System Syndromes

Medical marijuana relieves symptoms of autoimmune disorders.

For 15 years, Laurie Canning had a career in retail management. She gave that career up nearly a decade ago to be a stay-at-home mom, but shortly thereafter, she wound up going into business for herself.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

For Laurie, improved gut health was a secondary benefit of medical marijuana.

“When my children got older, I started a shop on Etsy.com, where I sell novelty handbags that I hand sew,” Laurie shares. “It all began on my

fortieth birthday when I decided to get a sewing machine.

“I didn’t know how to sew, but I always wanted to learn, so I taught myself with the help of the internet and sewing tutorials. I thought somebody might like some of the things I made, so I started the Etsy shop. I really didn’t expect to sell much, but it’s been fairly successful.”

Laurie’s retail management experience definitely gave her online shop a boost. But a year ago, her entire enterprise was threatened when she developed symptoms that nearly disabled her.

“I started experiencing joint swelling in my right hand,” Laurie describes. “The bone in my index finger was swollen, and there was a bump on it. My primary care doctor ordered x-rays and found that it wasn’t the bone. It was inflamed connective tissue. She sent me for an antibodies test to check for autoimmune diseases and discovered I had three of them.”

The autoimmune diseases Laurie was diagnosed with were a subtype of scleroderma known as limited scleroderma, which results in hardened skin; mixed connective tissue disease and Sjögren’s syndrome.

These disorders are all autoimmune connective tissue diseases that can cause the immune system to attack healthy connective tissue, resulting in skin abnormalities, joint pain and dryness in the mouth and eyes.

Autoimmune diseases can affect any tissue, from skin to internal organs, and in Laurie’s case, the diseases also affected her blood vessels, leading to Reynaud’s syndrome, which can lead to spasms in the blood vessels that can cause discoloration of the fingers.

“Because of the Reynaud’s syndrome, I woke up sometimes in the middle of the night, and my hands were completely white,” Laurie divulges. “I had tendonitis in pretty much every tendon insertion. It was in my elbows, knees and hips – everywhere a joint connects to a muscle, tendon or ligament. I also had gastrointestinal issues.

“My symptoms varied because autoimmune disease varies. I experienced flares when I’d be in a lot of pain, but I never knew when flares would occur. During a flare, I couldn’t get out of bed, or if I did, I wouldn’t be up very long. It was like having the flu, but the pain was far worse than the flu’s body aches. It also caused a lot of fatigue and malaise.”

Seeing Laurie’s misery, a friend and cancer survivor suggested Laurie try medical marijuana and recommended Dr. Kelly Ennix King, MD, at Releaf MD in Brandon. Dr. King is a board-certified internist who is licensed to treat patients in Florida, New York, and California with medical cannabis.

“It’s not unusual for one person to have two or three autoimmune diseases, and that was true with Laurie,” Dr. King reports. “She suffered with Sjögren’s, scleroderma and a type of rheumatoid arthritis.

“With disorders such as these, the primary issue is inflammation. That occurs when the immune system attacks the various systems in the body. The CBD in medical cannabis is an excellent anti-inflammatory.”

One-to-One Ratio

Each autoimmune disease attacks a different part of the body, but the common denominator among the various diseases is the presence of inflammation. CBD has been shown to be effective at battling inflammation.

“For this reason, most of my autoimmune disease patients require a product high in CBD,” Dr. King notes. “But they also need THC, because THC potentiates CBD and makes it stronger and more effective on the disease’s symptoms.

“THC also helps relieve acute pain, so for Laurie, I recommended a one-to-one ratio of CBD and THC. If she has a flare, she can increase the THC, but for maintenance, she primarily needs CBD. She’s currently using long-acting formulations.

“I’m using CBD oil and a THC tincture,” Laurie confirms. “What I like about those is I can look at the milligrams I’m taking and make it a one-to-one ratio. But if I want more CBD during the day, I can use less of the THC tincture.

“I also keep a vape pen by my bed. If I wake up at night and don’t feel well and can’t go back to sleep, I place an Indica cartridge in the pen. Indica is soothing and relaxing and helps put me back to sleep, and vaping is a quick-acting way to get the cannabis into my body.”

Indica strains of cannabis are generally used in the evening or nighttime because it helps people relax. Dr. King says many patients with autoimmune disorders have trouble sleeping, which is why an indica strain is recommended for them.

“Indica dominant products have certain terpene profiles that have a sedating effect,’’ she adds.  “Due to the terpene profile and cannabinoid mix, patients will many times experience a relaxed or sleep induced state.”

Dr. King notes that she’s treating many autoimmune disease patients because medical cannabis is shown to be so effective in helping to combat the symptoms of those diseases.

“Autoimmune diseases have multiple symptoms,” she observes. “Medical cannabis is a valuable treatment tool because it treats multiple symptoms and multiple conditions, so individual treatments for each symptom are not required.”

Secondary Benefit

After giving medical marijuana a try, Laurie noticed subtle changes in her condition. But as she continued to follow the treatment plan Dr. King created for her, Laurie realized more significant changes and was amazed by the difference in how she felt.

“Treatment with medical marijuana has been life-changing for me,” Laurie raves. “I feel so much better. The cannabis has made a world of difference with my autoimmune disease symptoms. For one thing, I don’t stay in bed until ten o’clock anymore.

“I think a lot of the fatigue I experienced was from not sleeping or having restless sleep. Now, I have so much more energy because I’m sleeping well. And if I wake up, I go back to sleep very quickly. Now, I’m up and moving around more, and that’s awesome.”

The treatment Laurie received through Releaf MD helped many of her other symptoms as well.

“The medical cannabis definitely helps with the Reynaud’s and the blood flow in my hands,” she relates. “It just takes a little bit of marijuana, and all the color returns to my hands. My GI symptoms have gotten a lot better as well.

“One of the main things that helped my GI issues was getting off of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Before, I took five hundred milligrams of naproxen twice a day. My stomach and my intestines were a mess because of those high doses.

“So my gut health was a secondary benefit of the cannabis because I’m using that instead of the high-doses of NSAIDS. That’s why I definitely recommend medical marijuana to those with any kind of connective tissue disorder.

“CBD is so good for inflammation and other problems, including stiff and sore muscles and muscle spasms. THC helps with those muscle problems as well and also with nausea and GI problems. And the vape pen takes care of issues very quickly.

“Dr. King explained everything and really helped me. Medical marijuana treatment from Releaf MD has been very successful for me.”

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    • Releaf MD

      At ReleafMD, Center for Medical Marijuana they take pride and caution in their authority to recommend medical marijuana in Florida, California and New York. They keep all of your medical and vital records confidential and secure. Whether you a... Read More

    • System Syndromes

      Medical marijuana relieves symptoms of autoimmune disorders. For 15 years, Laurie Canning had a career in retail management. She gave that career up nearly a decade ago to be a stay-at-home mom, but shortly thereafter, she wound up going int... Read More