Growing up in an Italian-American family, we ate a lot of foods that can give a person “agita.” Agita is indigestion. There were many Italian delis where I grew up where you could go up to the deli counter to order some cheese, meats, and that same deli counter was lined with the blue bottles of Brioschi antacid. I always thought that was funny. You can get some provolone cheese and thinly sliced prosciutto, a loaf of Italian bread AND buy a bottle of antacid for the agita you may have after eating.
Agita is one thing. IBS is another.
IBS is a digestive disorder that affects the large intestine which is also called the colon or bowels. Years ago, IBS was commonly called spastic colon. Spastic meaning that there is cramping abdominal pain and gas. Diarrhea and constipation and a lack of appetite with nausea, vomiting and weight loss also define IBS. Whenever there is an issue in the digestive system, then the diet has to be the first place to evaluate all foods and drinks which can lead to digestive upset. Usually foods such as dairy, wheat products, citrus, tomatoes, beans, cabbage, coffee, alcohol and carbonated drinks can all irritate and lead to an inflamed digestive tract. Doing an elimination diet is ideal. This means that the suspected aggravating food(s) are eliminated from the diet and not eaten for at least 5 days. Then, the food(s) can be eaten on day 6 with the intention of noticing any reaction.
IBS is more common in women, it can be prevalent in families, can be caused by an imbalance within the digestive system of the good bacteria that live there, it can be a result of early childhood stress and like all diseases, stress can make the condition worse. Traditionally, IBS has been treated with prescription medications, changes in diet, lifestyle and reducing stress and undergoing counseling treatments to heal any emotional trauma. Anxiety, depression and insomnia can also be present. The digestive system is associated with “gut feelings” and our emotions. There is a connection to having “undigested” emotions and trauma and having digestive disorders.
Cannabis has been known to help reduce all of the symptoms of IBS. Research has been done on both animals and humans evaluating the effectiveness of using Cannabis to treat IBS. Many people get relief from most if not ALL of their symptoms. How does Cannabis do this? It lies within the ECS.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is made up of chemical compounds that are naturally occurring in the body that have a similar structure and function to THC and CBD. These compounds are named anandamide and 2-AG. They can form a bond with their receptors which are found throughout the body. Once the endocannabinoid and receptor are bound, a reaction
takes place in the body with the sole purpose of reaching homeostasis which is balance within the body. It is pretty amazing that our body naturally produces these endocannabinoids. The word anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “bliss.” Anandamide is known as the “bliss molecule.” Humans and all vertebrates: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and reptiles all have an ECS.
The ECS is found throughout the digestive tract. When Cannabis is used to treat IBS symptoms, it can help with decreasing inflammation and pain, increasing appetite, less nausea and vomiting and an overall balancing of the digestive system. Researchers have found that people who have IBS have a deficient ECS. There is a deficiency in their endocannabinoids; a deficiency of bliss in the digestive system.
Different forms of Cannabis can be used to treat IBS. Some prefer to smoke the flower, while others like syrups, drinks or gummies. I like to tell patients to also make a tea out of the Cannabis flower and put the Cannabis in touch with the digestive system in the form of a liquid or a food.
Other herbs that can help with the symptoms of IBS:
Carminative herbs such as fennel and anise help reduce gas and bloating. Ginger can help with nausea, chamomile, calendula and aloe can help soothe an irritated digestive tract lining. Slippery elm bark powder can also be drunk in warm water to soothe an irritated digestive system.
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