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Can CBD for IBS Help Manage Symptoms?


By now, the vast majority of health enthusiasts are clued up on the studies and research investigating plant-derived CBD and its bountiful healing properties. But could effective use of CBD be used as part of a treatment plan for the multi-layered IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)?

Just in case you’re new here, and need an update on the basics: CBD is a compound of the hemp plant. Most are familiar with ‘THC’ – the compound which contains psychoactive properties, or in other words, can give a sense of euphoria or ‘high’. The cannabis plant, however, contains over 120 different cannabinoids and THC is the only compound with the capacity to intoxicate.

The human body has an internal endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is built to digest these compounds, helping us maintain a healthy equilibrium. CBD works by interacting with certain receptors (CB1 and CB2) which generally speaking; can help to soothe inflammation in the body.

What is IBS?

IBS is a digestive disorder with complex physiology – mostly associated with affecting the large and small intestines. IBS is inclusive of symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain as well as visceral hypersensitivity and mood disturbances. Almost 1 in 8 Americans have been diagnosed with IBS at some stage of their lives.

Unfortunately, there is no direct cure for IBS. Usually, doctors will advise patients to make changes to their eating habits which can help reduce discomfort. Each person can experience IBS differently, with symptoms changing throughout a lifetime, and quite often it is a case of trial and error until the best solution is found. Some starting points often include:

  • Homemade meals and fresh ingredients
  • High-fibre foods
  • Avoid eating too quickly
  • Avoid alcohol and fizzy drinks
  • Try probiotics
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage stress levels

Does CBD help with IBS?

Though cause and effect are difficult to differentiate, IBS has also been linked to 

imbalances in:

  • The immune system
  • The endocannabinoid system
  • The gut microbiome

Which suggests that IBS is not just a digestive disorder, and should be considered as more of an overall holistic mind-body issue. This explains why treatments such as diets, probiotics and relaxation techniques could all work to relieve symptoms. This also explains why the calming effect of CBD could indeed help to soothe IBS-related pains and discomfort.

How to treat IBS with CBD

As it is part of the endocannabinoid system’s duties to help with the digestive tract, and CBD helps to increase natural levels of endocannabinoids, research suggests CBD may offer a safe remedy to help manage IBS symptoms. Naturally, CBD works best with a holistic approach to balancing the endocannabinoid system, combining healthy lifestyle decisions. 

So how does CBD for IBS work exactly? Evidence shows that dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system might play a role in disorders such as irritable bowel system, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease (all of which are associated with IBS). We understand that cannabinoid receptors are found within and throughout the body. CB1 is found mostly in the brain and neurotransmitters – associated with sensation, moods, sleep and processing. CB2 is predominantly found within immune cells, linked more heavily with pain and inflammation. CBD interacts with these receptors, helping them to multiply, therefore increasing the positive benefits they have in the mind-body system.

What is the best CBD dosage for IBS?

Your CBD for IBS dosage can be taken in different forms: from capsules to tinctures. Different methods enter the bloodstream within different timescales, and can stay in your system for different lengths of time, but mostly your choice really depends on personal preference. Swallowing CBD oil will reach your bloodstream through the digestive tract, while vaping, for example, will have a faster effect.

In regards to dosage, there is not a one-size-fits all recommendation for IBS, and it is important to consult your doctor first.

Tip: from a cost-effective perspective, it’s also a good idea to ease into CBD use. For example: if a 20mg dosage helps to alleviate symptoms and you can feel the benefits – but you start off with a 50mg dosage, you could end up wasting both your CBD product and your money for the same result.

CBD for IBS: The Verdict

So far, CBD has been shown to be incredibly useful in treating inflammation in the body. So, whilst we don’t necessarily have bullet-proof evidence yet in CBD for IBS treatment, we know that using products containing cannabidiol may help the endocannabinoid system maintain better balance – therefore helping to aid the discomfort associated with IBS.

IBS is a deeply rooted and complicated mind-body issue that is unlikely to be taken care of with any one solution. Everyone has a different experience, and it is impossible to say which could be the best solution for you. When developing a treatment plan, it is important to consider taking each new addition one step at a time, to detect what is working and what isn’t. This includes new supplements, dietary changes, medications and your CBD intake.

When purchasing a CBD product, always consider that not all are made the same. There is a lot of misinformation and poor quality products out there, so question and research as much as possible when considering which brand to buy from. Always speak with a doctor about your thoughts of trying out CBD. They can help design a treatment plan which links with other medications and holistic routines.

Is CBD good for IBS? The short answer is, yes. Based on the positive effect CBD can have on your overall mental and physical well being, there are certainly signs that CBD products can help with digestive issues too. The pharmacological properties for CBD treating more serious diseases are currently being examined, and are showing positive signs. However, it’s important to remember at this stage, most CBD trials are still being conducted on animals; human participation is something we hope to see more of in the future.

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