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cbd oil and the digestive system

How Does CBD Help Those With Gut Inflammation And Other GI Conditions?

Find out in this Q&A with Simply Gluten Free Magazine and Dr. Aimée Gould Shunney, a naturopathic physician who blends conventional medical diagnosis and treatment with the use of natural therapeutics like dietary and lifestyle counseling, nutritional supplements, and herbal medicine. She specializes in women’s health, bio-identical hormone balancing, sexual medicine, and functional digestive issues. She is a Medical Advisor to CV Sciences, makers of PlusCBD Oil™ products.

Q: First, explain briefly what the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is in the human body and why that’s important to understand.

A: In the late 80s, scientists discovered that we have cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in every organ system of the human body, and soon after in the early 90s, they found that we make our own cannabis-like compounds, endocannabinoids (ECs), and enzymes to produce and degrade them. Put all those elements together, and you have the ECS – a ‘new’ system in the body, just as important as our nervous system or our digestive system. It helps us respond to stress by modulating endocrine function, regulating “fight or flight”, and supporting a healthy inflammation/immune response.

It’s essential to understand the ECS if you want to understand how CBD works. CBD works by balancing and supporting the ECS through its subtle effects on CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well as other receptors that modulate serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and many that impact behavior and inflammation. That is why CBD has so many potential applications.

Q: How can CBD help the gut?

A: The ECS is an avid participant in normal gut function. The exact mechanisms of action are still being defined, but some areas of particular interest to me clinically are the ECS’ effects on gastrointestinal motility disorders, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and gut permeability.

CBD is an immune modulator and a potent anti-inflammatory agent. In addition, it helps to balance the ECS, and therefore has tremendous potential to positively impact a variety of digestive complaints.

It’s interesting to note that deficiencies in the ECS are associated with pathological states including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colorectal cancer, and celiac disease. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndromes (CEDS) may be improved with CBD because it prevents the breakdown of our ECs, prolonging their action. In fact, this is one of the main mechanisms of action of CBD.

Let’s not forget the role of stress and anxiety when it comes to digestion! Most of us know that stress exacerbates our gut, and managing stress is crucial to keeping symptoms at bay. CBD has been shown to promote stress resilience and decrease anxiety, adding to its powerful role in gut function.

Q: Can you say more about gut motility issues and CBD?

A: Gut motility is the term given to the stretching and contractions of the muscles in the GI tract. When nerves or muscles in any portion of the GI tract don’t function with their normal strength and coordination, a person develops symptoms like diarrhea, constipation (or both), cramping, bloating, etc. IBS is a motility issue, as is SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and to a certain extent IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). The ECS plays an important role in modulating intestinal contractility. CBD may be able to support healthy motility through its ability to dampen overstimulation at the CB1 receptors and its indirect effects on the CB2 receptors, creating better endocannabinoid tone. In addition, CBD impacts the enteric nervous system (‘the brain below’) via serotonin receptors that are key mediators of motility, secretion, and pain sensation. Also, studies have shown that CBD can reduce chemical-induced hypermotility in mice.

Q: More specifically, what does CBD do for gut inflammation, like IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis)?

A: The ECS is involved in so many areas of gut health, from motility to visceral sensation to inflammation, it is no surprise that there has already been some early success in mouse models of IBD by treating with substances that inhibit endocannabinoid breakdown. The good news is that CBD does this, it’s safe, and readily available!

Q: Can CBD help leaky gut?

A: Cannabinoid receptors along the small intestine have been shown to modulate the expression of tight junctions that are in part responsible for maintaining gut integrity. Moreover, we now know that there is crosstalk between the ECS and the gut microbiota which impacts leaky gut. As a matter of fact, it appears that treatment with certain probiotic strains have been shown to increase the expression of CB2 receptors along the small intestine, which can support function! Additionally, CBD and other phytocannabinoids have been shown to support a healthy inflammatory response that is essential to heal leaky gut.

Q: What amount of CBD is most often used for treating inflammation in the gut?

A: We still need more human data in order to determine exact dosing. In my practice, I start with 15-25mg of CBD in a full spectrum hemp extract at bedtime. Assuming they tolerate that, I begin to see if we can add an equal dose in the morning without any sedation. Dose will vary based on individual tolerance and symptoms. For some patients, one dose at night works well. For others, twice a day dosing does the trick. Others may need 50mg 1-2x/day, especially with severe illness. Safety data is excellent with CBD, so there’s lots of room to find the ‘magic dose’. You can’t go wrong if you start low and go slow.

Q: How does a person know how to choose a CBD product for their particular ailment? What should they look for in a brand and product?

A: I recommend looking for products that list hemp oil (aerial plant parts) as an ingredient with the amount of naturally occurring CBD on its supplements facts panel. Also, it is important to choose products where the company can offer documentation of full traceability from seed to shelf. Hemp-Derived CBD is available in independent health food stores nationwide and online.

I generally choose CBD from hemp because I like knowing that there is not enough THC or particular terpenes to cause intoxicating effects. Legally, hemp products must have less than 1% THC in the finished product. In addition, hemp is full of all kinds of beneficial constituents like, flavonoids, essential fats, plant sterols, vitamin E, chlorophyll and terpenes. Hemp products use every part of the plant that grows above ground, so they have a much broader array of phytonutrients than cannabis products that come from the flower only (where THC is richest). This is why I choose full spectrum hemp extracts with CBD over CBD isolates, in my practice.

Q: What products from PlusCBD Oil™ do you recommend to people with gut issues?

A: I tend to use either the PlusCBD Oil™ Total Plant Complex (green) Capsules or PlusCBD Oil™ Gold Softgels. Both would be a nice addition for overall digestive support. Start low, go slow and make sure you discuss the use of hemp extracts with your primary caregiver.

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Find out in this Q&A with Simply Gluten Free Magazine and Dr. Aimée Gould Shunney, a naturopathic physician who blends conventional medical diagnosis and treatment with the use of natural therapeutics like dietary and lifestyle counseling, nutritional supplements, and herbal medicine. She specializes in women’s health, bio-identical hormone balancing, sexual medicine, and functional digestive issues. She is a Medical Advisor to CV Sciences, makers of PlusCBD Oil™ products.

Digestive System

Medicinal Cannabis and the Digestive System .

The digestive system may be affected in a range of conditions and keeping it healthy is vital to our wellbeing. Thankfully, medicinal cannabis has a role to play to improve this.

The various digestive issues we have consulted with are varied and include:

  • Inflammatory conditions – such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastro-intestinal cancers
  • Colitis
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Poor appetite
  • Digestion issues

How Does Cannabis Help With Bowel Symptoms?

The body’s endocannabinoid system is a biological system made up of endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors which are expressed throughout the body and influence bodily functions such as pain and appetite.

Research shows the endocannabinoid system helps to regulate homeostasis within the digestive system and affects nausea, gut movement, and intestinal inflammation. Components of the endocannabinoid system present within the gastrointestinal system may act as a therapeutic target for cannabis.

In a 2008 study, researchers concluded that “cannabinoids have similarly demonstrated the ability to block spinal, peripheral, and gastrointestinal mechanisms that promote pain in headache, fibromyalgia, IBS and related disorders.

What these results suggest is that IBS symptoms may be caused by a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system. This means that consuming external sources of cannabinoids (i.e cannabis) may help reduce pain caused by IBS and related disorders.

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Medical Research On Cannabis And Bowel Symptoms

  • In one study, 13 patients with chronic IBD who were prescribed cannabis treatments were examined and questioned to assess how cannabis would affect their quality of life over three months. IBD is a general term that describes several diseases which share some similar symptoms to IBS. The cannabis treatment was shown to help all 13 patients gain weight and improve their quality of life.
  • In one study, researchers explored how dronabinol (a synthetic version of THC) affected the relaxation and contraction of rectal muscles in IBS patients. Ten IBS patients and 12 healthy volunteers were included in the study. The results showed that THC didn’t modify rectal sensitivity which led researchers to conclude that THC wasn’t an effective tool for fighting visceral sensitivity in IBS patients.
  • In a short-term randomized controlled trial with 36 participants aged 18 to 69 affected by diarrhoea caused by IBS, researchers examined how THC may affect gastrointestinal movement. The patients were given either 2.5 mg of THC twice per day, 5 mg twice per day or a placebo for two days. The researchers found no significant differences between treated groups and placebo.

More research is needed to provide us with clarity on how cannabis affects bowel symptoms. Nevertheless, because cannabis helps with chronic pain — a common symptom of gastrointestinal disorders — and is known to to be an anti-inflammatory (especially CBD oil), the Cannabis Clinic is happy to prescribe in order to achieve satisfactory results with bowel issues.


Medicinal cannabis may be a good option for various bowel issues. CBD oil has anti-inflammatory properties and can help in a variety of digestive disorders, while THC can help greatly with pain and increase appetite. If your digestive system problems have not responded well to conventional treatments or you prefer more natural treatment, please fill out a consultation form on our website for more information about how to start your journey with medicinal cannabis.

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CBD oil may be an effective treatment plan for you or a loved one with IBS, Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis. Learn more and start your journey.