What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the term used to describe a group of conditions in which the intestines and digestive tract become chronically inflamed. The two major types of IBD are Ulcerative Colitis, which affects the large intestine, and Crohn’s Disease, which can occur in any part of the intestines. Symptoms of both of these conditions can include diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. When inflammation is severe the symptoms flare up and the disease in considered active. When there is less inflammation there are usually no symptoms and the disease is considered to be in remission. IBD can be debilitating and can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.

How is it commonly treated?

IBD cannot be cured but it can be effectively managed using medications to control the inflammation. Treatment depends on the type of IBD and the symptoms. Controlling inflammation with anti-inflammatory medications allows the tissues to heal and helps to relieve symptoms. Once symptoms are under control medication can be used to reduce the frequency of flare-ups and therefore maintain remission. However, the rate of response to current treatments is 40-60% and many people continue to have symptoms. Some people eventually need bowel surgery when medications no longer provide symptom relief.

Factsheet: Medical Cannabis and IBD

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) factsheet

IBD and Medical Cannabis


There is some evidence that medical cannabis may help improve the symptoms of IBD although there has been no demonstrated improvement in reducing disease activity. A few small randomized trials have been done but these have not detected any significant differences between the effects of medical cannabis and a placebo. Larger studies using standardised cannabis preparations and long-term follow-up are required to assess the effectiveness of using medical cannabis with IBD.

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