We really shouldn’t be surprised to learn that 1.4 million Americans have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis since both diseases are linked to stress and diet. The typical Western diet is atrocious on a good day, and our stress levels are higher than they have ever been.
While stress and diet are not the only things associated with these diseases, the fact that they are linked should be a good indicator that we need to, at the very least, make changes in these areas.
The typical Western diet is atrocious on a good day, and our stress levels are higher than they have ever been. While stress and diet are not the only things associated with these diseases, the fact that they are linked should be a good indicator that we need to, at the very least, make changes in these areas.
Crohn’s disease is also thought to have an environmental association. We know that the rates of Crohn’s are higher in developed countries, urban areas, and northern climates for instance.
While researchers say none of these things together or alone, are the only causes of the disease, 700,000 Americans still suffer from Crohn’s every year. And the number of people suffering from the disease has increased by a whopping 74 percent in just 12 years, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (1). What’s worse, doctors are essentially at a loss when it comes to this disease, especially since they say there is no cure (2).
One sixteen year old boy disagrees, however. He says that while conventional medicine may not know how to cure Crohn’s disease, nature certainly does. Diagnosed at 11 years old, Coltyn Turner turned to cannabis when conventional medicine failed him—and he has never looked back.
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Once diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, doctors say you will have it for the rest of your life. This often debilitating condition causes inflammation in your digestive tract, or gut.
What most people don’t know, though, is that Crohn’s disease can actually affect any part of your gastrointestinal tract (GI), which means anywhere, from your mouth to your anus (3). Most cases, however, occur in the last part of your small intestine and the first part of your large intestine.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be horrific in severe cases. This inflammatory disease can cause excruciating pain, depending on what part of the GI tract is affected.
People also experience bloody diarrhea, gut and or mouth ulcers, anemia brought on by extended diarrhea, fevers, fatigue, rectal bleeding and anal fissures, loss of appetite and extreme weight loss.
As the disease progresses, you can also expect to experience arthritis in some cases, as well as skin rashes, inflamed eyes and even liver damage. In children, Crohn’s disease can lead to delayed growth or sexual development.
It can take a while before doctors can make a diagnosis, since Crohn’s is typically diagnosed by ruling out other diseases. So, people often undergo a long series of tests and screenings before they are given an official diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, conventional treatment includes an array of drugs including anti-inflammatory medications such as Humira, corticosteroids (drugs that contain cortisone and steroids), immunosuppressant drugs, which can cause vomiting, nausea, and a weakened immune system, antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medications.
In the US, people with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease that don’t respond to the above medications, are typically prescribed Remicade (5). This drug can cause numerous side effects from rashes, stomach pain, sore throat and sinus infections to liver damage, Lupus and even cancer.
And even after all of these drugs, about 70 percent of Crohn’s patients ultimately need surgery at some point. If you’re lucky enough to only need part of your intestine removed, research shows that inflammation will often come back, typically to a place near the area you had removed.
Because of this, some Crohn’s patients need more than one operation. In fact, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, close to “30 percent of surgical patients will have a flare-up within three years, and 60 percent will have one within 10 years.”
In a worst case scenario, you may need a colectomy, which is the complete removal of your colon in which case you will also need to have a bag attached to your side to collect feces for the remainder of your life.
Any way you look at it, the outcome is not great, something Coltyn knows all too well.
At Death’s Door
While doctors may not know the exact cause of Crohn’s disease, they do think in Coltyn’s case, a near-death experience at Boy Scout Camp triggered his Crohn’s, which lay dormant up to that point. After almost drowning in the camp’s lake, doctors think bacteria in the water kick-started the disease.
Coltyn underwent the standard array of tests (stool and blood tests, biopsies, various scopes, x-rays, CT scans etc.), and a slew of medications, none of which helped.
“I just got sicker and sicker, I wasn’t getting any better.” He adds that he was put on drug after drug and none of them worked. “I was tired. I was always in pain…always in the bathroom. And with my Crohn’s disease came rheumatoid arthritis.” (6)
Speaking as a patient advocate at the 2015 National Cannabis Summit, Coltyn says that eventually he was put on Remicaide, “a chimeric monoclonal antibody biologic drug.” (7) “It gave me medically induced Lupus.” He says that just one dose of another drug gave him a nose bleed for 15 minutes straight. He was also put on prednisone, which he says caused the bones in his heel to deteriorate to the point he had to wear a special boot for several months (8).
At this point, doctors decided to put Coltyn on Humira, which he says may have helped him grow a little, but that was the only positive effect.
In 2013, Coltyn went to a summer camp for kids with Crohn’s disease. Because people with Crohn’s typically have lowered immune systems, they easily catch viruses and bugs. So, after coming home from camp, Coltyn’s lymph nodes swelled “to the size of golf balls.” Doctors ultimately thought it was lymphoma. “It [Humira] actually gave me a T-Cell lymphoma scare,” Coltyn says, referring to the common side effect of this drug (9).
He was immediately taken off Humira and told he needed surgery to remove the lymph nodes in his neck. When Coltyn woke up after surgery, doctors told him they accidently removed his salivary glands as well.
Wasting away, and now in a wheelchair, doctors told Coltyn he essentially had three options. They said they could put him on another biologic drug similar to Humira. ”If I took another pharmaceutical, it would have increased my chances of developing T-Cell lymphoma by 66 percent,” Coltyn says.
The second option was a colectomy, which would require him to wear a bag on his side to collect feces for the rest of his life. His last option, according to doctors, was alternative medicine. And that is exactly what Coltyn chose.
Cannabis, A Crohn’s Treatment
While doctors won’t outright tell you to try cannabis for Crohn’s disease, especially since it is still illegal in most states, when they have exhausted everything else, like in Coltyn’s case, they may suggest, “looking at alternatives.”
The alternative for Coltyn was cannabis. “At the time, I didn’t know what cannabis really was. All I knew was that it was bad and I should just stay away from it. But, when my dad said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go try cannabis,’ really, my only concern was what are the side effects?” And when Coltyn and his family decided that the only side effect was that it may not work. They realized they didn’t have much to lose.
They did some research and came across several studies. In one particularly convincing study, Israeli researchers found that “a short course (8 weeks) of THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 10 of 11 patients with active Crohn’s disease, compared with placebo, without side effects.” (10)
Convinced cannabis was the answer, Coltyn and his father left Illinois for Colorado where they would have access to legal medical marijuana. He started by eating cannabis brownies and then moved up to medical grade cannabis oil, which is more effective for Crohn’s.
A picture is worth a thousand words. And that is exactly what Coltyn shows anyone who wants to know how he is doing today.
He starts by telling people, “I came here [Colorado] in a wheelchair because I was so weak. I had already written my will.” He then shows them two pictures. The first is a picture of his colon before using cannabis. It is ulcerated, bleeding and horribly inflamed. He says, “This was my colon.” Coltyn then shows people a capsule and says, “This is cannabis.” Finally, Coltyn holds up another picture of a completely healthy, pink colon, and says, “This is my colon with cannabis.” He ends by saying, “Any questions?”
Coltyn started taking cannabis on March 4, 2014 and by October 2014, he says, “we went from ulcers and inflammation to completely clear [of Crohn’s] in just a few months. I have been on cannabis for two and a half years, and I can now officially say that I am in clinical remission.”
Coltyn routinely shares his story online via Illegally Healed a website that shares studies and stories of people healed by cannabis (11). He directly attributes his newfound health to cannabis and now 16, he is a strong advocate for this healing plant. He hopes his story will reach other people who are suffering and hopefully point them to an “alternative.”
And when it comes down to whether cannabis is illegal or legal, his logic is simple.
“I’d rather be illegally alive than legally dead.”