Guide to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Cannabis: How to treat IBS with CBD
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects millions of people. Research has found a number of cannabinoid receptors in the digestive system that suggests cannabis could be an effective treatment for IBS. Here we will explore the connection between irritable bowel syndrome and CBD oil and how to treat IBS with cannabis.
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder that affects a person’s large intestine. IBS is a mix of belly discomfort or pain and trouble with bowel habits: either going more or less often than normal (diarrhea or constipation) or having a different kind of stool (thin, hard, or soft and liquid).
Causes of IBS
The cause of IBS isn’t known, but there are a few factors that seem to play a role. These include:
- Muscle contractions in the intestine. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract as they move food through your digestive tract. Contractions that are stronger and last longer than normal can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Weak intestinal contractions can slow food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.
- Nervous system. Abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system may cause you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and intestines can cause your body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process, resulting in pain, diarrhea or constipation.
- Inflammation in the intestines. Some people with IBS have an increased number of immune-system cells in their intestines. This immune-system response is associated with pain and diarrhea.
- Changes in bacteria in the gut (microflora). Microflora is the “good” bacteria that reside in the intestines and play a key role in health. Research indicates that microflora in people with IBS might differ from microflora in healthy people.
Traditional Treatment for IBS
There is no cure for IBS, therefore, the goal of treatment is symptom relief. There are some lifestyle changes that are often suggested as methods of treating symptoms.
Here are some home remedies often used to manage IBS symptoms:
- Regular exercise
- Less caffeinated beverages that stimulate the intestines
- Eating smaller meals
- Minimizing stress therapy may help)
- Probiotics (“good” bacteria normally found in the intestines) to help relieve gas and bloating
- Avoid deep-fried or spicy foods
Treating IBS with Cannabis and CBD
Since the goal of treating IBS is symptom management it makes sense to look at what symptoms cannabis is able to treat.
Cannabis, particularly CBD, has a positive impact on pain. Since there are cannabinoid receptors found in the digestive system cannabinoids are able to specifically target abdominal pain.
Cannabis is also known as a natural analgesic and anxiolytic, and both of these traits are sought-after for treating IBS symptoms. (3)
What the Research Says
One study from 2004 looked at cannabinoids as a treatment option for managing bowel disease symptoms (including IBS), because of their anti-inflammatory properties, but also the ability to diminish pain levels. The study found that there are potential benefits for stimulating endocannabinoid receptors. (4)
A more thorough study from 2012 showed more tangible results. During a three-month period, 13 patients with long-standing IBS were given cannabis.
After the three months, all patients reported an improvement in general quality of life, with positive markers on overall health, ability to work, social functioning, pain, and depression. (5)
Another study using just CBD also found positive results on IBS symptoms. (6) This is promising for those looking to treat some of the persistent IBS symptoms without experiencing the psychotropic effects of THC.
As with many conditions, cannabis research still has a long way to go, so it will take more clinical trials before we fully understand how cannabis help to treat IBS.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and CBD oil: How to Use
Both CBD and THC appear to have a positive impact on IBS symptoms, the best treatment plan is likely a combination of THC and CBD (like Miss Envy’s 1:1 THC/CBD tincture). Though if you’re concerned about the psychoactive effects of THC you may want to consider the 3:1 CBD/THC tincture. Or consider starting with CBD alone. As mentioned previously CBD alone has shown positive results in testing. Though you may consider adding THC as you become more comfortable, or if you don’t see the results you were hoping for.
It’s important to note that when THC and CBD are mixed, CBD helps to lessen the effects of THC. But if you are not experienced with THC we suggest starting with a low dose (only a few drops of a tincture) and working your way up slowly until you find the best dose for you.
- Russo EB; Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?; Neuroendocrinology Letters; April 2008; 29(2):192-200
- Wright KL, Duncan M, Sharkey KA; Cannabinoid CB2 receptors in the gastrointestinal tract: a regulatory system in states of inflammation; British Journal of Pharmacology; January 2008; 153(2): 263–270
- Schier AR, Ribeiro NP, Silva AC, Hallak JE, Crippa JA, Nardi AE, Zuardi AW; Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug; The Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry; June 2012; 34(1): S104-10
- Hornby PJ, Prouty SM; Involvement of cannabinoid receptors in gut motility and visceral perception; British Journal of Pharmacology; April 2004; 141(8):1335-1345
- Lahat A, Lang A, Ben-Horin S; Impact of cannabis treatment on the quality of life, weight and clinical disease activity in inflammatory bowel disease patients: a pilot prospective study; Digestion; 2012; 85(1):1-8
- De Filippis D, Esposito G, Cirillo C, Cipriano M, De Winter BY, Scuderi C, Sarnelli G, Cuomo R, Steardo L, De Man JG, Iuvone T; Cannabidiol reduces intestinal inflammation through the control of neuroimmune axis; PLoS One; 2011; 6(12):e28159