Articles about medical marijuana for eating disorders

October 23, 2021
Eating Disorders and weed
Eating Disorders and weed

Some of our most common, sometimes gut-wrenching, and often embarrassing problems are related to
our stomach, digestion, and bowels. And more and more people are finding that medical marijuana
gives them relief from their gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease
(GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In fact, cannabis has
been used to treat many of these and other GI problems for centuries, and there’s now increasing
evidence that it does indeed work.


GERD (aka reflux) is the most common GI problem in the United States, affecting between 44 and more
than 50 percent of adults at some point in their lives. Normally the result of an overproduction of gastric
acid, GERD can cause such unpleasant symptoms as heartburn, food regurgitation, hoarseness, and even
tooth erosion. Diet, smoking, being overweight, and certain medications are the most common culprits.


Many reflux sufferers are dumping their antacids, PPIs, and other drugs in favor of marijuana in states
where it’s legal. A recent study in Colorado looked at the use of these drugs before and after was
legalized. The researchers found a significant reduction in the use of conventional GERD medications
after marijuana dispensaries opened in the state, an indication that patients are substituting cannabis
for conventional meds.


For most GERD and other GI patients, I recommend that they follow my marijuana mantras “Start low,
go slow” and “Put it where it needs to go.” Oral cannabis goes directly to the GI system, unlike other
routes of delivery, especially inhaling, that take a more circuitous route. Coated oral capsules or
chewable forms of THC taken with each meal are best for GERD and other upper GI problems.


IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
IBS (aka colitis or spastic colon) is a very common condition that affects up to 45 million people in the
United States, most of whom are women under the age of fifty.11 In fact, it’s the most frequent
problem diagnosed by GI doctors in the United States. Rather than being a specific disease, IBS is a
“functional” condition in which the bowel system fails to work well. As a result, food moves too quickly
or slowly through the intestines, causing recurrent, alternate bouts of diarrhea and constipation, as well
as stomach pain and bloating.


Dietary modifications, especially a high-fiber diet, can help improve symptoms. Some people also find
relief from a gluten- free or low-FODMAP diet. However, most people turn to OTC and prescription
medicines for their IBS symptoms, especially constipation, pain, diarrhea, and bloating.


Conventional drugs not only have unpleasant and potentially serious side effects, but the majority of
patients don’t find them very helpful. On the other hand, IBS sufferers who turn to medical marijuana
tend to be happy with the results. This is understandable. IBS— like GERD and other GI problems— is
thought to be caused by an endocannabinoid deficiency or imbalance. By activating the appropriate
receptors in the ECS, cannabis can help restore balance and improve gastric motility, propulsion,
hypersensitivity, and inflammation. In other words, pot can potentially help relieve the most common,
annoying IBS symptoms. And research is beginning to confirm that it actually can. So far, however, there
have only been a few clinical studies on the effects of cannabis on IBS.


The same mantras that applied to GERD apply to IBS as well: “Start low, go slow” and “Put it where it
needs to go.” I usually start a patient on a small dose of sublingual or oral THC-predominant full-extract
cannabis oil (FECO) that is high in the terpene β-caryophyllene. This can be especially helpful because it
has digestive, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory effects, but it doesn’t cause sedation or


While oral forms of cannabis can help with IBS and some other GI problems, rectal suppositories can
also be a great option. They have few side effects and are another good way to “Put it where it needs
to go.”


Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is much less common but more serious than IBS. Understandably, the two are often confused with
each other.


Unlike IBS, IBD affects men and women equally. It also has a genetic component; those with Northern
European and Ashkenazi Jewish backgrounds are at the highest risk. There are two forms of IBD: Crohn’s
disease (CD), which affects the entire GI tract, and ulcerative colitis (UC), which affects only the colon.
Symptoms of both may include severe diarrhea, bloody stools, stomach pain, fatigue, weight loss, and
fever, which can come and go unpredictably, with varying severity.


The same OTC anti-diarrhea and antispasmodic drugs used to treat IBS are also popular with IBD
patients. But even if effective, such medications can worsen IBD symptoms. As a result, most IBD
patients wind up taking more potent prescription drugs. Like many IBS patients, dissatisfied IBD patients
are also heading to head shops to buy marijuana for relief from their often-debilitating symptoms. It’s
estimated that up to 40 percent of IBD patients use cannabis medically.


While there have been several clinical studies on the use of pharmaceutical cannabinoids for IBS, such
studies are sorely IBD. But because IBS and IBD have similar symptoms, researchers believe that if
cannabinoids can help IBS patients, they can help IBD patients as well.


While medical cannabis can help relieve IBD symptoms in some people, it’s extremely important that
anyone with IBD who wants to try it should first discuss it with their gastroenterologist or whoever is
managing their condition. Ideally, your doctor should not only be fully informed about your intentions
but be willing to work with you to include cannabis as part of your treatment protocol.


Determining what form of cannabis IBD patients should take depends on what symptoms they find most
troubling. Because IBD is basically an inflammatory disease, CBD — which has anti-inflammatory
properties — can be especially helpful. It also has antianxiety effects, which can help relieve stress, a
very common component of IBD and other GI problems. And because most IBD patients suffer from
such GI symptoms as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and vomiting, THC is equally


Dietary and other lifestyle approaches — especially stress reduction – are extremely important when
dealing with GI problems. While the addition of medical marijuana may not work miracles, it can go a
long way in helping relieve reflux, IBS, and IBD. And it can stress as well!