CBD and IBS: Is It an Effective Treatment?

Person in white lab suit and blue rubber gloves holding a bottle of cbd in one had and an eyedropper full of CBD in the other with a hemp plant in front of them.

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Most of us instantly think of chronic pain or inflammation when we think of conditions that CBD can help treat, but what about a link between CBD and IBS?

CBD can indeed be used to help reduce some of the negative symptoms associated with IBS. CBD can be used to treat inflammation and pain, two staple symptoms of IBS, and also has the potential to help the body better regulate digestive activity in general.

Still, CBD may not be a lifesaver on its own; the severity of symptoms, other medications, personal triggers, and other factors can influence your experience. So, if CBD can be used to treat IBS, how does it do so? Is it safe? Perhaps most importantly, is it effective and efficient?

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is an unfortunately very common health condition that affects the digestive system, specifically the large intestine. 

It’s classified by a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms ranging from severe constipation to diarrhea (and anywhere in between). IBS sufferers also deal with a variety of disrupting symptoms, discussed in more depth later, that can make day-to-day life difficult and stressful.

Most people who have IBS will not experience severe symptoms and can often control the ones they do with a balanced lifestyle (healthy diet, exercise, etc.). 

Some stressors may be more likely to cause symptoms than others, but it can vary from person to person, which makes it hard to approach treating IBS. 

IBS Symptoms

The symptoms of IBS can be different for each individual; for example, some people may be more prone to diarrheal symptoms than constipation symptoms, and some may be more prone to cramping and gas than others.

Common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas, excessive flatulence 
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in the frequency of bowel movements

These symptoms, if left untreated, can cause a variety of other health conditions. Severe IBS symptoms may make it hard for the body to get and hold on to the nutrients that it needs to survive.

If you feel like the symptoms above sound familiar, it’s possible you may be dealing with IBS. IBS symptoms typically last a long time, so a single episode of diarrhea or constipation isn’t necessarily a reason to be concerned.

Still, if you experience noticeable changes in your bowel movements or suffer frequently from the symptoms we’ve discussed, it’s important to speak with a doctor. You may also find it helpful to identify which specific triggers apply to you to help you better avoid discomfort in the future.

Women in a white tank top holding her abdomen with both hands.

Does CBD help IBS?

CBD can certainly help those with IBS manage symptoms, particularly the symptoms related to pain and inflammation. 

CBD is especially useful in conjunction with other treatment steps, including avoiding trigger foods, remaining physically active, taking prescriptions as needed, and getting a good night’s sleep.

Of course, CBD isn’t a cure-all, and even if you decide to integrate it into your lifestyle, it may not successfully treat all of your symptoms on its own. It’s also important to maintain a nutritious and thoughtful diet if you’re living with IBS no matter what.

Current Research on CBD and IBS

Though research on the connection between the endocannabinoid system (a complex system in your body that helps regulate multiple bodily functions and that is affected by ingesting cannabinoids) and digestive processes is still lacking overall, there is some evidence to suggest that CBD can help make living with IBS easier.

Recent studies and scientific inquiry surrounding CBD and IBS generally focuses on the endocannabinoid system itself rather than CBD. Researchers believe that interacting with the endocannabinoid system, whether through ingesting cannabinoids or other artificial means, may be a potential way to treat and halt IBS symptoms.

In fact, strategically allowing CBD to interact with specific receptors in the endocannabinoid system (those that can help target gut symptoms), according to some researchers, is the first step toward potentially creating a new type of anti-IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) medication

Other research suggests that not all CBD is created equal, at least not when it comes to treating IBS. One study, for instance, demonstrated that patients with IBS who chewed CBD gum daily (~50 mg) experienced little to no difference in symptoms when compared with a placebo group. 

It seems, then, that if CBD proves to be a generally useful treatment option for IBS, it’s likely that certain products and methods will be more beneficial than others. Long-lasting and powerful products, like CBD oil and edibles, may be better tools for managing digestive pain.

Research into CBD will likely continue with vigor, particularly due to CBD’s growing commercial popularity and availability. Still, what we already know about CBD suggests that it certainly has potential to be personally beneficial even if it never makes it to store shelves as a more conventional medication.

CBD is like a sort of medical superhero. It has all sorts of attractive properties, most notably the fact that it’s an anti-inflammatory agent (meaning it fights inflammation in the body, helping reduce pain in the process). 

Those with IBS may find that CBD helps alleviate some of the painful or uncomfortable symptoms that come along with their condition. CBD might also have other benefits, like helping boost appetite or suppress nausea, that are also very helpful.

CBD can interact with other medications in your system, so if you do decide to use it to try and treat IBS symptoms, it’s not a bad idea to speak with your doctor first.

Does CBD affect bowel movements?

CBD can affect bowel movements both directly and indirectly by reducing inflammation and calming the digestive process, but CBD on its own is unlikely to significantly alter digestive health overall. If you have IBS, CBD won’t necessarily “cure” you, but it can help prevent further complications and make life easier.

The anti-inflammatory nature of CBD means that it can tackle irritation in the stomach or gut, which helps with many of the unpleasant symptoms that come with a bad IBS day (nausea, cramping, gut pain, etc.).

CBD also helps regulate and stabilize the digestive system in general thanks to the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS, which extends throughout all parts of the body, interacts with CBD to help the body keep things moving in the gut, which can help minimize constipation.

Using CBD regularly may help some users stay more regular, avoid physical discomfort, and prevent future symptoms. 

Gut-centric side effects of CBD (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.), while rare, can occur and make things worse, so any significant changes in bowel movements for the worse might indicate that CBD isn’t the best option for you.

What is the best CBD for IBS?

For IBS, your best options are edible CBD, or maybe even smokable CBD if you need results fast. Edible CBD may take longer to act, but its effects on the digestive system are longer lasting and may be more intense. Below, we’ll go more into detail about CBD oil for IBS.

Additionally, full spectrum products will likely provide the best results for most users due to the entourage effect. Based on what we know about the entourage effect, combining multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and other parts of the cannabis plant is likely to cause a more rounded, powerful, and longer-lasting experience.

Full spectrum products are those that contain more than just CBD. Unlike CBD isolate products (where CBD has been specifically extracted from hemp and put into a product), full spectrum options contain other cannabinoids and terpenes, making them better choices for those looking to maximize their experience.

CBD Oil for IBS

In terms of specific product options, CBD oil is perhaps the most popular or most effective form of CBD consumption. As the most pure form of CBD that you can buy, it’s one of your best bets if you’re looking to use CBD to treat a health condition. If you’re wondering which method of consumption is best for you and your condition, check out our full CBD buyer’s guide

Using CBD oil for IBS isn’t an uncommon practice, and you can rest assured that CBD is a (generally) safe option. 

CBD oil can help treat some of the pain you may feel as a result of your IBS symptoms, and some evidence suggests that it might play a role in helping stabilize or balance the digestive system. 

As time goes on and more research in this area is conducted, we’ll have a more definitive answer as to whether or not the anecdotal benefits are indeed medically supported. Regardless, CBD likely has the potential to make your life easier, even if only a little bit, if you’re dealing with IBS.

Takeaway

When it comes to using CBD for IBS, things look promising; not only is CBD a safe alternative to many other treatment options, it specifically remedies some of the symptoms that are associated with digestive disorders. Pain and inflammation in the gut, for example, may be lessened by ingesting CBD.

If you deal with IBS, you’re likely used to adjusting other parts of your life to accommodate it. It can be very stressful to deal with IBS symptoms because they are persistent and can sometimes come on very suddenly (especially if you’ve just encountered a stressor/trigger). 

CBD usage can help lessen some of the stress or anxiety you may feel around the subject on a daily basis or just in general.

On its own, CBD may not totally heal your digestive system or get rid of all of your symptoms. A controlled diet, a conscious mind, and lots of care might also be necessary to help avoid bad bouts of IBS.

No matter what, though, it’s safe to say that CBD is generally a great tool to help treat IBS, and if you’re willing to, trying it out may just be worth your time.

CBD is a new and quickly growing market. The internet is full of misinformation, and sometimes even falsely-labeled products. That’s why we created a directory of the best CBD products available- and we made it free! You can access it here.

Josh Murdoch

Josh Murdoch

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and although it is incurable, CBD and THC have been allowing me to live my life as a healthy adult now for years. For that reason, I’ve dedicated my career to spreading the good news about cannabinoids. Currently, I work for a vertically integrated cannabis company called Unrivaled Brands that operates in California, Oregon, and Nevada. Previously, I worked on two cannabis farms in northern California, one of which was located in the famous Humboldt County. I’ve also managed a medical cannabis delivery service in Marin County, California. I created CBD Facilitator to share what I’ve learned, and to recommend the best products that I have found in this chaotic market.

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