CBD for IBS: What the Science Says

By Harris Wheless
Jonathan Borba, Unsplash

With a treatment-resistant condition like irritable bowel syndrome, many IBS patients are turning to alternative remedies like CBD (cannabidiol). Roughly 20 percent of American adults suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at some point in their lives, and many people go without treatment.

The symptoms of IBS are difficult to manage, and can be a big roadblock when it comes to working and performing everyday activities. CBD for IBS is an alternative treatment option that some patients have reported success with when using it to ease their symptoms.

If you suffer from IBS, you may feel like your life is at the mercy of your digestive system. It can be a constant source of stomach troubles, and can make you feel as though you need to be near a bathroom at all times. Continue reading to learn more about irritable bowel syndrome, and the potential benefits of CBD.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that affects the lower GI tract (the large intestine), which results in a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea and constipation
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite

Many people suffering from IBS go through periods of time where these symptoms are very severe, as well as stretches when they almost disappear completely.

Additionally, there are other gastrointestinal disorders that have similar symptoms of IBS, but may be much more serious. For instance, colon cancer produces many of the same issues as IBS, but other symptoms like bloody stools or vomiting are a sign that you should seek medical guidance immediately.

IBS is also sometimes confused with another gastrointestinal disease called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a condition that refers to chronic swelling of the intestines. The two major types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. IBS is much more common than IBD and is a non-inflammatory condition.

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Since many of the symptoms experienced by IBS patients can be associated with other conditions, you should seek medical advice from a professional if you notice these issues.

The Potential Benefits of CBD for IBS

CBD is a cannabis compound that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to promote homeostasis and ease functional irregularities. CBD indirectly affects receptors in the ECS and may aid in some of these regulatory body processes. This might help get your digestive system working normally, as well as address other bodily issues.

The endocannabinoid system’s regulatory capabilities allow it to affect multiple parts of the body in different capacities. So, beyond promoting normal digestion, CBD may also lessen feelings of stress and anxiety that tend to make other IBS symptoms worse.

When you take CBD products, they have the potential to renew your appetite, reduce stomach cramps, and alleviate other IBS-related pain. The anecdotal evidence and success stories of treating IBS with CBD are numerous, and many have found it to be a safer, easier treatment option than certain kinds of prescription medication.

What the Research Says

Scientists have only known about the endocannabinoid system for about 20 years, so we are still in the process of learning how it works within the body. However, the federal legalization of hemp has given rise to more research and discussion of CBD’s effects. And what we know so far suggests that CBD may be an effective treatment in managing IBS symptoms.

In 2016, neurologist Ethan Russo conducted a new study that looked into the possibility that IBS symptoms arise because of endocannabinoid deficiencies in the body. His findings suggested that CBD produces better results than traditional treatments when being used for treatment-resistant conditions like IBS.

A paper published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2007 determined that CBD interacts with receptors in our digestive tract in such a way that can reduce spasms and other movements that lead to digestive issues. Research is ongoing, and more will continue to be published in the coming years. Be sure to stay on top of new findings and what they mean for you as a consumer.

What’s the Right CBD for IBS?

There are a wide variety of CBD products on the market, and finding one that’s right for you can sometimes be a hassle. If you’re shopping online for CBD gummies or the best CBD oils to help alleviate IBS symptoms, many people have reported that full or broad spectrum extracts are the way to go. These products contain other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes in addition to CBD, which helps elicit the “entourage effect.” Essentially, this means that multiple plant compounds work better together rather than when using CBD isolate products.

The next considerations you should make are your application method and proper dosing. CBD products are commonly sold as CBD oil, capsules, vapes, and edibles. When it comes to finding what works best for you, it may require some trial and error before you find your perfect dose, or your preferred method of application.

Is It Safe to Take CBD for IBS?

The safety and efficacy of cannabis products can be a controversial topic, but CBD oils are generally considered safe by the World Health Organization. Although the long term effects of using CBD are still unknown, any side effects are rare, mild, and often avoidable with correct dosage. Additionally, hemp-derived CBD products legally have to contain less than 0.3% THC, or the cannabis compound that causes a “high” when using marijuana. Because of this, CBD produces no psychoactive effects and is legal to sell across the United States.

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