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Amazing Reasons Why CBD Oil Could Help Your IBS
If irritable bowel syndrome is one the challenges that you have to deal with in life, then you know that there’s more to IBS than just an occasional bout of gas, cramps and some alternating between diarrhea and constipation; around 45 million people in the United States alone are affected by this debilitating and excruciating condition that involves prolonged abdominal discomfort and pain, long-term irregular bowel habits, severe bloating, and painful inflammation. If you’re unfamiliar with IBS’ meaning, it’s short for irritable bowel syndrome and it is a common chronic condition that plagues some people ranging in age from teenagers to folks in their early-to-mid 40s, most often women. Although IBS isn’t life-threatening, and symptoms can range from very mild to severe, it is very discomforting and discouraging for those who suffer from it – fortunately, having irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t make you any more likely to develop other colon conditions, like Crohn’s disease, colon cancer, or ulcerative colitis, just to name a few.
The various types of IBS include IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), IBS with constipation (IBS-C), alternating diarrhea and constipation (IBS-M for mixed), and then there is IBS that doesn’t really fit into any of the other categories (IBS-U, for unsubtyped). The exact mechanism that triggers IBS is unknown, but somehow victims’ colons becomes hypersensitive and overreactive, triggering spasms and resulting in chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation or both. This is a lifelong condition whose symptoms come and go; currently, there is no cure for IBS that is scientifically recognized.
Treating IBS can be a challenge for doctors and patients, though traditional therapies include dietary changes like adding more fiber, probiotics, anti-diarrheal medications, anticholinergic medications to reduce spasms, antidepressants, pain medications, and reduction of stress.
Now, you may be wondering where CBD oil fits in with all of this – cannabidiol happens to do the same thing as some of the medications for irritable bowel syndrome, also known as spastic colon. CBD oil for IBS has shown promising results for some sufferers by stimulating appetite, reducing intestinal inflammation, regulating pain and helping to calm stress as well as alleviate depression.
Now, no one is suggesting that you jettison your doctor’s treatment regimen, but because cannabidiol manages similar symptoms to those of IBS, it could make an effective supplement to prescribed treatments for IBS.
(Signs of IBS, image from Your Miraculous Body on Instagram)
CBD and Symptoms of IBS
If you have ever suffered with a chronic condition, or know someone who has – and this, too, is personal testimony for your humble authors – then you know that dealing with the ongoing symptoms can be less than fun, especially those diseases and conditions that seriously degrade everyday living. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has established medical benefits for a number of serious medical and mental maladies such as cancer and the side effects of cancer chemotherapy treatments, seizures and epilepsy, inflammation from chronic pain, neurodegenerative brain plaque disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, recurrent headaches and migraines, and digestive and colon disorders like IBS; as well as psychological problems like stress, anxiety, and depression – which can sometimes arise from prolonged physical illnesses. CBD is not magic, nor can it cure everything, but it does have a wide range of uses when it comes to health and wellness issues.
Phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids) like CBD, occur naturally in cannabis plants and work to stimulate your own natural endocannabinoid system to bring homeostasis, or balance to your brain, heart, and major organ systems throughout the body. Some chronic conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, may result from an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system, although more research is needed to establish that absolutely. The way you would get IBS help from taking cannabidiol as part of your CBD digestion treatment regimen includes a reduction in spasms as the CBD interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in your gut to relax stomach tissues, stimulation of your appetite paired with neutralization of the nausea associated with the IBS condition, and easing of the overall painful discomfort from the disease.
Emotionally, irritable bowel syndrome can increase stress and anxiety, which can themselves lead to a worsening or resurgence of IBS symptoms, which of course will further worsen stress and anxiety, which then continually trigger your IBS in a seemingly endless vicious cycle. IBS and muscle spasms, painful stomach upset and loss of desire to eat, and the resultant psychological fallout from the cyclical symptoms can all be effectively managed by using CBD.
(CBD and chronic-pain infographic from CBD Oil Reviews via Reddit on Pinterest)
Treating IBS with CBD Oil
How Do You Treat IBS with CBD?
The most common way to medicate with cannabidiol is CBD oil, either in pill form through your digestive tract or by droppers sublingually, under your tongue. CBD oil and IBS are a good match because CBD oil effectively treats pretty much all of the symptoms of this chronic colonic condition. CBD is good for digestion; there is a whole host of helpful bacterial living in your gut known as the microbiome and recent medical discoveries have highlighted the importance of a good balance of helpful bacteria living and thriving in your innards – though the connection between specific microorganisms and IBS is not yet fully understood, it stands to reason that having the best thriving culture of critters in your colon can’t but help, at least some, with irritable bowel syndrome and that’s where CBD can help! The endocannabinoid system is part of your body’s arsenal in maintaining a healthy, thriving microbiome.
In addition to overall digestive health, there is also a responsive relationship between CBD and diarrhea and CBD and constipation. Does CBD oil cause diarrhea? Some users have claimed they experienced diarrhea after using CBD, but others insist that CBD actually cured their loose stools from IBS. So, then, does CBD oil cause constipation? Again, it really depends on whom you ask because there are users that claim both, CBD causing constipation and relieving it – cannabidiol is generally used to bring homeostasis to major body organs including your colon, so it seems unusual for it to disrupt normal bowel functioning. It could be that whatever caused the diarrhea, or constipation, was another ingredient in the pill or liquid drop such as carrier oils like olive oil, coconut/MCT oil, or even hempseed oil. If you really want to try CBD for either your constipation or diarrhea, and you experience unexpected bowel problems by taking a particular CBD product, then you might switch brands to see if the problem persists. There is some trial and error involved, as is the case with a lot of medications.
Because muscle spasms can cause pain in patients with IBS, doctors frequently prescribe drugs – antispasmodic medicines, such as dicyclomine (Bentyl) and hyoscyamine (Levsin) to help spastic colon sufferers. Research has shown that cannabidiol can be used as an effective muscle relaxer, including for irritable bowel syndrome. CBD oil and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), and IBS are reasonable medicine and condition combinations – but it is best to couple CBD with whatever medication your personal physician prescribes, unless there is reason to be concerned that CBD might reduce or contradict that medicine’s effectiveness. It would be your call if you wanted to try cannabidiol solo or in combination with prescription meds, but it is advisable to discuss your choices with your medical doctor. Elsewise, CBD oil very effectively works with your innate endocannabinoid system to balance your major bodily systems – including digestion, which should have a positive effect on IBS symptoms.
Yet another symptomatic problem with irritable bowel syndrome is gas and bloating. An easy folk remedy, or home cure, is baking soda and IBS – taking bicarbonate of soda to pass the gas that is associated with IBS. For milder gas symptoms that is probably sufficient, or even taking some over-the-counter liquid antacid/antigas would help dissipate excess gas, but it is a temporary fix and not a cure. Some people who have experienced prolonged gas and bloating have found those symptoms diminish with regular usage of CBD oil drops. Again, because cannabidiol has a regulatory effect on the digestive system, it can help regulate excessive gas and bloating in many instances.
(CBD and depression, image from CBD-Instead on Pinterest)
It's well-known that CBD can be an effective pain reliever, inflammation reducer, and as we discussed above, a reliable anti-spasmodic medication, but what about CBD oil for treating IBS symptomatic depression? Having a prolonged illness or chronic medical condition can be traumatic and affect your psychological health. It is not unusual for treatment specialists to recommend antidepressant pills to help patients cope with their emotional strain in living with IBS – and, potentially, you could end up pairing medicines like CBD and Prozac, or CBD and Elavil, or CBD and Effexor – or some other equivalent antidepressant. Can CBD oil replace antidepressants for IBS or any other serious illness? That would depend on the individual sufferer and his or her level of depression; CBD works well for mild depression, but for anything more severe it would be best to follow the recommendation of a trained psychiatric or psychological professional.
Does CBD Oil for IBS Actually Work?
If you’re interested in cannabidiol as a potential treatment or possibly considering augmenting other therapies, you may have read a few CBD for IBS reviews that extolled the virtues of this CBD product or that CBD-from-hemp-oil product but maybe left you with more questions than answers. You may have also read some articles for or against the effectiveness of CBD and wondered if there was anything at all to the hype about CBD oil. For instance, one writer for the Chicago Tribune recently wrote a rather scathing Zilis CBD review but used a Hempworx product image, creating some confusion about both products and some understandable reactions from those who swear by CBD or full spectrum hemp oil for various medical conditions. The writer had done an unsupervised two-week trial of Zilis UltraCell Hemp oil drops and topical ointment and then knocked it when it failed to heal what his doctor finally diagnosed to be a torn ligament and out-of-place bones in his wrist. So, doing some level-headed research is good, as is healthy skepticism, but try to have realistic expectations about what CBD or hemp oil can do for your IBS symptoms.
CBD isn’t a magical cure-all, neither is it snake-oil (an old time term for a fake cure), but it is slowly being recognized by the established medical community – doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, pharmacists – as a means of treating a number of symptoms in a number of different diseases and conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome, because of its close association with your body’s own endocannabinoid system.
That said, you might then wonder, ‘How much CBD oil should I take for IBS?’ Well, that depends on you and your physiology as well as the severity of your medical needs, but there are some general guidelines. Hempworx is a fairly representative CBD-oil-from-hemp product company and the dosage chart from the Hempworx CBD Oil web site suggests the following generic guidelines:
- General health: 2.5-15mg CBD oil daily
- Joint discomfort or for cartilage and joint function: 2.5-20mg CBD oil daily for an average of 25 days
- Glaucoma: 20-40mg CBD oil daily (more than 40mg daily may actually increase eye pressure)
- Seizure disorder: 100mg CBD oil daily for up to 5 months
- Increase appetite: 1-2mg CBD oil daily
- Movement problems: 10mg CBD oil daily for six weeks
- Support immune function: 2.5 – 120mg CBD oil daily for 2-15 weeks
- Help with maintaining normal mood: 40-1,280mg CBD oil daily for up to four weeks
- Relief of occasional sleeplessness: 40-160mg CBD oil daily
(CBD dosaging, Image from Best Dosage.Com on Pinterest)
As you can see, there’s no specific dosing prescription for IBS. Currently, the acceptance and use of cannabidiol as an established medical treatment is only starting to become more widely accepted; medical marijuana, medicinal hemp, and CBD isolates therefore have few if any established dosing guidelines. Although more and more US states and countries like Canada are legalizing medical marijuana, doctors and psychiatrists are hesitant to prescribe cannabinoids like CBD because there’s no recommended daily allowance (RDA) or universally accepted dosages because federal prohibition has limited medical research; also, medical schools are only just beginning to cover cannabis therapies in their medical and pharmacology curriculum. So, any guidelines suggested by CBD or hemp oil companies can only be viewed as informational guides and not established medical protocols.
If you still want to know ‘How much CBD oil should I take for IBS’ then there is another methodology to determine the right dosage for you – and that is to start with a low dosage and then slowly incrementally increase it. Many people report improved results with low doses of CBD, so you could begin with a small baseline dosage of 2-5mg, up to three times, daily, with a starting daily total of 6-15mg total. Do this for a week to see how the cannabidiol affects you. Then if you’re underwhelmed by the effects and feel you need something stronger, up the daily dosage by 1-2mg every 3 days until you reach the dosage level that manages your symptoms. Once you get to the optimum level, try backing off a milligram or two to see if you still get good results.
Elsewise, you’re kind of on your own when it comes to how much CBD oil to take for irritable bowel syndrome; that’s one reason why discussing it with your doctor is advisable, if they are at all receptive to you using CBD oil and if they have any familiarity with hemp-derived products then they may have their own dosage recommendations or orders.
(Cannabinoids and IBS, image from Cresco Labs on Instagram)
Assuming you have checked with your physician and are committed to trying cannabidiol for your irritable bowel syndrome, your next question might be ‘What is the best CBD oil for IBS?’ You have seen us mention hemp oil again and again – so what is the difference between CBD and hemp oil, or CBD from hemp? One immediate benefit of hemp oil versus CBD isolate is that hemp oil contains omega-3 fatty acids which for IBS sufferers can help lubricate their digestive tract and negate inflammation; CBD isolate contains 0-percent THC whereas hemp oil can have up to .03% – coming up in the section below we’ll talk about the benefits of THC for IBS, but hemp oil contains other trace cannabinoids like CBG which is an effective pain and nausea reducer; CBN is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and an appetite stimulant; and there’s CBC which also deals with pain and inflammation. So, full spectrum hemp oil offers the additional benefits of other cannabinoids working together in what they call the 'Entourage Effect'; but pure CBD isolate obviously delivers much more cannabidiol in a higher concentration for digestive system balance, reducing pain, soothing inflammation and restoration of appetite – so there is that to consider.
(Marijuana for stomach health, image from Daily Beast on Pinterest)
Other Cannabis Options for IBS Symptom Management
CBD oil is certainly not your only option when it comes to cannabis for IBS. THC, that other well-known cannabinoid, also has good benefits for IBS, though some people are put off by the psychoactive effects. Yet, THC can provide very good mitigation of pain and nausea, two major complaints of irritable bowel syndrome patients. The highness from THC can also be beneficial in providing an uplift from depression and a calming effect on stress and anxiety that arises from living with a chronic condition like IBS. The CBD in marijuana can mitigate the psychotropic mind alteration that you get from smoking or ingesting activated pot, and cannabis plants come in a wide variety of CBD-heavier indicas, nearly 50-50 balanced hybrids, or THC-heavy sativas; thus finding the right balance between THC and CBD is very doable.
Best Strains for IBS
If you, with your doctor’s guidance, decide that medical marijuana is indeed a good match for your medical and emotional needs resulting from IBS, then here are a few weed strains that are ideally suited for mitigating the symptoms of chronic spastic colon:
- Blue Dream – This is a 50/50 hybrid and this has a good deal of CBD to counteract the trippiness of the THC. Blue Dream is a good stress and anxiety reliever; it is best known for having a potent body-high, so pain relief is a major benefit. For IBS, Blue Dream works much like aspirin or ibuprofen to soothe your cramps, and much like an antidepressant to help lift your mood.
- Jack Herer – Jack Herer is a major mood-boosting marijuana strain and thus ideal for those irritable bowel sufferers who have been fighting this debilitating disease for a while and are starting to feel seriously weary. It is 55-percent slightly sativa-dominant, but it does still have a significant amount of indica and CBD to balance out the headier aspects of the herb and give good relief for bloating and discomfort.
- Willie Nelson – Named after a popular red-headed singer and cannabis advocate that you may have heard of, Willie Nelson weed strain is a sativa-dominant hybrid that is very effective at reducing muscle spasms and cramps; it has also shown great effectiveness for alleviating nausea, glaucoma, migraines and inflammation – some of which are part of the IBS litany of symptoms. The THC level is such that it will also effectively boost your mood and quiet your anxious thoughts. Listening to Mr. Nelson’s folksy brand of country music is optional.
- Great White Shark – While this one is a slightly sativa-dominant weed strain, it has a fairly low amount of THC – between 13-15%, which for this day and age with marijuana strains topping 25% THC, that is pretty moderate. So, GWS will provide you with good nausea control, restoration of appetite and emotional support for your IBS without spacing you out nearly as much as most other kinds of cannabis.
- Sour OG – For those dealing with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders, Sour OG mitigates nausea, lack of appetite, and is also good for mild to moderate aches and pains. It has a pretty moderate THC level at 18%, on average, and is considered a 50/50 hybrid weed strain, balancing the uplift of a sativa with the relaxation of an indica.
So, there are some strains to get you started in treating your IBS. There are, obviously, other strains that you might find effective. Read a few reviews (we have plenty here on Weed Republic) and our advice would be to go with a strain that is fairly low in THC – unless you want the euphoric effects to help you with emotional issues stemming from your IBS. Balanced 50/50 hybrids tend to give you the best of both worlds. Keep in mind, though, that the most common side effect of consuming cannabis is dry eyes and dry mouth and that could pose the risk of worsening your constipation if you have IBS-C, because of dehydration.
(Vaping CBD for IBS, image from CBD Vape 4 Life on Instagram)
Vaping and IBS
While vaping is a good way to deliver the potent effects of either cannabis or CBD immediately to your blood stream and body to alleviate your IBS symptoms there is a caution: smoke or vapor inhaled through your mouth into your lungs, also enters your stomach and intestines during the hit. Cannabis or CBD vapors can unintentionally irritate the digestive tract and actually worsen the bloating, cramping, gas, and stomach rumbling that you already experience from IBS. This is likely something that you will have to experiment with to see if the benefits truly outweigh the risks. Smoking tobacco can definitely negatively impact your stomach’s gut microbiome; whereas cannabis and CBD seem to have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria because of the reduction of inflammation and the promotion of proper immune responses (IBS is sometimes linked to your immune system improperly attacking the good stomach bacteria and this allowing the nasty bugs to flourish). Again, try it and see, but be prepared to seek an alternative means of ingesting cannabis if smoking does lead to irritation and worsening of your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
Edibles and IBS
Eating your cannabis or CBD would be an alternate means of absorbing helpful, healthful cannabinoids if smoking isn’t for you. Edibles can be CBD only, or full cannabis-containing confections; either way, medical marijuana edibles – also known as medibles, are a slower delivery system for relief of pain, bloating, and nausea, than smoking or vaping. Again, because IBS involves an improperly functioning digestive system, your gut may not properly absorb the cannabinoids that you are eating to regulate your Irritable bowel symptoms – so you may want to use CBD or hemp oil drops first to get your IBS under control and then use edibles after to maintain good gut health and manage your pain, cramps, bloating, nausea and diarrhea or constipation. Be mindful of a few good edibles precautionary protocols such as starting slow with small amounts to test your response to cannabis edibles (or CBD, for that matter), do not mix edibles with alcohol or other medications because the results could be unpredictable, and start with dispensary edibles with known quantities of THC (or CBD) but then try your hand at making your own weed cookies or cannabutter brownies.
And again, discuss edibles and IBS with your doctor to see if they might be the right solution for you.
(Cheeba Chew hemp CBD edibles, image from Jenyfur Pet on Instagram)
There is a lack of hard and fast answers, right now, for IBS – and depending on your level of severity, solutions that work for some people might not be the best ones for treating IBS in your case. There is a good deal of experimentation when it comes to managing the symptoms of IBS and if your condition is bad enough, severely painful and debilitating, then you definitely should only try medications for IBS, including CBD for IBS or cannabis for IBS, under the guidance of a qualified doctor or dietitian. If you’re not sure of IBS meaning, or whether you have irritable bowel syndrome, we can tell you that it is the most common disorder seen by gastroenterology practitioners; that symptoms of IBS include lower abdominal pain, bloating, and continual bouts of diarrhea, constipation, sometimes both and there is even a form that has neither (IBS-U, or unsubtyped); and that diagnostic evaluation sometimes includes a psychosocial assessment because this is a long-term, chronic illness that can lead to emotional problems like depression and social anxiety.
(What is IBS Graphic, image from Dietitian Razan Shwayhat on Instagram)
How do you treat IBS? Although this is an ultimate guide for how and why CBD oil could help your IBS, we cannot guarantee that anything that we have discussed is a cure for IBS, there is no known cure as of yet, nor can we promise how well our advice will help you manage your symptoms – we are writers and not medical professionals. What we do know is how CBD oil and constipation, CBD oil and diarrhea, and CBD oil and digestion work and we have shared that knowledge in the hope that it can help you. Trial and error can be frustrating, education helps weed out the ineffective therapies and hopefully can bring you some IBS help. Some basic medical treatment regimens include to avoid any and all foods that trigger IBS symptoms, making sure to eat high-fiber foods, drink fluids regularly – whether just plain water or ‘IBS juice’ (fruit or vegetable juices that are fibrous or good for the digestion like spinach smoothies or cranberry juice), getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep; medications for IBS include fiber supplements, laxatives, anti-diarrheal meds, anti-spasmodics and antidepressants.
CBD oil for IBS can do many of the same things that above medications can do and works well in supplementing your prescribed drugs. But does CBD oil cause constipation or does CBD oil cause diarrhea? Usually, no – but you are dealing with an out-of-whack digestive system if you have IBS; so potentially, CBD could have the opposite of the intended and hoped-for effect and instead make problems way worse; if so, then discontinue CBD use immediately. CBD oil makes a good muscle relaxant, so you can use CBD oil for stomach pain, and CBD oil can improve your digestion, as well as boost your mood much like an antidepressant. Dosing CBD oil should start low and then work up to the strength that works best for you. What is the best CBD oil for IBS? We recommend full spectrum hemp oil because you get the added benefit of other therapeutic cannabinoids like CBG for pain and nausea; CBN, which is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and increases appetite; and CBC for pain and inflammation. And should hemp oil for IBS prove not quite strong enough you can get the pain relief, anti-inflammatory and stomach healing effects of CBD oil isolate.
Three good, maybe even amazing, reasons that you might want to try CBD for IBS are how well CBD oil handles pain relief, CBD oil's ability to reduce and even eliminate inflammation in many cases, and the psychologically balancing effects of cannabidiol.
There are alternatives to CBD oil for IBS - such as straight cannabis for IBS, which has all the same healing qualities as its non-psychoactive cousin, but even more so. Cannabis for IBS has very strong pain and nausea-fighting properties, plus pot can boost your appetite, reduce anxiety, and help lift depression; picking a more 50/50 sativa/indica hybrid gives you some mitigating effect of weed’s THC highness. Vaping and IBS, whether CBD or cannabis, comes with the risk of exacerbating symptoms by pulling air into your gut when inhaling, thus increasing gas and bloating – but if you can stomach it, then it is a fast way to get beneficial cannabinoids quickly into your blood stream and to your brain and digestive organs for symptom management. Edibles can also be helpful for IBS – though initial use may be less effective if digestion isn’t working properly, they may be more effective after some CBD oil usage has quieted things down; and it is generally advisable with edibles and IBS to start low and go slow until you know which amounts have what effect on you and your symptoms.
There are a lot of questions even among medical professionals as to the causes and the best treatments for irritable bowel syndrome. Hopefully, we’ve answered some of your questions or at least given you some useful guidance when it comes to CBD and IBS; now it’s up to you and your medical specialist to determine what the best course is for you to effectively manage your symptoms and regain some control of your digestion and your life.
Even though this blog is primarily about CBD and IBS, here is a vid that discusses cannabis and IBS, since we did bring that up - so give it a look before you go, if you are at all interested in weed for IBS:
Written by Megan Medeiros (BA)
Megan Medeiros has a bachelor’s degree in English and is currently working on a master’s in English at James Madison University. She's the owner and operator of Medeiros Writing, and has been working as a cannabis writer for the past three years, mostly following the legal climate of marijuana, especially in areas like California, Colorado, Oregon, Canada, and other legal areas.
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