What You Need to Know About Using CBD for IBS
The Curious Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Gut Health
With the increasing legalization of cannabis and its by-products in the United States, CBD oil — otherwise known as cannabidiol — is everywhere. You can find it in gas stations, grocery stores, as well as in specialty boutiques and cannabis dispensaries, and it’s recommended for a wide range of health concerns.
One of the things CBD is recommended for is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Some early research suggests that CBD may be able to influence your gut inflammation, motility, and even your gut microbiome. Is CBD for IBS a valid treatment option?
Currently, there is almost no direct research suggesting that CBD can improve IBS symptoms.
Let’s explore what CBD is, what we know about the effects of CBD for IBS and the digestive system, and what we know and don’t know about how it may treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or other digestive conditions.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoids, which are cannabis plant compounds produced by Cannabis sativa and hemp plants. CBD is non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive. CBD’s more famous cousin, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), is the cannabinoid responsible for the well-known psychoactive effects of smoking or consuming cannabis.
Companies that sell CBD products promote it to help remedy a wide range of health concerns, such as chronic pain [ 1
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ], headaches, joint pain, appetite, sleep, and digestive complaints like IBS.
CBD appears to be able to act as a pain reliever and has anti-inflammatory properties several hundred times stronger than aspirin . However, there is a tendency to generalize claims about full-spectrum cannabis — extracts of whole cannabis — and CBD alone. To more fully explain, we need to dive into the specifics of the endocannabinoid system.
Endocannabinoid System 101
It may surprise you to learn that the human body creates its own cannabinoids and has a vast network of cannabinoid receptors.
This means your body is wired to benefit from cannabinoids. This endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an important role in the development, balancing, and resilience of your central nervous system and immune system [3, 4
There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1, and CB2. CB1 receptors are concentrated primarily in your brain and peripheral nervous system, while CB2 receptors are located not only in your brain and nervous system but also in your digestive and immune systems [ 5
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. CBD can bind to either type of cannabinoid receptor.
Some researchers have proposed that endocannabinoid deficiency may influence gut conditions like IBS, pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and migraines [ 6
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ], as well as autoimmune diseases [ 7
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. Endogenous cannabinoids (meaning those produced by your body), like anandamide, are thought to influence pain perception and gut motility (the movement of waste through your digestive tract) [ 8
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. For this reason, many people are excited about the potential of cannabinoids like CBD to help chronic pain, opioid addiction, and IBS symptoms like bloating, constipation, and hypersensitivity [ 9
CBD for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive tract disorder. Frequent digestive systemsymptoms of IBS include [ 10
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Diarrhea or loose stool (IBS-D), or constipation (IBS-C)
- Food sensitivities
The root causes of IBS vary widely, from bacterial overgrowth to nervous system imbalances that affect gut motility. Because of this, treating IBS requires a multi-faceted approach.
Many people with other digestive conditions — such as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — also have IBS symptoms.
Does CBD Help IBS?
There is not yet clear evidence that CBD can help IBS symptoms, despite some interesting preliminary results and hopeful theories.
In the end, dietary changes such as a low FODMAP diet [ 11
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ] have proven and documented benefits for IBS where you don’t have to wait for further research. So, while we explore the research so far about CBD and IBS, please don’t ignore more proven approaches.
Multiple literature reviews suggest that targeting the endocannabinoid system with CBD or other cannabinoids may provide some benefit for IBS patients and their symptom flare-ups, as well as patients with other gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) [ 16
However, there is little direct clinical evidence to suggest you are likely to benefit from CBD if you have IBS symptoms..
Here is a summary of the evidence that suggests CBD may be beneficial for IBS symptoms:
In a large observational study, CBD was associated with reduced gut and non-specified pain [ 19
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ], normalize both slow and fast gut motility , and positively affect nerve channels that regulate gut motility and secretion [ 25
Out of all these studies, only two are placebo-controlled clinical trials. The rest are lower quality observational, or animal studies, which may or may not have relevance for humans, and none of them specifically studied IBS. So even though these are positive findings, they are not a clear endorsement of CBD.
Add to that the following study results, which don’t support using CBD for IBS symptoms:
A 2021 SR/MA of 15 nonrandomized studies and 5 RCTs concluded that cannabinoids do not induce clinical remission or affect inflammation in IBD patients (although there may be some improvement in symptoms) [ 27
Using CBD for IBS
CBD oil is allowed to be sold throughout the United States as long as the THC content is below 0.3%. People typically consume CBD products orally as an oil, but they can also be consumed as a tincture (a preparation of CBD in alcohol or glycerin) or edible product (like a gummy or baked good).
In states where cannabis is legal, either for medicinal or recreational use, some CBD products may contain varying levels of THC. Some evidence suggests that therapeutic results are better when CBD is given together with other cannabinoids, including THC [ 30
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. This is known as the “entourage effect.” However, not everyone wants the psychoactive side effects of THC. Read your labels carefully, or request help interpreting the information on product labels.
Your ideal dosage will vary widely depending on your body’s needs, the potency of the product, and your tolerance. For best results, consult with a health care provider or medical professional who is knowledgeable about CBD dosing and your medical condition.
CBD Oil Side Effects and Safety
If you want to try CBD for IBS, keep the following considerations in mind.
CBD Side Effects
CBD is often promoted as a safer alternative to medications, but some people do experience side effects.
CBD and other cannabinoids are metabolized in the liver and intestines.
Too much CBD can damage the liver, especially if mixed with other medications, such as leflunomide, lomitapide, mipomersen, pexidartinib, teriflunomide, and valproate . If you are taking these medications or have an existing liver condition, consult a physician before using CBD.
CBD oil consumption can cause possible side effects [ 32
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. These include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea 
- Decreased appetite
- A minority of people may have an intolerance to cannabis oil or its carrier oils such as sesame oil.
A systematic review and meta-analysis found that adverse gastrointestinal tract events may be more common when CBD and other cannabis-based medicines are ingested rather than inhaled [ 36
Non-FDA-approved CBD products on the market vary greatly in quality and consistency. This raises two potential issues:
Without independent laboratory verification, one cannot know whether the dosage of such products is accurate, if the THC content is less than 0.3%, and whether they are unadulterated and uncontaminated [ 37
Always buy CBD products from manufacturers who are transparent about their production methods, quality-control measures, and potency. Look for independent laboratory verification of product contents.
Probiotics and the Endocannabinoid System
Some very early evidence suggests that the gut microbiome may influence the endocannabinoid system [ 38
One clinical study showed that Lactobacillus probiotic supplementation increased the function of cannabinoid and opioid receptors and reduced pain [ 39
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. Dogs with motility problems who were given probiotics showed an increase in cannabinoid receptor action and improved motility [ 40
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. Another study, albeit in mice, suggested that CBD increased the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria but also increased the expression of inflammatory cytokines [ 41
We know that probiotics are a clinically effective treatment option for a wide range of digestive complaints [ 42
Trusted Source PubMed Go to source ]. We don’t need to know whether their interaction with the endocannabinoid system is one more reason for their benefits, but it’s an interesting line of research for the future.
The Truth About CBD for IBS
CBD may be popular, but there isn’t yet proof that it helps IBS symptoms. While early data suggest it may play a helpful role in regulating gut motility, reducing gut pain, and supporting the nervous system, much more research is needed.
There are many proven and effective treatments for IBS, and it makes sense to keep your focus on these approaches. However, If you’re CBD curious, try CBD as a short-term trial and don’t expect miracles.
Best Way to Take CBD Oil for IBS
IBS is an uncomfortable condition that affects around 35 million people in the United States. Since many conventional treatments for IBS cause significant side effects, people who suffer from the symptoms of IBS are on the hunt for alternative treatments. In this guide, learn if CBD works for IBS, and find out the best ways to take this cannabinoid if you’re suffering from IBS symptoms.
Does CBD help IBS?
Over the last decade or so, research into CBD has accelerated at an unprecedented pace, and scientists have realized that CBD may help with a wide variety of serious conditions. While there is no definitive answer regarding whether CBD can help with IBS, a significant amount of research has been invested into this subject, and scientists continue to investigate the potential benefits of CBD when it comes to inflammatory conditions like IBS.
What’s clear is that CBD, as a derivative of the hemp plant, does not have intoxicating properties, making this cannabinoid very different from THC, which is an intoxicating and addictive substance found in the cannabis plant. Therefore, IBS patients can try CBD without worrying about intoxication or any other significant adverse effects.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an inflammatory condition that affects the colon (large intestine). The most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are diarrhea and constipation, but other symptoms associated with IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, and gas. As one of the most uncomfortable conditions that can affect the digestive tract, people with IBS are constantly searching for safe, natural forms of IBS relief.
How does CBD Oil Work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that does not significantly stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These cannabinoid receptors cause the feeling of intoxication that accompanies THC use, and even though full-spectrum CBD can contain up to 0.3% THC, that’s not enough to activate your CB2 or CB1 receptors.
At the same time, CBD has a profound effect on the human endocannabinoid system, which manages a variety of essential bodily processes including digestion. Some researchers believe that endocannabinoid deficiency could be one of the primary causes of both physical and mental health conditions, suggesting that taking CBD oil could offer a wide range of beneficial effects.
What research says about CBD for IBS
As an inflammatory disease that affects the digestive system, IBS is a prime target of natural therapies that provide anti-inflammatory benefits within the digestive tract. While we cannot provide medical advice or make claims regarding the usefulness of taking CBD for any condition, we can still examine the evidence that has been accumulated regarding the use of CBD in treating IBS.
Research into CBD for Inflammation
CBD has been researched extensively for its potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists are keenly interested in determining the potential usefulness of CBD in relieving chronic inflammatory pain and the symptoms of inflammatory conditions like IBS.
Research into CBD for Gastrointestinal Conditions
Researchers have examined the potential usefulness of CBD as a natural modulator of your gut’s mucosal defense system, which plays a critical role in preventing the symptoms of IBS. Current research into the effects of CBD on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is highly limited, but early results have been promising.
How much CBD oil should I take for IBS?
Different CBD oils contain different amounts of CBD, and each CBD ingestion method affects your body differently. If you decide to use CBD for IBS, however, you may want to start with a standard dose of 10-20 milligrams taken orally per day. In clinical studies, CBD doses as high as 1,500mg tincture which is 50mg of CBD per day have been shown to be well-tolerated in human subjects, but if you’d prefer to use CBD products as sparingly as possible, even a low dose might provide the beneficial effects you’re looking for.
How should I take CBD oil for the best results?
There are quite a few different ways you can take CBD, and some might be more effective for IBS than others:
CBD tinctures for IBS
As orally ingested CBD products, CBD tinctures deliver this cannabinoid directly into your digestive tract. Along the way, however, the CBD in your tincture will also be absorbed under your tongue, potentially limiting the amount of CBD that reaches your digestive system.
CBD capsules for IBS
CBD capsules pass down your esophagus before releasing CBD into your stomach. As a result, capsules might deliver CBD into your digestive tract more efficiently than other ingestion methods.
CBD edibles for IBS
CBD edibles are tasty and convenient, but a lot of the CBD they contain is absorbed into the lining of your mouth as you chew. IBS sufferers might be better off choosing CBD capsules instead.
CBD topicals for IBS
Water-based CBD topicals penetrate your skin and spread CBD throughout underlying tissues. However, topically applied CBD might not penetrate deeply enough to deliver significant concentrations of this cannabinoid into your digestive tract.
Can you rub CBD oil on your stomach?
When you experience abdominal pain due to irritable bowel syndrome, it’s only natural to try addressing the symptoms of this condition at their source. Oil-based CBD products, however, offer very poor skin penetration, so applying CBD oil directly to your stomach is unlikely to provide the results you desire. Use a water-based CBD topical formulation instead, or use an orally ingested CBD product that delivers this cannabinoid directly into your digestive tract.
Using CBD for IBS: The Bottom Line
There isn’t enough evidence to definitively determine whether CBD might help relieve the symptoms of IBS. What’s clear, however, is that every form of CBD is non-intoxicating and remarkably non-toxic, so there’s no reason you should avoid using CBD products as you pursue weight loss and make other lifestyle changes that might help manage IBS. Anyone who has this condition would prefer to treat IBS naturally, and IBS sufferers have nothing to lose by trying CBD oil for this uncomfortable and inconvenient condition.
How CBD Oil Helps With IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Treatment
While irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may not be life-threatening, it can severely disrupt the quality of life for those who have it.
There are approximately 10% of the global population that develop IBS like symptoms throughout their lifetime.
IBS is not well understood by doctors and this means that there is not a great deal of treatments available to those who suffer from the condition. Even finding products that help manage the symptoms can be difficult to find.
What are the benefits of using CBD Oil for IBS?
There are many things that may cause IBS, but much of what triggers IBS remains a mystery. Many of the causes believed to inflict the condition involve a loss of equilibrium in the digestive tract. The balance of the digestive tract is integral to digestion, immune defence and the excretion of waste.
Cannabidiol, which is more commonly known as CBD may help with the problem of IBS as it helps the body to calibrate various parts of the body. This is achieved by improving the communication between the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and cells throughout the body.
The benefits of using CBD oil to treat IBS include:
- Reduction of inflammation
- Improves anandamide deficiencies
- Decreases your appetite
- Inhibits muscle hyperactivity
CBD affects everyone who uses it differently and the variation of IBS has varied effects.
Those that suffer severe diarrhoea as well as IBS also known as IBS-D, are most likely the experience the maximum benefit of using CBD Oil as the CBD can slow muscle contraction in the digestive tract.
Sufferers of IBS with constipation (IBS-C) can still reap the benefits of CBD because of the anti-inflammatory and the suppressing of appetite properties of CBD.
What form of CBD should I use?
CBD is now readily available in a vast array of different forms. Ranging from CBD oils to CBD patches. CBD oils are typically the most popular method of using CBD, but CBD patches are probably the best delivery method for those who suffer with IBS because the CBD doesn’t have to pass through the digestive system to take effect.
CBD oil and CBD capsules are very easy to take and can be accurately dosed.
What dose should I take for IBS?
Finding the perfect dose of CBD can be a difficult challenge and may take a certain degree of experimentation. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK, suggests that 70mg of CBD per day is a safe and effective dose of CBD for you to take. The dose of CBD you take also has to take into account which delivery method you are using.
It is always advisable when first using CBD to start with a low dose and gradually work your way up if you feel there is a need to do so.
How long does it take for CBD to start working?
It typically takes 2-3 weeks of regularly using CBD to begin to notice the full impact CBD can have on your life. It will take at least a week before you begin to feel the full effect of CBD on your IBS symptoms. That said, how long CBD takes to work depends largely on individual differences. These can include weight, diet, lifestyle and tolerance.
How to get the best results using CBD for IBS?
CBD should not be used in isolation to treat IBS. IBS is extraordinarily complex and there are numerous organs involved in the condition. There are other forms of treatment that can be effective and when used in sync with CBD can achieve the best results. These include dietary changes and physical exercise. If you do not address your diet or exercise more, the effect CBD has may be limited.
CBD can alleviate the symptoms caused by IBS and is an effective tool at restoring balance to your body.
What CBD Oil?
CBD is shorthand for Cannabidiol. It is one of the primary cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The majority of CBD oils that are on the market derive from the hemp plant also known as cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa is a strain of cannabis that is naturally low in THC. THC is the psychoactive compound within the cannabis plant and is what causes those who consume it to get high.
The endocannaboid system is what regulates the body’s state of homeostasis. Homeostasis is crucial for the effective operation of the digestive, immune and neurological systems.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
IBS is often classified as a syndrome not a disease. This is because IBS is a range of symptoms that cannot be linked to one specific case. IBS is often surmised as a dysfunction of the digestive tract.
The symptoms of IBS often include bloating, indigestion and abdominal pain. Changes in bowel movements can escalate and involve severe cases of diarrhoea.
The effects of IBS are similar to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, the primary difference is that IBD involves the inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This has been proven lab tests and recorded on special cameras that can enter this part of the body.
If a physician cannot find inflammation in a diagnosis of IBD, IBS is diagnosed instead.
What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
While the symptoms of IBS can vary greatly between patients, there is a common theme to the symptoms of the condition. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Uncontrollable bowel movements
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
CBD can be useful for dealing with IBS as it does not push the digestive function in any particular direction. CBD improves the regulation of homeostasis in the body. Using CBD in cohesion with other therapies to manage the symptoms of IBS can enable the body to better deal with IBS and return to state of normality.
What Causes IBS?
The precise cause of IBS remains unknown. There are some theories that are widely accepted in the medical community.
Diet – The United States has the highest rate of IBS within its population in the world. This is likely due to Americans often consuming diets that are high in processed foods. Foods that have been highly processed tend have very low nutritional benefits and are very high in calories and sugar.
When these foods are consumed, they move slowly through your body and delay the function of the digestive tract, this is due the distinct lack of fibre in the food.
The slow movement and extremely high sugar content cause the food to ferment in the digestive system and attracts bacteria. Fermentation in this instance is very bad for your body and inhibits the functioning of the digestive system. This is often what causes bloating, pain and noticeable changes in bowel movements.
The regular fermentation of processed foods can cause severe damage the structural frame of the digestive system’s lining. Over time this accumulation can cause diarrhoea and a lack of movement in the intestines.
Viral infections can also cause IBS. There are many instances of people reporting IBS symptoms after catching a bug abroad.
IBS may not be well understood, it does however involve the combined dysfunction of various organs, diet, lifestyle habits and CBD can offer broad benefits towards different types of the condition.
It is always best to use CBD in the form of a patch or CBD oil. CBD vapes are also extremely effective and very popular.
If you are persistent with lifestyle changes that need to be implemented such as diet and exercise in combination with CBD. With patience, IBS symptoms may become a thing of the past and be forced into remission for substantial periods of time.