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Top Medical Marijuana Strains for IBS Relief

top medical marijuana strains for ibs relief

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects up to 45 million people in the United States, some of whom are coping with a severe form known as Crohn’s disease. IBS can cause many symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Compared to other chronic conditions, IBS has a significant worldwide prevalence, affecting up to 10–15% of adults.   Although it is not associated with an increased risk for life-threatening illnesses, it can be related to other overlapping health conditions and symptoms, including:

  • Dyspepsia

  • Heartburn

  • Celiac Disease

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Migraines

  • Chronic pain (pelvic area)

  • Interstitial Cystitis

Multiple studies have been published demonstrating the potential benefits of using medical marijuana for IBS. First, we’ll talk about the symptoms and triggers of IBS. Then, we’ll share how medical cannabis strains for IBS may complement other treatments and help with symptoms.

Understanding IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome is generally a long-term or recurrent disorder of GI functioning. It typically involves the large intestine (colon) and small intestine with disturbances of gut motor function and sensation.

These gut-related activities are regulated by the brain, which could also be impaired. This is often called a brain-gut disorder. These disturbances can produce symptoms of abdominal discomfort, pain, bloating, and a change in bowel habits.

Only a tiny portion of people with IBS have severe signs and symptoms. Most people can control their symptoms by managing their diet, lifestyle, and stress. More severe symptoms can be managed with prescription medication, counseling, and even medical marijuana.

Medical Marijuana for IBS

healthy gut

The Journal of Molecular Medicine published a study in 2005 that indicated the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) may have beneficial properties for gut tissue. The ECS controls how cannabis interacts with the body while also maintaining overall balance or homeostasis.

All vertebrates and humans have an ECS, and it is distributed amongst the organs and tissues. The CB1 is mainly expressed in neurons of the central, peripheral, and enteric nervous systems, while CB2 is found mainly in immune cells.

The ECS consists of endogenous cannabinoids, the receptors on which they act, and the enzymes involved in their biosynthesis and degradation. The two primary endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG. These are synthesized internally and bind to presynaptic receptors known as cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors (CB1 and CB2). 

Anandamide acts as a partial agonist of CB1 and CB2, with a slight preference for CB2, while 2-AG binds to both receptors equally well with greater potency. The 2-AG endocannabinoid is found in higher concentrations in the gastrointestinal tract, meaning the gut is a critical player in the endocannabinoid system. 

In the gastrointestinal system, CB1 and CB2 are found in all layers of intestinal sections; Numerous studies have shown a relationship between the ECS, intact gastrointestinal physiology, and regulation of gut inflammation. Overall, endocannabinoids acting on CB2 can calm inflammatory responses.

The cannabis plant produces phytocannabinoids like THC and CBD. These plant chemicals act via pathways similar to the endocannabinoids, making them a great supplement for those receptors. The relationship between the gut and the ECS help facilitate the “brain-gut” phenomenon because of the surplus of receptors in both the brain and the GI tract. 

Common Symptoms of IBS

There is a range of symptoms associated with IBS. Abdominal pain is the key symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and is also associated with a change in bowel habits, like diarrhea and constipation. The pain is often relieved by having a bowel movement and can, at times, be worsened after eating.

Symptoms can change over time, and there can be periods when symptoms flare up, as well as periods of remission when they diminish or disappear.

Other common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Weight loss

  • Abdominal pain

  • Persistent diarrhea

  • Nausea or recurrent vomiting

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Anemia related to low iron

  • Fever

IBS is a painful condition, and the symptoms are unpredictable. Finding an effective IBS treatment is crucial for quality of life for IBS patients. But it can take some time to explore different types of medications, dietary changes, and stress relief strategies before IBS patients may see some relief from debilitating symptoms.

What Trigger IBS Symptoms?

ibs pain

IBS patients struggle with the unpredictable nature of the symptoms. And it can be very distressing, not knowing how you will feel. Or when you may experience a symptom that disrupts your work day, leisure activities, travel, and more.

Knowing the symptom triggers of IBS is the first step to finding the right treatment plan with your physician. Some of the most common triggers experienced by IBS sufferers include:

Dietary Choices

Certain types of food can trigger uncomfortable symptoms. The most common dietary triggers for IBS pain or discomfort include high-fat foods, spicy foods, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables.

Physicians suggest that patients who have been recently diagnosed should keep a food journal. By tracking the meals and beverages you consume (and their symptoms), you can learn which foods to avoid.

Stress and Anxiety

If you have a highly stressful job or experience chronic anxiety, it can contribute to worsening symptoms if you have been diagnosed with IBS. Exercise therapy, deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation exercises may help you manage stress better. And reduce the impact of emotional stress on IBS symptoms.

Changes in Hormones

Medical researchers are not completely clear why this happens, but some women experience more symptoms of IBS during menstruation. Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and bowel may be the cause of recurrent symptoms for some women with IBS.

Gut Motility and Stomach Cramps

It is common for people living with IBS to experience abnormal muscle spasms in the gut. Eating large meals or foods that contain too much insoluble fiber can make symptoms of IBS worse. Gas-producing foods (like cabbage, broccoli, beans, and Brussels sprouts) may also trigger symptoms or make them worse.

Prescription Medications

Some types of prescription medications are not friendly to the digestive system. Antibiotics disrupt the natural gut biome (good bacteria) in the gastrointestinal tra t and amplify symptoms of IBS. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and some types of antidepressants may also trigger symptoms of IBS.

Gastrointestinal Disorders and Infections

Bacterial or viral gastroenteritis may trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. And the symptoms can remain long after the infection has been resolved. This is called post-infectious IBS or PI-IBS.

By paying attention to the triggers of the symptoms of IBS, patients can more quickly identify problems and work with their physicians to find conventional or alternative medicine and treatments that may help make symptoms more manageable.

How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?

There are many different ways that primary care providers will explore to determine if irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal disorders are present.


The doctor uses a small, flexible tube to internally examine the entire length of the colon. The procedure is virtually painless and requires light general anesthesia. Not only can a colonoscopy procedure help diagnose IBS, but it may discover precancerous polyps in the colon, which can be removed.

X-ray or CT scan

These tests produce images of the abdomen and pelvis that allow doctors to rule out other causes of symptoms, especially abdominal pain. Managing Ibs symptoms is easier once you have determined any other underlying causes.

Upper endoscopy

A long, flexible tube gets inserted down your throat and into the esophagus. A camera attached to the end of the tube allows the doctor to inspect the upper digestive tract and obtain a tissue sample from the small intestine and fluid to look for the overgrowth of bacteria.

Lactose Intolerance Tests

La tase is an enzyme needed to digest the sugar found in dairy products. If your body does not produce lactose, there may be problems similar to those caused by IBS, including abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea.

Stool Tests

A person’s stool can be examined for bacteria or parasites or digestive liquid produced in the liver (bile acid) if suffering from chronic dia rhea.

Causes of IBS

stomach pain

Medical research suggests that IBS may be hereditary. If you have a family history of IBS, you will have a higher risk of developing the chronic condition. That is because genetically, oversensitive nerve structures in the digestive system may be passed on.

The precise cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known, but there are some factors that appear to play a role, which include:

Early Life Stress

People who have been exposed to stressful events, especially during their childhood, tend to have more symptoms of IBS.

Nervous System Abnormalities

Abnormalities in the gut’s nerves may cause greater discomfort when your abdomen stretches. Bad signals between the brain and the intestines can cause your body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process. This can result in pain, diarrhea, or constipation.

Muscle Contractions in the Intestine

The intestine walls are lined with layers of muscle that contract to move food through the digestive tract. Weak intestinal contractions can slow food passage and lead to hard, dry stools. Contractions that are stronger and last longer can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. 

Severe Infection

IBS can occur after severe diarrhea that is caused by a virus or bacteria. Irritable bowel syndrome might also be associated with too much bacteria in the intestines.

Changes in Gut Microbes

Changes in the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that generally reside in the intestines can play a crucial role in gut health. Research indicates that the microbes in people with IBS might differ from those in healthy people.

Cannabis has shown effectiveness in managing stress, issues with the nervous system, inflammation in the gut, and muscle contractions. It is also a great pain reliever and is being studied for its antibacterial properties, making it a great option for those with IBS looking for alternative relief.


Best Cannabis Strains for IBS

A considerable amount of anecdotal evidence suggests that certain cannabis strains have provided patients with some temporary relief from their IBS symptoms. The strains that work best at alleviating IBS symptoms are ones that contain a CBD content at least equal to or higher than its THC level.

The following are strains that medical cannabis patients can use to get relief from their IBS symptoms:


One strain that stood out as being reportedly better at alleviating IBS symptoms was Cannatonic. This hybrid’s THC content generally only ranges between 3-6%, while its CBD content can be two to three times higher, at 6-17%. Because of its low THC level, medical cannabis patients may not experience anything than mild intoxicating effects.


A high-CBD, low-THC sativa dominant hybrid strain. Like Cannatonic, AC/DC does not produce strong psychoactive effects, making it a great choice for those looking for relief without getting high. It’s commonly used for pain and depression and is a favorite among those suffering from IBS.


Harlequin cannabis is another excellent high-CBD pain-relieving option. This sativa-dominant hybrid is a cross between Colombian Gold, a Nepali indica, and Thai and Swiss landrace strains. It gives off a painless and mellow feeling while increasing focus and motivation. Users will not feel “high” and can go about their day as usual.  

Jack Herer

Jack Herer is a Sativa-dominant hybrid strain that makes you feel energized and uplifted. While the CBD content is not high in the Jack Herer strain, it still makes a great option for those dealing with abdominal pain. It is filled with natural painkillers, including THC and terpenes. Pinene, the major terpene in Jack Herer, reduces tissue inflammation, stress, and pain.

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue is a hybrid strain that creates potent euphoria and allows you to enjoy leisure time. With high amounts of THC, Gorilla Glue can help with pain relief for IBS symptoms, inflammation, muscle spasms, and many more. It is also a great strain for nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

In order to be able to legally purchase any of the above products, you must qualify per a medical marijuana physician’s recommendation and be approved by your state’s medical cannabis program.



Getting a Medical Cannabis Card for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a qualifying health condition for medical marijuana in Florida. With over 25 locations across the state of Florida, there is sure to be a location near you! Find out if you qualify, and schedule an appointment to get started with DocMJ.


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