dehydration, lack of exercise, a low-fiber diet, delaying the need to evacuate, nervous system disorders, pregnancy, underactive thyroid, mental health issues, IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer.
In this article, we will explore how cannabis may relieve constipation along with the associated pain and discomfort. Additionally, we will discuss some compelling studies and research, the best strains to provide relief, and effective delivery methods.
Cannabis for constipation
Frequently, when someone is dealing with constipation issues, their first impulse is to use a commercial, OTC laxative. Laxatives can work in various ways to clear out the intestinal tract. Laxatives can be highly effective in the short term, however, in the long term, they can cause over-reliance and trigger more serious medical issues.
Research indicates that in some cases of constipation, ingesting whole cannabis flower, cannabis-infused edibles, and even smoking or vaping marijuana can help relieve the causes of constipation.
How does medical marijuana help relieve constipation?
The human body produces cannabinoids that are very similar to those found in marijuana. Cannabinoids produced by our bodies are referred to as endocannabinoids, while those produces in plants are termed phytocannabinoids.
In some cases, patients with certain medical conditions that can cause constipation, such as IBS-related constipation, exhibit low endocannabinoid levels, signaling an endocannabinoid deficiency. In these cases, supplementing with phytocannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, and THC might eliminate chronic constipation.
Cannabinoids are also known for their antispasmodic properties, as well as for having a calming, sedative effect. They also effectively relax the smooth muscles in the body such as the intestinal wall. Cannabinoids have also shown their ability to engage with the entire nervous system.
In addition to cannabinoids, there are other potent compounds found in marijuana called terpenes. Terpenes are the essential oils found in abundance in the flowers of the female cannabis plant. These are what give marijuana and hemp flower their distinctive aromas and flavors.
There are a wide variety of terpenes and each produces its own set of physical effects. However, one terpene, in particular, known as limonene is known for aiding the digestive system. Limonene smells like citrus and is found mainly in citrus fruits. It’s also present in many strains of cannabis. Limonene helps reduce inflammation in the intestines. It’s also known to improve gut flora.
Studies on medical marijuana’s effects on constipation
In one study on cannabis and constipation, a group of adults ranging in ages 20-59 years of age completed a drug use and bowel health questionnaire in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Factors like sex, ethnicity, age, and other demographics were taken into consideration, as was substance abuse such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. The survey took place over the course of 6 years.
The results of the survey indicated lower rates of constipation among those using medical marijuana when compared with those who do not. Participants who used medical marijuana showed a 30 percent decrease in incidences of constipation.
The study’s authors wrote: “Our analysis is the first population-based human clinical study of marijuana and bowel function providing important insights into the aggregate effects of the various components of the marijuana plant on constipation.”
In another study from UC, San Francisco, individuals using opiates to control chronic pain effectively reduced their doses when they used medical marijuana in conjunction with their medications. Opioids are infamous for causing constipation. The application of cannabis appeared to decrease the potential of opioid-induced constipation.
In February 2015 article from the American Journal of Gastroenterology titled: Medical Marijuana for Digestive Disorders: High Time to Prescribe concluded: “The scientific inquiry into this system has indicated potential roles for marijuana in the modulation of gastrointestinal symptoms and disease.”
How medical marijuana is used to treat constipation
There are several options for delivering cannabinoids safely to the digestive system for the relief of constipation.
- Smoking medical marijuana is the fastest way to get cannabinoids into the bloodstream. Smoking, however, can cause lung issues such as chronic bronchitis.
- Vaping, either flower or concentrates, is a little less invasive than smoking, however, the jury is still out when it comes to long-term effects.
- The ideal method for treating conditions that cause constipation is marijuana-infused edibles. When consuming edibles, the cannabinoids pass through the intestinal tract where they can directly reduce inflammation, calm the intestines, and improve gut flora.
Edibles can take up to 90 minutes to fully take effect, but the effects are long-lasting. It’s wise to start with very small doses when using edibles as overconsumption can cause unpleasant side effects such as intoxication.
- Tinctures and concentrates are also a very good option for those suffering from constipation. Tincture drops can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) for fast absorption. Dosing is easy and precise with the pre-measured dropper.
All of the above-mentioned methods for delivery are highly effective, however, it’s wise to proceed with caution. Overdosing on THC can lead to unpleasant results. Microdosing with THC is a great option, especially for individuals new to a medical marijuana regime. Others may wish to ingest a low-THC, high-CBD products to avoid over-intoxication.
Another point to make is that hemp-derived CBD products are federally legal. Patients can buy CBD products online without a medical marijuana card.
Best medical marijuana strains for constipation
For those who wish to smoke, vape, or cook their marijuana, there is a variety of medical marijuana strains to choose from. Some are better than others at improving gut health.
- Banana OG is an Indica-dominant hybrid that contains large amounts of limonene, the terpene believed to help with constipation and other gut issues. This high THC strain has a sedative, relaxing effect known to relax muscles and alleviate pain.
- Black Cherry Soda is a euphoria-inducing, sativa-dominant strain, named after its fruity, soda-like taste and unusually dark purple color. This strain relaxes muscles without heavy sedation. It helps with anxiety which in turn will help with constipation symptoms. It also contains a good amount of limonene.
- Quantum Kush is a high-THC strain with very relaxing effects as well as a high limonene content.
- Wedding Cake provides relaxing and euphoric effects that alleviate stress and calm anxiety. Individuals suffering from digestive issues such as constipation might find relief with the high-THC and generous limonene levels in this strain.
For some patients with chronic intestinal issues such as IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, gastritis, etc., medical marijuana may significantly mitigate the inflammation and discomfort of constipation, according to both clinical and anecdotal evidence.
Cannabinoids are known to effectively calm the nerves and relax muscles. The administration of medical marijuana has been shown to target both the physical and emotional aspects of a poorly functioning gut as well as to help improve levels of healthy flora in the gut.
As medical marijuana gains a stronger foothold in the medical community, more and more individuals will be able to find relief from a wide array of chronic medical conditions.
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Sources and additional reading:
- How to get a medical marijuana card
- Find medical marijuana doctors in your area
- Find medical marijuana dispensaries in your area
- Marijuana use linked with decreased constipation
- Relationship Between Recreational Marijuana Use and Bowel Function in a Nationwide Cohort Study
- CBD Oil For Constipation: How It Helps With Digestive Problems
- Role of Cannabis and Its Derivatives in Gastrointestinal and Hepatic Disease
- Medical Marijuana for Digestive Disorders