Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and CBD Oil: Finding Relief
Written by Jason Brett — Edited by Cathy Rozyczko on April 1, 2021 — Reviewed by Sarah Neidler, PHD
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a debilitating, crippling condition with treatments that are often ineffective. Fortunately for those experiencing pain associated with IBS, this may not be the case for much longer. Multiple scientific studies are pointing to the use of CBD for irritable bowel syndrome relief.
IBS can cause incredible disruption to the lives of those who have it. Symptoms can include everything from abdominal pain and cramping, excessive gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and an urgent need to have a bowel movement.
Keep in mind, the information presented on this page is intended to serve only as an informational guide and should not be interpreted as medical advice.
Benefits of Using CBD Oil to Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Substantial lifestyle changes, like adjustments to eating habits and diet, are the most common recommendations for IBS sufferers. In many instances these recommendations provide relief but it could be limited, as people may stray away from their prescribed diets. When dietary recommendations fail to help or just aren’t practical, medical professionals often turn to medications like antispasmodics, laxatives , antimotility medications , and even low-dose antidepressants to reduce gastrointestinal pain and cramping.
Unfortunately, you can experience any number of side effects including nausea, bloating, or even difficulty breathing when using a more traditional treatment method for your IBS. And because the exact causes of IBS are unknown and its severity ranges widely amongst those diagnosed with the condition, it can be difficult to find one catch-all treatment option to help relieve the inflammatory symptoms associated with IBS.
The need for a safer, more effective, and natural treatment has never been stronger for people with irritable bowel syndrome. Enter CBD oil.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The most commonly known and discussed cannabinoids are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) . THC is most commonly associated with the “high” sensation people get after smoking or consuming marijuana products. CBD, on the other hand, does not have any intoxicating effects, meaning it delivers a range of health benefits without leaving the user with decreased mental and physical abilities.
CBD works indirectly on endocannabinoid receptors in the body, producing positive results for the treatment of pain , inflammation, anxiety , and some especially hard-to-treat ailments like multiple sclerosis (MS) , rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . When it comes to IBS, CBD oil may be useful in conjunction with medications you’re already taking however you should always speak with your doctor because CBD has been shown to react to certain prescription medications , including antidepressants.
Effectiveness of Using CBD Oil to Help with IBS
Using CBD oil for irritable bowel syndrome can be incredibly helpful to all sufferers, but particularly to those who’ve had a difficult time finding relief through the traditional methods mentioned above.
In a 2008 review , neurologist Ethan Russo, suggested that irritable bowel syndrome is the result of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). Individuals with CECD produce fewer amounts of cannabinoids than is considered necessary for healthy functioning; the endocannabinoid system plays a role in appetite, digestion, immune regulation, mood, and sleep, and relies on the presence of cannabinoids to function properly.
When external cannabinoids like CBD are introduced to someone with CECD via products like CBD oil, they can stimulate the endocannabinoid receptors and help return the digestive tract to a state of homeostasis. This ultimately aids in reducing the abdominal pain and intestinal inflammation associated with conditions like IBS.
A 2007 study demonstrated how highly impactful cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in the gastrointestinal tract can be when it comes to regulating intestinal inflammation. Certain cannabis-derived products can help activate these cannabinoid receptors in the GI tract, in turn reducing or putting a stop to gastrointestinal inflammation. CBD oil has been proven to have an indirect effect on the activation of both CB1 and CB2 receptors, which means taking it could reduce the inflammation associated IBS.
Finally, a 2011 study found CBD to be an effective agent in helping to reduce intestinal inflammation caused by the presence of bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which are found in high levels in people who have diarrhea caused by IBS. So, if you’re suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D), you might consider trying CBD oil to mitigate your symptoms.
How to Take CBD Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
When taking CBD oil for IBS, it’s best to use an oral delivery method but the exact one you choose is up to you. Whether you choose drops, edibles (e.g. gummies), shatter, or capsules, for example, will come down to your personal preferences. Drops and shatter will typically be the most potent form of CBD you can take, but may also have a different effect on your body than a less-potent CBD gummy bear. It’s best to try out a few different types of CBD-infused edibles so you can best decide which method is best for you.
Before taking CBD, or deciding which delivery method is best for you, consult your physician. If you have questions that cannot be answered by your regular healthcare professional, consider consulting a cannabis doctor to learn more about potential drug interactions and dosing.
It is important to understand that there is no standard dose for CBD oil. Because all people are different, there will be some variation in the amount needed to find relief. For more information about CBD dosing, you can check out our dosing page.
As a starting point, we here at CBD Oil Review have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with a standard serving suggestion:
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily.
If you are not getting your desired results from this amount, we recommend increasing the serving size by 25mg every 3-4 weeks until you find relief.
Find out how CBD oil can be used to reduce the inflammation and pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
CBD for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
CBD Oil for irritable bowel syndrome
What is irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects roughly between 6–18% of people worldwide. The condition affects the digestive system, causing changes in the frequency and/or consistency of bowel movements that are often accompanied by lower abdominal pain. IBS is a lifelong problem that can negatively impact almost every aspect of everyday life, making it difficult to live with.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but theories include things like food passing through the gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in the gut, stress and a family history of IBS. Symptoms can be sparked by poor diet, certain foods, stress, poor sleep and changes in gut bacteria, however, each person has different triggers, making it difficult to generalize, and name specific foods, habits and stressors that prompt symptoms to appear.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
IBS symptoms vary between individuals Symptoms often get worse after meals, with a tendency to come and go over time, and lasting anywhere from a few days, to weeks or even months at a time. Primary symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea
- Changes in bowel movements such as slow-moving stool, hard stool and mucous or blood int he stool
- Gas and bloating of the abdomen
- Food intolerances
However, in severe cases IBS can affect different parts of the body and can sometimes resemble other diseases and conditions, for instance:
- Fatigue and difficulties sleeping
- Anxiety and depression
- Problems urinating such as needing to urinate often, sudden urges to urinate, and feeling an inability to fully empty the bladder
- Halitosis, or bad breath
- Joint and muscle pain
- Pain during sex in women
- Irregular menses in women
Irritable bowel syndrome Medications & Treatment
There is currently no cure for IBS and treatment focusses on symptom management with changes in diet and certain medications helping control symptoms.
In addition to dietary changes, medications are often recommended to help manage symptoms and IBS flare-ups. These include antispasmodic medications that reduce abdominal cramping and pain by relaxing the muscles in the gut. To help relieve constipation, bulk-forming laxatives are recommended while anti-motility medications reduce diarrhea symptoms. In severe cases, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are prescribed as they can help reduce abdominal pain and cramping.
IBS specific medications include and eluxadoline for severe diarrhea-predominant IBS and alosetron in women only, lubiprostone for constipation-predominant IBS in women only, and the antibiotic rifaximin to reduce diarrhea in people with IBS. However, these medications are usually a last line of defense as their side-effects can be severe. For instance, symptoms can worsen and result in bloody stools, while side-effects like nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, fever and dizziness are also common.
Usually, the first treatment intervention is to keep a food diary to identify specific foods that trigger individual symptoms. In addition, general dietary changes are also recommended to avoid the triggering of IBS symptoms, involving the elimination of certain foods such as beans, chocolate, milk, and alcohol as these are known to cause either constipation or diarrhea. Other non-pharmaceutical interventions that can help ease, reduce and manage IBS symptoms are:
Managing fiber intake – While some people with IBS need to decrease their fiber intake, others will have to increase it, often having to supplement with fiber such as psyllium husks. In addition, a diet of both water soluble and insoluble fiber can help promote healthy digestion.
Probiotic supplements: People with IBS often have poor gut flora and supplementing with probiotics (beneficial bacteria that support gut health) can help heal gut flora and reduce symptoms.
CBD for irritable bowel syndrome
Research & Scientific Evidence
Researchers are aware of the role that the endocannabinoids system (ECS) plays in the protection of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract from, for example inflammation and abnormally high gastric and enteric secretion. This makes the ECS a new and promising therapeutic target against different GI disorders prompting several investigations into cannabinoids for the treatment of IBS. However, to date, the vast majority of the research investigated either Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on its own, or a combination of THC and CBD with only a handful investigating only CBD for IBS.
In a 2010 study published in Pharmacology & Therapeutics reviewed scientific literature related to the ECS and the specific cannabinoid receptors, molecular targets and mechanisms underlying the efficacy of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD in the treatment of inflammatory disease of the GI tract such as IBS.
The investigators concluded that CBD affects several mechanisms underlying IBS. For instance, CBD has been shown to inhibit acetylcholine- induced contractions in the ileum, suggesting a direct action the smooth muscle of the gut. Similarly, data from the literature showed that CBD is a prostaglandin inhibitor that reduces gut inflammation and inflammation-induced hypermotility. CBD also inhibited intestinal transit and inhibited FAAH expression in inflamed intestine. They also found that studies on intestinal epithelial cells suggest that CBD prevents oxidative stress, an underlying factor that leads to mucosal protection.
The authors concluded that CBD has been the most thoroughly investigated of all the cannabinoids and also show the greatest potential as an effective treatment option for inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases by reducing oxidative stress and counteracting hypermotility and mucosal inflammation.
Through histological, biochemical and immunohistochemical analysis they found that CBD controlled both inflammatory response during intestinal inflammation, and enteric glial cells (EGC) activation. EGCs are thought to maintain the integrity of gut mucosa and act as a component of immune system cells that fight against infections. In addition, they also found that CBD is capable of modulating the immune system’s response to inflammation by controlling the cells responsible for the inflammatory response.
They concluded that the results from their two experiments show that CBD should be considered as a promising therapeutic agent that modulates the neuro-immune axis which is a target in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disorders such as IBS.
The anecdotal evidence for cannabinoids as an effective symptom management tool for IBS is numerous. Medical practitioners report that patients who suffer from IBS with symptoms ranging from mild to severe find relief in cannabinoid based medicines. However, they do find that symptom relief is better with cannabis extracts or CBD oils that are derived from cannabis and contain higher amounts of THC. However, there are reports of people who use hemp-derived CBD oil to manage their IBS symptoms effectively.
CBD as a complementary treatment
Scientists know that ECS plays an integral role in the pathophysiology and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. And although CBD for treating the symptoms of IBS is limited, we do know that CBD acts on the ECS either directly or indirectly via the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body, including the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, although there are limited researcher pertaining to CBD and IBS directly, the implication is that CBD can help manage and reduce the severity of various IBS symptoms by CBD activating and modulating both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
So, for instance, CBD can:
- Regulate gastric secretion, gastric emptying and intestinal motility by modulating the CB1 receptor
- Limit visceral sensitivity and pain by activating the CB2 receptors
- Reduce GI inflammation associated with IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders by activating the CB2 receptors
- Reduce in spasmodic episodes in IBS patients by regulating TRPV1 activity
CBD can help in other ways as well. Nausea and a loss of appetite are symptoms often associated with both IBS and side-effects of IBS medications. CBD can help reduce the symptoms of nausea, and for some people also increase appetite. Similarly, CBD in addition to reducing inflammation and abdominal spasms, it also reduce pain by blocking pain signals. CBD can also aid in relieving feelings of depression and help improve sleep, another two symptoms that IBS patients suffer from.
Bottom Line: Can CBD Oil help for IBS?
For some IBS can be bothersome while for others, it is something that affects almost every aspect of their lives. CBD has the potential to help relieve and manage many of the symptoms of IBS, but more research is needed. Until then, CBD’s role in the treatment of IBS is primarily as an adjunct or complementary therapy that should be used with dietary and lifestyle changes and/or medications. Always consult a medical practitioner before using CBD. Your physician can monitor dosage, symptom severity, contraindications, and other clinical parameters to ensure that your CBD treatment is both safe and effective.
We do know that CBD acts on the ECS either directly or indirectly via the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body, including the gastrointestinal tract. That way in can also influence Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)