Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have to deal with a plethora of unpleasant symptoms, typically with little to no relief. Most people with IBS find themselves limiting their diet and potentially taking medications, sometimes without a dramatic improvement to their quality of life. CBD (cannabidiol) is arising as a strong potential treatment for IBS with no or minimal side effects thanks to its all-natural nature.
A Closer Look at IBS
Before exploring the ways that CBD can assist with irritable bowel syndrome, take some time to refresh your memory on the symptoms of IBS. They vary between people but frequently include bloating, cramping, or abdominal pain that gets better when you pass a bowel movement. They also frequently include diarrhea, constipation, excess gas, and mucus in the stools. In severe cases, those with IBS can experience nighttime diarrhea, weight loss, rectal bleeding, trouble swallowing, persistent pain, unexplained vomiting, or iron deficiency anemia. Those specific symptoms all require a doctor’s visit as soon as possible.
For those unfamiliar with the details of CBD, cannabidiol is a type of chemical compound that comes from the cannabis plant. It occurs naturally and tends to provide calm, relaxation, and pain relief. It does not have any psychoactive effects; THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical compound from the cannabis plant with those psychoactive effects.
CBD Can Reduce Spasmodic Episodes From IBS
One of the key symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is spasmodic episodes when the tissue in the gastrointestinal tract spasms in conjunction with other symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas. Cannabidiol is able to relax the tissue in the gastrointestinal tract, dramatically reducing these spasmodic episodes. This occurs thanks to the cannabidiol’s ability to interact with the GI tract’s cannabinoid receptors.
CBD Can Regulate Pain From IBS
Everyone with irritable bowel syndrome knows that this condition is incredibly uncomfortable. Many people with IBS find themselves depending on over-the-counter, or even prescription strength, pain relievers with varying results and potential side effects.
One of the many uses of CBD is its ability to relieve pain, including from a range of conditions. This includes pain relief as part of an IBS treatment. CBD can reduce uncomfortable swelling as well as inflammation, helping to reduce the pain associated with IBS. This way, those with IBS do not have to just live with the pain; instead, they can experience relief and live a more fulfilling, happier, and pain-free life.
CBD Can Reduce Intestinal Inflammation
One of the reasons that cannabidiol can ease pain is due to its ability to reduce inflammation. This plays a role in another IBS symptom, painful intestinal inflammation. By relieving this intestinal inflammation, CBD for IBS can reduce symptoms as well as causes of other symptoms. After all, that inflammation not only causes pain but plays a role in problems like bloating.
The CBD works by affecting the endocannabinoid system in the body. The endocannabinoid system relies on molecules that impact the inflammation response, so CBD’s impact on it can reduce the inflammation.
CBD Can Improve Appetite
It is very common for those with irritable bowel syndrome to experience a loss of appetite. Some of this comes from the nausea that IBS brings while another aspect is mental as patients do not want to deal with the gas, bloating, or diarrhea after eating. This can lead to those with IBS fasting for short amounts of time, and potentially overeating afterward. That overeating, unfortunately, leads to symptom flare-ups.
Most over-the-counter medications that aim to relieve the nausea causing loss of appetite in IBS have almost no results. It is also hard for patients to force themselves to eat and that can sometimes cause overeating and flare-ups.
So far, clinical studies have indicated that cannabidiol has potential at reducing nausea, including in those with IBS. This makes CBD for irritable bowel syndrome a good way to suppress the nausea and promote a healthy appetite. That, in turn, can help those with IBS avoid losing too much weight, which has nutritional risks.
CBD Can Improve Intestinal Mobility
Using CBD to treat irritable bowel syndrome can also assist with intestinal mobility. Many people with IBS experience hypermotility, which is when the food you consume moves through your gastrointestinal tract too quickly. That hypermotility is directly related to IBS flare-ups, causing poor digestion, reduced nutrient absorption, and loss of fluids.
Some research has shown that when the body receives more cannabinoids, those hypermotility states are reduced. In other words, using CBD to control IBS can reduce the hypermotility that causes flare-ups in many patients.
How CBD Impacts the Gut
Most of the benefits of cannabidiol for IBS relate to its ability to affect the gut. Experts believe that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in a range of intestinal disorders, including IBS. The idea is that taking CBD targets the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, helping to treat IBS and other intestinal diseases.
While initial research into CBD and irritable bowel syndrome shows a great deal of promise, more still needs to be done. One study from Gastroenterology had 75 patients with IBS to varying degrees. The participants received dronabinol, which is a cannabinoid. They found that participants with IBS-D saw improvements in gut motility.
Although a very different situation, there is also research into CBD’s ability to reduce nausea in other patients. One study explored its ability to reduce vomiting and nausea in those undergoing chemotherapy as cancer treatment. The researchers found that CBD shows a great deal of promise in this respect. Logic indicates that if CBD can reduce nausea from one cause, it is likely that it can do the same with nausea from another cause as well.
The Bottom Line
As with any other condition that you treat using cannabinoid, scientists still need to conduct more research on CBD and IBS. The early research and anecdotal evidence, however, is incredibly promising. Furthermore, CBD does not have side effects for most people and is all-natural and non-psychoactive so there is no risk associated with trying it to treat your IBS.