Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Colitis is the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. Causes of colitis include infections, poor blood supply, and autoimmune reactions. There are six types of colitis which are inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), microscopic colitis, chemical colitis, ischemic colitis, infectious colitis, and medication caused colitis. While there are different causes and types of colitis, they all exhibit the same symptoms which include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. Associated symptoms depend on the cause of the disease and the list includes fever, chills, fatigue, dehydration, eye inflammation, joint swelling, canker sores, skin inflammation, and sometimes bloody stool.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease will be discussed further in another section. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 3 million adults in the United States were diagnosed with IBD in 2015.

Doctors and researchers believe that IBDs are autoimmune conditions, wherein the immune system attacks the healthy tissues by mistake. A popular theory suggests that the immune system mistakes harmless bacteria inside the colon as threats and attack the tissues of the colon, which causes the inflammation. The cause of why the immune system behaves this way is still known, but it is believe that it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Conventional Treatment

Treatment for colitis is dependent upon the cause. Initial therapy involves the stabilization of the patient’s vital signs and control of pain if needed. Rehydration is also important. Medications are often prescribed to patients with IBD.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis is treated with different groups of pharmaceutical drugs which include anti-inflammatory drugs, immunomodulators, and other medications if necessary.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

These are administered as the first step in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Examples are 5-aminosalicylates and corticosteroids. Aminosalicylates may cause side effects such as mild stomach pain, cramps, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, dizziness, and mild headache. Meanwhile, corticosteroids are only used for a short period of time because of the side effects which include osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, weight gain, increased risk of infection, cataracts, glaucoma, thinning of skin, bruising, and muscle weakness.

Immunomodulators

These group of drugs reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system response. Some immunosuppressant drugs that are prescribed for ulcerative colitis are azathioprine, mercaptopurine, cyclosporine, infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab, and vedolizumab. Usage of these drugs might cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, hair loss or unusual growth of body hair, skin rash, muscle pain, fatigue, tightness in the chest, respiratory problems, fevers, and chills.

Colitis and Medical Marijuana

While research is still very limited in the United States, the initial results from these studies show the potential of medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

According to the statement released by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in 2012, the compounds of medical marijuana that closely mimic the endocannabinoids in the human body play a crucial part in decreasing gastrointestinal inflammation. Meanwhile, a study suggest that the tetrahydrocannabinol found in medical marijuana contributes to the reduction of the permeability of the epithelial lining, decreasing inflammation, and reducing the damage caused by colitis.