Cannabis and cannabinoids (such as tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol) are frequently used to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms. Cannabinoids have effects on the immune system and inflammatory responses, as well as neuromuscular and sensory functions of digestive organs, including pancreas and liver. Cannabinoids can cause hyperemesis and cyclic vomiting syndrome, but they might also be used to reduce gastrointestinal, pancreatic, or hepatic inflammation, as well as to treat motility, pain, and functional disorders. Cannabinoids activate cannabinoid receptors, which inhibit release of transmitters from presynaptic neurons and also inhibit diacylglycerol lipase alpha, to prevent synthesis of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol. However, randomized trials are needed to clarify their effects in patients; these compounds can have adverse effects on the central nervous system (such as somnolence and psychosis) or the developing fetus, when used for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Cannabinoid-based therapies can also hide symptoms and disease processes, such as in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases. It is important for gastroenterologists and hepatologists to understand cannabinoid mechanisms, effects, and risks.
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