Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although Crohn’s is typically found in the last part of the small intestine and the first part of the large intestine, it can be found anywhere in the digestive tract, including the mouth and anus.
The main symptoms of Crohn’s are:
- Belly pain
- Diarrhea (sometimes with blood; some have it 10-20 times per day)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Mouth sores
- Bowel Blockages
- Anal tears
- Fistulas (opening between organs)
Patients with Crohn’s may go long periods of time with no symptoms or have only a few, but some have the symptoms all the time.
Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation; it is classified as a type of inflammatory bowel disease. There has been evidence of a genetic link to Crohn's disease, putting individuals with siblings afflicted with the disease at higher risk. It is understood to have a large environmental component as evidenced by the higher number of cases in western industrialized nations. Males and females are equally affected.
Smokers are three times more likely to develop Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease affects between 400,000 and 600,000 people in North America. Prevalence estimates for Northern Europe have ranged from 27–48 per 100,000. Crohn's disease tends to present initially in the teens and twenties, with another peak incidence in the fifties to seventies, although the disease can occur at any age.
There are prescription medications that can be taken to manage the symptoms, but there is no cure. Cannabinoids, however, have been shown to have an effect on patients with Crohn’s disease in the study “Anti-Inflammatory Cannabinoids in Diet: Towards A Better Understanding of CB(2) Receptor Action?” at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. The study states: “The endocannabinoid system is an ancient lipid signaling network which in mammals modulates neuronal functions, inflammatory processes, and is involved in the aetiology of certain human lifestyle diseases, such as Crohn's disease, atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis. […]The system is able to down regulate stress-related signals that lead to chronic inflammation and certain types of pain, but it is also involved in causing inflammation-associated symptoms, depending on the physiological context. The cannabinoid type-2 (CB(2)) receptor, which unlike the CB(1) receptor does not induce central side effects, has been shown to be a promising therapeutic target. While CB(1) receptor antagonists/inverse agonists are of therapeutic value, also CB(2) receptor ligands including agonists are of pharmacological interest.”