Wageningen food scientists will investigate whether people who suffer of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will benefit from the use of hemp chewing gum.
(Photo: Roelof Kleis)
IBS is the medical term for the symptoms of chronic abdominal pains and problems with bowel movements. According to Renger Witkamp, professor in Nutrition and Pharmacology, an estimated 9 to 20 percent of the world population has a form of IBS. ‘It occurs more often in women. Patients (link in Dutch) have occasional to constant pains in their abdominal area. It is not a clearly defined disorder, but people can suffer from it very much.’
According to Witkamp, IBS is hard to treat. ‘The opinions about IBS vary greatly. Stress might play a role, but an infection one might have gone through at some point in time is also pointed to as the culprit. Some even say it is all in our head and you generally only experience the pain. You can feel your bowels moving, and for people suffering from IBS, this is more intense.’ Whatever the case may be, there is currently no cure for IBS. In collaboration with the Gelderse Vallei hospital and with support from master’s students, Witkamp and co-professor Ben Witteman (Nutrition and Intestinal Health Transitional Care) are studying whether hemp chewing gum might ease the pain.
To be specific: the study will focus on the use of CanChew Plus, a chewing gum that contains hemp oil. The active substance is cannamidiol (CBD), which per Witkamp has been proven to have an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect. The hemp oil, not to be confused with hash oil, is pressed from hemp seeds. Witkamp emphasises the substance is not psychoactive. ‘It does not make you high.’
Participants of the experiment will have access to the hemp gum over a period of three weeks and may use it whenever the pain crosses a certain threshold. Another group will be given placebos, chewing gum without CBD. After a break of one week, the groups will switch gums. The study will be a double blind one, meaning neither the researchers nor the participants will know which gum they are taking.
Participants are required to fill in a questionnaire at several points in time and to keep a journal about their use. The experiment is funded in part by the American AXIM Biotech, which designed and distributes the chewing gum. Witkamp says this is only a small-scale pilot. The test requires about forty subjects, who may contact him about joining. The subjects should be between 18 and 65 years of age and have diagnosed IBS.