Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common forms of gastrointestinal conditions in the world. It affects around 10-15% of adults in America, with only around half of that amount receiving an official diagnosis.
The condition can flare up at random. Symptoms range from constipation to diarrhea, along with regular gas, bloat, pain, and fatigue. IBS is, sadly, a chronic condition. While there are several options to relieve some of the most debilitating symptoms, there is, unfortunately, no cure.
There is a recent increase in IBS sufferers using cannabis as a means of controlling their symptoms. It appears to have fewer severe risks than traditional treatments. But with thousands of strains to choose from, how do you find the right option?
We have put together a list of our top five favorite cannabis strains. They could help combat some of the most common and unpleasant IBS side effects! First, let’s take a look at this potentially debilitating condition.
What Is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome affects the large intestine. The condition primarily involves a change in the form or frequency of bowel movements. It is possible to trigger symptoms through poor sleep, diet, stress, and gut bacteria changes. Triggers vary according to the individual.
A small percentage of people with IBS endure severe symptoms. Some people can control them via changes in their lifestyle, diet, and reducing daily stress.
There is plenty of misinformation surrounding the condition. For instance, it is claimed that IBS causes changes in bowel tissue and increases your colorectal cancer risk. However, reputable medical agencies such as the Mayo Clinic suggest this is not true. Although the list of symptoms varies, people with IBS may experience some of the following:
- Excessive production of gas
- Mucus in stool
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Abdominal pain, bloating, or cramping that is partially relieved by passing a bowel movement
- Food intolerance
- Difficulty sleeping and fatigue
- Depression and anxiety
IBS Causes & Triggers
Medical experts don’t yet know the exact cause of IBS. They have found that the following factors could play a role, however:
- Abnormalities in a person’s digestive system can result in a higher level of discomfort when the abdomen stretches from stool or gas. The body potentially overreacts to routine changes in the digestive process due to poorly coordinated signals between the brain and intestines.
- It is possible to develop IBS after a virus causes gastroenteritis. The condition is also associated with a surplus of bacteria in the intestines.
- There is research to suggest that people with IBS have different ‘microflora’ to individuals without the condition. Microflora is a type of ‘good’ bacteria that live in the intestines.
- Some individuals with irritable bowel syndrome have an excessive amount of immune system cells in their intestines. This particular response has a link with diarrhea and pain.
- Muscle contractions in the intestine also potentially play a role. There are layers of muscle that line the walls of the intestines. They contract when food moves through the digestive tract. Longer and stronger contractions cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Individuals with IBS may experience weak intestinal contractions. The result is slower food passage and dry, hard stools.
In general, people under the age of 50 get IBS. Females are more likely to get the condition. Irritable bowel syndrome also has a link with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Finally, an individual is more likely to have the disease if a family member also has IBS.
Symptoms are ‘triggered’ in a variety of ways, including an increase in stress and specific foods. Many people suffer worse symptoms when they eat or drink foods and beverages containing wheat. Dairy products are also a potential issue.
Could Medical Marijuana Help with IBS Symptoms?
Another theory that potentially explains IBS is that the condition is due to an endocannabinoid deficiency. These are cannabinoids produced naturally by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endocannabinoids play a role in the gastrointestinal tract. Proponents of cannabis for IBS claim that it corrects an endocannabinoid deficiency, thus improving symptoms.
There are ample CB1 and CB2 receptors in the gut. CB1 receptors mainly impact the nervous system. CB2 receptors primarily affect immune response. There is also a suggestion that cannabis helps fight anxiety and depression. Both issues have a strong link with IBS.
A study by Hornby and Prouty, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in April 2004, was one of the first to look at a link between cannabis and IBS symptom improvement. The researchers looked at cannabinoids as a means of managing bowel disease symptoms. They found that marijuana’s ability to stimulate endocannabinoid receptors offered potential benefits.
The study by Lahat et al., published in Digestion in 2012, was more thorough. The researchers gave marijuana to 13 patients with long-term IBS. The study aimed to see what happened after three months of regular cannabis use. Ultimately, every patient reported improvements in their quality of life. There were positive markers on their ability to work, social functioning, depression, pain, and overall health.
Ethan Russo explored the evidence to date in a study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in July 2016. He pointed out that IBS frequently arrives alongside migraine headaches and fibromyalgia. In his 2016 paper, Russo argued that research supports the clinical endocannabinoid deficiency theory.
Research is ongoing, and what we know so far is encouraging. Now, let’s look at five strains worth using for IBS.
5 of the Best Marijuana Strains for IBS
#1 Pink Kush – The Physical Strain
Looking for a fast-acting pain reliever that isn’t going to leave you feeling worse for wear? If so, Pink Kush is worth a try! It is a strongly indica-dominant strain that comes from OG Kush.
Plenty of OTC and prescription drugs can alleviate the feelings of nausea and pain that can often come with IBS. However, we know that many of them are potentially risky and even addictive. Pink Kush offers a potent body high that could get rid of chronic pain. It may also help with inflammation, depression, and lack of appetite!
With THC levels around 20% and CBD at 1%, Pink Kush may leave you feeling uplifted. Users say the high takes over the mind and body, leaving them feeling calm and happy. This pretty flower smells as good as it tastes. The earthy pine and floral notes make for a great smoke!
Don’t let the name fool you, LSD the marijuana strain shares minimal similarity with its namesake. It packs a mighty high that could leave you feeling super trippy. Users say they feel enveloped in a comfortable and creative blanket that soothes body and soul. It is a slightly sativa-dominant hybrid that’s a cross of Skunk #1 and Mazar I Sharif.
With up to 24% THC and 2-5% CBD, LSD is a great medicinal strain for those who don’t mind the high that comes with it! If you are suffering from anxiety, body aches, or general gastrointestinal pain, this bud is the one for you!
LSD is a pungent tasting smoke, with an overall earthy aroma and taste with a subtle underlying sweetness. It is certainly one to try, particularly for the more experienced smokers among us!
Like with all of our top five lists, we like to cater for a range of experienced smokers. Therefore, Cannatonic is next on the list. This hybrid strain is a cross of G13 Haze and MK Ultra. It boasts high CBD levels reaching around 12%, with THC levels between 7-15%. As a result, it is an excellent medicinal strain with a moderate-high.
Don’t get us wrong; you are likely to feel something from the THC levels present. However, the high from Cannatonic is a mellow and laid back one. As a result, it is a great smoke for the times when the IBS is taking its toll.
Fans of earthy strains will love this, with its woody taste that has slight hints of citrus throughout. It is an excellent option for GI pains and could assist with any stress or anxiety one may have.
Harlequin isn’t an easy marijuana strain to find, but it is worth the extra effort. This sativa-dominant strain is a cross between Columbian Gold, Thai sativa, Swiss sativa, and Nepali indica. It boasts an unusual THC to CBD ratio. With THC levels ranging between 7-15% and CBD around 10%, this is a great bud for those suffering from IBS.
Harlequin is known for its calming qualities without leaving you couch-locked. It brings about a feeling of focus. It is a reliable option for daytime use, which is the main reason so many patients opt for it!
In keeping with its rarity, Harlequin is also unusual in its aroma and taste. It boasts a musky smell and taste coupled with sweet mango flavor! It is a must-try for anyone looking to relieve his or her symptoms without getting too high!
#5. Tangerine Dream
Last but by no means least is Tangerine Dream, the super-strength hybrid strain that holds a whopping 25% THC! It won a Cannabis Cup in 2012, which boosted its reputation even further! It is a cross of Afghani, G13, and Neville’s Haze.
This tasty strain offers sweet citrus tones that leave you feeling clear-headed. Tangerine Dream also works to relax those tense muscles. It is excellent for IBS sufferers as it can work wonders for stomach pain. Users say it generally leaves them feeling much less anxious and stressed.
For an energizing high that is not for the faint-hearted, Tangerine Dream belongs on your list. We recommend evening smoking due to the high THC levels of this flower!
Final Thoughts on the Best Strains for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Whatever your preference is, we recommend these five strains more for helping combat some of the worst symptoms of IBS. Research is ongoing, though it appears as if an endocannabinoid deficiency could cause IBS symptoms.
If that is the case, infusing the body with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD could improve matters if you have this condition. Whether you are a novice or a pro, there is something in our selection for you!