Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowl disease, named after the Scientist who first diagnosed the symptoms in 1932. This disease is categorized by chronic inflammation in the tissues lining any part of the digestive tract between the mouth and the anus. In more sever cases of Crohn’s, the swelling and irritation can eventually lead to fissures or tears in the lining of the intestines. The rate of occurrence is equal in males and females, and is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 30. This disease is more common in developed countries such as the United States, and occurs much less in Asia and Africa.
Crohn’s is a lifelong disease, for which there is no cure. There is no one fix-all solution for treating it either. The purpose of traditional treatment is to relieve the symptoms, such as inflammation and infection, allowing a healing period that will lead to long term remission. Listed below, are the most common treatments for Crohn’s. A patient will likely require a combination of two or more of these options:
- Lifestyle change
Lifestyle changes start with the patient’s diet and exercise routine. Patients are told to avoid meat, dairy, and high fat foods, as well as alcohol and caffeine because these are harsh on the human digestive system. Patients are told to exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, and eat only small meals.
There are several different medications used for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. A patient will often be treated with antibiotics to kill infection. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteriods, will be prescribed to reduce or eliminate swelling. Immune system suppressors, known as immunomodulators, are taken to prevent the patient’s immune system from continuing to attack the tissues of the digestive tract while trying to eliminate the body of infection. As if the symptoms of the disease were not bad enough, many of these medications come with severe side effects for the patient. Listed side effects included severe nausea and vomiting, as well as muscle pain and weakness.
Surgery is the last resort, and is only used in the most severe cases. This is because it can be an extremely invasive procedure, depending on which part of the digestive tract is affected. Although, surgery does often result in long term remission, Crohn’s disease will still usually flare back up years later.
What role does marijuana play in the treatment of Crohn’s disease?
There are many reasons that Crohn’s disease is on the list of qualifying medical conditions in most states with legalized medical marijuana. THC, one of the many cannabinoids found in marijuana, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Crohn’s disease is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, so reducing inflammation is the goal. Severe pain is associated with the disease, and muscle pain and weakness if associated with many of the treatment medications. Medical marijuana patients report that marijuana is very helpful in the treatment of severe pain. Many patients with Crohn’s suffer from a loss of appetite because of the location of the body affected by the disease. Many strains of marijuana are great for appetite stimulation.
Some side effects from treatment medications are more severe than the symptoms caused by the disease. For example, many of the medications result in severe nausea and vomiting in patients. Marijuana cannabinoids are known to prevent nausea, there by reducing vomiting. The use of medical marijuana in the treatment of Crohn’s disease symptoms, and as remedy for the side effects caused by traditional treatment options, looks promising. There is still much more research to be done on this topic.
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Bloody stool
- Sores of the mouth tissues
- Weight-loss caused by loss of appetite
Patients with severe Crohn’s disease may even suffer from symptoms outside of the digestive tract. These symptoms include:
- Skin rashes and irritation
- Inflammation of the eye
There is no singular known cause of Crohn’s disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is caused by heredity and a malfunctioning immune system. Diet, smoking cigarettes, and stress level are factors known to aggravate the disease. The largest factor is heredity. A person is more likely to develop Crohn’s if he or she has one of the many genes associated with the disease. It is suspected that this disease may be sparked by bacterial or viral infections. When the human immune system attacks the bacteria or virus, it attacks the cells of the digestive tract as well. According to Wikipedia, these are only theories.
Article originally appeared here. With thanks to Whaxy. By Marie Veksler
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