Celiac disease can be devastating to those who suffer from it, but evidence suggests that there is a natural plant treatment that can mitigate or even cure the ailment: cannabis.
People who have celiac suffer from autoimmune attacks on their small intestine after eating gluten, which can lead to pain and an inability to absorb nutrients, as well as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer over the long term.
Gluten is ubiquitous in the Western diet and people who take pains to avoid eating it are still likely to consume some by accident on occasion, and even in small amounts gluten can lead to extremely painful and embarrassing episodes. Fortunately, marijuana may be able to help.
A study published in the PLOS One journal in 2013 suggests that cannabis could play a key role in taming the ravages of celiac. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Teramo in Italy, took intestinal biopsies from celiac patients and looked at the cannabinoid receptors in the gut, which play a role in controlling inflammation and dysfunction. The results showed significantly more receptors in people with an active disease than those who had been treating it with at least 12 months of a gluten-free diet, leading the scientists to suggest that the data “points to the therapeutic potential of targeting [cannabinoid receptors] in patients with celiac disease.”
Anecdotal reports corroborate the study’s findings. Some patients believe that marijuana has actually helped them cure celiac outright.
“After only 6 months of using cannabis, my disease was essentially non-existent,” Matthew Distefano wrote for Reset. “I was hoping for just a relief from my persistent symptoms. In addition to my endoscopy results, my anemia, protein deficiency, calcium deficiency, and iron deficiency had all vanished. Essentially, I was cured.”
Dispensaries recommend indica strains of marijuana for treating digestive issues like celiac because they help relax the muscles. The Medical Marijuana Strains website suggests that buds from Arizonan Western Light Purp are effective for celiac specifically. Otherwise, looks for Indica strains such as Auntie Em, Blackberry, Black Domina, Bluberry, Chemo, Blue Fruit, G13, Mandala No. 1, Purple Kush, Ultimate Indica, Santa Maria, or Super Silver Hazethat, recommended for other gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome.
The challenge, of course, is acquiring the cannabis legally. No medical marijuana states currently list celiac under their list of qualifying symptoms; however, in California doctors are permitted to prescribe marijuana for any condition they believe it will help. Celiac sufferer Jessica Deno notes on her Life of a Celiac blog that the disease therefore qualifies for multiple reasons.
“Marijuana ‘cools the gut,’ in which it slows down the muscle contractions that move food through the stomach and intestines and reduces the secretion of liquid into the intestines associated with diarrhea (one of the most severe symptoms of the disease),” Deno writes. “Marijuana also controls the muscle spasms associated with diarrhea. It also increases appetite and can offset the inefficiency in the Celiac’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat.”
People with celiac who live in states that include chronic pain as a qualifying condition could also potentially gain legal access to medical marijuana. The rest of the country, however, is left with a choice of going to the black market for their medicine or simply avoiding the plant that may be the most effective celiac treatment of all.