Recent developments in the understanding of the human body have shown us that the health of your gut has a far-reaching effect on the rest of your body.
The culture of bacteria in the gut is referred to as the ‘gut microbiome’ and the food you eat affects the diversity of bacteria found there. From digesting fibre, to helping control your immune system and even your brain health, the gut microbiome – and what you put into it - plays a very significant role in your overall health.
One disorder affecting the digestive tract that has a large impact on your quality of life is irritable bowel syndrome. The use of CBD oil for irritable bowel syndrome is under investigation, but what do we know about CBD and IBS so far?
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common disorder that impacts the gastrointestinal tract (the stomach and intestines) and is a chronic condition that can’t be cured, though controlled diet and lifestyle choices can help to manage symptoms. The exact causes are still unknown, but has been linked to family history of IBS, stress, oversensitive nerves in the gut and food passing through the gut either too fast or too slow.
The most common symptoms of IBS are:
- Abdominal pain when passing a bowel movement
- Changes in the appearance of bowel movements
- Changes in the frequency of bowel movements
Some of the more severe symptoms of IBS include weight loss, iron deficiency, unexplained vomiting, diarrhoea at night, and rectal bleeding. These symptoms could indicate a more serious condition such as colon cancer.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD Oil contains cannabidiol (CBD) which is a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant. It doesn’t have a psychoactive effect like the other main cannabinoid in the plant, THC. In fact, CBD is mainly harvested from hemp plants, which are cannabis plants with less that 0.3% THC levels.
CBD has been scientifically investigated since the 1940’s and was the main reason for the discovery of the ‘endocannabinoid system’ – a communication network inside the body that uses cannabinoid-like molecules to help control much of the way our body works. Using CBD to stimulate the endocannabinoid system has been shown to have positive effects in many individuals.
Usage of CBD to treat IBS
The wide range of effects that CBD has on the body indicate it could be an alternative treatment in helping to regulate the gut biome, helping treat IBS symptoms. The receptors that CBD acts on are present everywhere in the body, including in cells in our stomach, so it is reasonable to think that CBD could help with some IBS symptoms.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD indicate that it could help to reduce inflammation associated with IBS. It is thought that an imbalance in the gut bacteria communities, known as dysbiosis, triggers the immune response and causes inflammation. The action of CBD on the endocannabinoid system means that the inflammatory response is more controlled, this often means sending fewer inflammatory cells to the site of infection.
CBD may be able to help with the pain and cramps associated with IBS. CBD reduces the breakdown of the endocannabinoid ‘anandamide’ which helps to reduce the perception of pain. Ever wondered why you feel good after eating chocolate? That’s because chocolate contains small amounts of anandamide!
There are other potential ways that CBD helps to reduce pain, like activating glycine receptors to reduce inflammation and sensitivity, and activating serotonin receptors that then suppress glutamate and GABA transmission – both of which are involved in pain perception.
The overall health of the gut may be improved by CBD as studies have shown that CBD can help to reduce intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut) as well as regulating the gut bacteria. This should help to get the nutrients out of the food you eat, and could prevent the occurrence of dysbiosis.
Other studies into the mechanisms of CBD in the body demonstrate CBD’s ability to regulate and protect enzymes such as cytochrome P450 which leads to better uptake of the pain signalling molecules in the body, like serotonin.
Gastrointestinal associations with IBS
Due to the vague nature of the root causes of IBS, maintaining gut health as part of a healthy lifestyle is essential for trying to avoid developing IBS but using CBD oil for gastrointestinal issues is another current point of investigation. Other gut conditions may serve as a precursor to IBS, or even trigger it.
There are also a number of common conditions that IBS sufferers may have alongside their IBS, like fibromyalgia. Research suggests that the more conditions a patient has, the more severe their IBS is likely to be.
GERD – ‘GERD’ or gastroesophageal reflux disease is when the fluid in the stomach flows back into the oesophagus, causing heartburn. CBD can help to control muscle contractions and therefore may help relieve symptoms of GERD.
Dyspepsia – This is pain experienced in the centre of the stomach, directly below the ribcage, and other symptoms include getting full quickly when you eat and feeling uncomfortably full after eating. CBD could help to reduce the perception of pain from dyspepsia.
Coeliac disease – This is when the immune system attacks healthy tissue after eating gluten. This damages the lining of the small intestine, reducing the absorption of nutrients from food which is going to have a significant effect on your overall health. CBD can help to reduce the inflammation and pain from coeliac disease and may help to improve appetite.
IBD – ‘IBD’ or inflammatory bowel disease is the chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and is an umbrella term that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Common symptoms shared between these conditions include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, lack of appetite and blood in bowel movements. CBD could help to reduce the inflammation and abdominal pain associated with IBD, and may help to improve appetite, fatigue, and bodyweight.
Non-gastrointestinal associations with IBS
Due to the impact that gut health has on the body, there are a number of common conditions that aren’t related to the gastrointestinal tract but are still associated with IBS. These conditions include:
Fibromyalgia – A condition whose symptoms include pain, fatigue, mood issues and cognitive trouble.
Interstitial cystitis – Also known as ‘painful bladder syndrome,’ this is characterised as an urgent need to urinate frequently in the day and often at night. A study on using CBD oil to treat bladder dysfunction in multiple sclerosis indicated that treatment with CBD reduced urinary urgency, the number and volume of incontinence episodes, overall frequency and nocturia (waking in the night to urinate), while ratings of pain and sleep improved significantly.
Migraine headaches, chronic pelvic pain, and temporomandibular syndrome (TMJ) – pain in the joint between the temple and top of the ear when chewing – are also common conditions found in those with IBS, potentially highlighting this connection between gut health and the rest of the body.
Best type of CBD product to use
To get CBD to the gut, it’s important to choose a CBD product that will do exactly that. This means edible forms of CBD – like CBD gummies, CBD oral drops or tinctures – are a good choice for getting CBD into the blood to be distributed internally.
Vaping CBD is another way to get CBD into the blood – it is actually the fastest way to get CBD into your system, however you may need a high strength CBD liquid to get enough CBD and/or vape fairly frequently to see results.
Topical CBD creams or balms are likely to be the least useful when it comes to alleviating symptoms of IBS. The CBD is absorbed by the skin; however, it doesn’t get into the blood this way. It may provide some relief if applied to painful areas but won’t be distributed internally to where it needs to be.
CBD Dosage for IBS
As more research needs to be done on using CBD for IBS, there is no established effective dose for CBD when it comes to IBS.
If you are starting to use CBD to see if it helps manage IBS symptoms, start off on a low dose and increase as necessary. As an example, three drops of low strength (500mg) CBD oil oral drops gives a total dose of about 7.5mg – do this three times a day for a total daily dose of 22.5mg. This may be enough to see positive results, is very unlikely to cause any adverse side effects, and is easy to increase the dose if required.
What to look out for when buying CBD
Things to keep in mind when purchasing your CBD are the nature of the product, and how trustworthy the seller is.
CBD Products come in three different variations – CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD and full-spectrum CBD.
- CBD Isolate contains the cannabinoid CBD
- Broad-spectrum CBD contains CBD and terpenes and flavonoids found in the hemp plant alongside it, but contains no THC.
- Full-spectrum CBD products, which contain CBD, THC and the terpenes and flavonoids in the hemp plant.
The broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD products take advantage of the ‘entourage effect’ – the action of the compounds in the plant working together to increase their effectiveness. Certain people may need to avoid any level of THC from entering their system, so if you want to get the most from your CBD while avoiding THC, broad-spectrum products are the ones to go with.
When purchasing your CBD, check to see if the seller has product testing certificates for their product. This is important as one study investigated the contents of online-bought CBD products and found that the majority did not contain the level of CBD specified on the label. This makes dosing inaccurate, may mean you are overspending, and doesn’t inspire confidence in the seller.
At SMOKO, our product testing certificates are available to view on our website for our broad-spectrum CBD products - so you know what you're getting when you buy from SMOKO!
Does CBD help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Conclusion
More research needs to be done regarding irritable bowel syndrome and CBD, but much of the anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing power of CBD has been established, indicating it may be useful for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome to help treat their symptoms.
In conclusion, using CBD for irritable bowel syndrome may help to improve the quality of life in IBS sufferers through several suggested mechanisms, but more research needs to be done to judge the true effectiveness of using CBD oil for IBS.
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