A friend of mine called me last week.
He uses CBD oil to combat his anxiety issues and he is doing fine.
But, he didn’t call me to tell me that. He wanted to inform me that he saw significant improvement with his Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.
I had no idea that he suffered from IBS. To tell you the truth, I had a vague idea of what IBS was.
“Are CBD oil and IBS connected somehow or is it just a coincidence?”Thanks Thomas!
I had no answers to give him.
Pretty nasty feeling for a curious person like me, I assure you.
The “Sherlock Holmes” in me took immediate control of the situation.
I summoned my Watson (I mean the web!) and started investigating.
My target: to find out if CBD oil is the actual culprit of my friend’s IBS improvement.
With all my respect to Sir Arthur Cona Doyle, I proudly present you my “Study in CBD oil and IBS” 🙂
*This is for you, Thomas!*
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) definition, types and symptoms
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a recurrent gastrointestinal dysfunction which involves irregular intestinal contractions and gut hypersensitivity.
Between 25 to 55 million Americans and an estimated 25% of the world’s population are affected by the syndrome.
IBS is more prevalent among women since 65% of the individuals suffering from the disorder are female.
The syndrome isn’t life-threatening and the probabilities that you get more serious colon diseases like Crohn’s or any kind of bowel cancer are non-existent.
Nevertheless, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an incurable, recurring condition that can significantly compromise the quality of your life.
IBS sufferers report being reluctant or completely unable to take part in common daily activities. Their disease makes them be frequently absent from work or forces them to shift to home-based jobs and -in severe IBS cases- even not work at all.
I am sure you see yourselves in these reports…
The syndrome causes unpredictable and debilitating physical symptoms such as
- Excessive gas and bloating
- Pain in the lower abdomen and cramps that worsen after meals
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mucus in the stools.
Abdominal pain is the primary indication of irritable bowel syndrome. It is linked with changes in bowel habits: diarrhea and/or constipation are both symptoms of IBS and the immediate consequences of these alterations.
IBS is classified into 3 main types that depend on the frequency of occurrence of these symptoms:
- Diarrhea-Predominant (IBS-D) Your bowel moves frequently causing you diarrhea.
- Constipation-Predominant (IBS-C) Your bowel seems lazy causing you constipation and the sense of blocked rectum
- Mixed IBS (IBS-M) also known as alternating IBS (IBS-A). There is no consistency in bowel habits in this type. People suffering from IBS-M have to cope with both diarrhea AND constipation.
Even though the medical literature talks about 3 major types of IBS, a subtype is also mentioned and I will add it to the list:
4. Unsubtyped IBS (IBS-U). This is a particular type of IBS in which neither diarrhea nor constipation occur very often and the stool consistency does not meet the criteria for the three main types.
IBS is a messy condition!
Even though IBS is one of the most common diseases diagnosed by experts, many patients can’t identify its signs and symptoms.
That is because IBS reveals itself in so many different ways -remember the 4 types! -and its symptoms fluctuate in severity and occurrence and differ from one person to another.
All of this creates frustration not only to IBS patients but to doctors as well since different treatments are needed for diarrhea and constipation.
Imagine having to treat the mixed IBS type! I am right calling it messy, aren’t I?
What causes IBS?
Scientists can’t give a straightforward answer to this question.
Research hasn’t been able to identify the exact cause of the disease, yet.
A lot of theories link IBS with several factors contributing to the onset of the disease:
- Genes or familial tendencies
- Psychological factors
- Gut bacteria
Research suggests that IBS negatively affects brain function and is associated with psychological disturbances like anxiety and depression. Numerous studies have discovered alterations in the gut microbiota of IBS patients compared to healthy people.
These findings imply that potential dysfunctionalities in the gut-brain axis are liable for the genesis of the syndrome.
According to some scientists, IBS occurrence indicates an impairment of healthy gut-brain interactions. For this reason, it is considered a brain-gut axis disorder.
All gastrointestinal system (GI) related activities are monitored and coordinated by your brain. In normal conditions, the gut and the brain are connected to manage and regulate the process of digestion.
When it comes to IBS, this connection appears distorted.
My granny used to tell me that our gut is the second brain in our body. She wasn’t a scientist; she belonged to a generation with “ancient” wisdom and knowledge.
She wasn’t wrong. Science considers the gut the second brain in our system.
These two brains communicate with and influence each other using a two-way communication channel.
Think about this:
Whenever the nerves existing in the gut become oversensitive, alterations in the brain may occur. On the other hand, intense feelings or anxiety can trigger excessive gut reactions.
Scientists believe that this disturbance in the functional connection between the brain and the gut may play a key role in the genesis of the syndrome.
So, is IBS an “irritable brain” or an “irritable bowel” syndrome?
Scientists believe it’s both. IBS symptoms are linked to emotions and reduced stress and anxiety levels seem to have a positive effect on the symptoms.
“ Psychosocial factors contribute to predisposition, precipitation, and perpetuation of IBS symptoms. … We conclude that it is both brain and bowel mechanisms that are responsible. .”Susanta Kumar Padhy, Swapnajeet Sahoo, Sonali Mahajan, and Saroj Kumar Sinha
We shouldn’t put the blame entirely on the “two brains”, though.
There are symptoms indicating that the bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract (=gut microbiome) may play a key role in the disease.
Excessive gas, the patients’ intolerance to certain types of food and the positive effects of antibiotics on the symptoms have been linked to gut bacteria.
I know, it’s confusing.
Even since we don’t know the exact cause of the disease, one thing is certain:
There is a lack of homeostasis in the bodies of IBS patients.
You guessed right!
It seems that the Endocannabinoid System is involved.
IBS, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) and CBD
The relatively recent discovery of the Endocannabinoid System opened new avenues to scientific research on IBS.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex system of intercellular communication responsible for the regulation, promotion, and maintenance of homeostasis (=balance) in the human body.
According to Dr. Ethan Russo, the cause of treatment-resistant syndromes like IBS may be linked to a clinical deficiency of the Endocannabinoid System (indicating lower amounts of endocannabinoids in the ECS)
The ECS is present in the Gastrointestinal Tract (GT) and it manages gut functions peripherally and centrally.
Specifically, it is responsible for
- Controlling nausea, vomiting, and visceral sensation,
- managing the gastrointestinal motility
- regulating gastric and intestinal secretions,
- controlling the oesophageal sphincter
- regulating inflammation
The symptoms of IBS (pain, spasms, diarrhea or constipation, irregular bowel movements, digestive discomfort ) can be explained by a failure of a deficient ECS to do its job properly.
What is the role of CBD?
One of the central and most important roles of CBD is its interactions with the ECS to prevent the breakdown of the endocannabinoids and to prolong their action.
This mechanism of action of cannabidiol helps restore balance in the ECS.
Your question is: Could it help with IBS symptoms?
My answer is: Affirmative!
Let’s see how.
How might CBD help with IBS?
Traditional treatments for IBS include dietary and lifestyle adjustments, probiotics and, of course, prescribed medications.
CBD oil can be added to this regimen and become a powerful ally to the war against the IBS symptoms.
Scientific research has brought evidence that CBD can combat the syndrome on multiple fronts:
It relieves pain
CBD is a natural painkiller.
It has been found to interact with receptors in the immune system and the brain and thus help with pain management.
Pain is a debilitating symptom for IBS sufferers. The analgesic effect of CBD can help them cope with abdominal pain and avoid the adverse side effects of prescribed painkilling medicine.
It reduces intestinal inflammation
CBD manages to reduce intestinal inflammation controlling what is known as the neuro-immune axis.
Enteric glial cells (EGC) are responsible for the mediation of chronic and acute inflammation in the gut and for the maintenance of the gut mucosa. They additionally play a key role in gut protection.
Yet, EGC may create inflammation. CBD has been shown to control ECG activation and therefore decrease intestinal inflammation.
It regulates appetite
IBS patients frequently feel nauseated. As a result, their appetite is reduced and they stop eating regularly for a period of time. When their appetite is restored, they tend to overeat making the IBS symptoms to flare up.
CBD stops this vicious cycle, by controlling nausea and regulating appetite.
It suppresses nausea and vomiting
Cannabidiol interacts with receptors that release serotonin. Scientists have found that low doses of the cannabinoid alleviate nausea and vomiting (caused even by chemo)
It improves intestinal motility
CBD dampens the overstimulation of the CB1 receptors and impacts the enteric nervous system by interacting with the serotonin receptors which mediate motility An in vitro study has found that it can reduce chemical-induced hypermotility
It treats anxiety and depression
As mentioned earlier psychological factors are linked with IBS. The majority of IBS patients suffer from anxiety and depression. The anxiolytic properties of cannabidiol can help patients not only combat against anxiety and depression but avoid antidepressants and the danger of becoming addicted to them.
It reduces spasms
Cannabidiol has powerful anti-spasmodic properties.
Its interactions with the cannabinoid receptors existing in the Gastrointestinal Tract, produce relaxing effects on the tissues. As a result, it reduces spasmodic episodes.
Methods of CBD administration for IBS
Taking into consideration the possibility of having a “starving” ECS (Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency), a systemic administration of CBD oil is the best approach.
A regular intake of CBD in the form of oil, tincture or capsule will “feed” your ECS and restore its balance.
CBD gummies and CBD vaping can help you cope with pain or anxiety when they flare up; the choice is up to you.
If you are interested in starting using CBD to treat your IBS symptoms, you’d better consult your trusted physician or a cannabis doctor. They can help you avoid possible CBD interactions with your medication and give you guidance with dosing.
Remember, there is no typical dose for CBD. Every individual has unique needs and experiences the symptoms of IBS in different levels of severity.
The golden rule is always:
Start low and go slow
Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your sweet spot and the relief you need.
Lots of people that use CBD to treat IBS report a significant reduction of their symptoms (some of them say that their symptoms were even eliminated!)
Both science and anecdotal reports indicate that CBD may be a safe and natural way to treat IBS symptoms.
The syndrome is not curable so no one can claim that CBD will cure your disease.
It can better the quality of your life by mitigating the symptoms and offering you relief.
It can save you from laxatives, antispasmodic medicines, antidepressants, Lotronex, Amitiza (you name them! ) and their adverse side effects.
It can restore balance both in your body and your life.
It can set you free!
(Thomas, it isn’t a coincidence! CBD is guilty as charged for improving your IBS symptoms)
Are you wondering which brand to choose?
I wouldn’t buy any CBD product from a source I don’t trust.
When it comes to CBD and health, you should be careful to choose a brand that is reliable, trustworthy and transparent.
Here follows a list of my personal brand choices. Their sourcing, extraction methods, lab tests, clients reviews, and my readers’ personal experiences prove their claims regarding the quality of their products.
If you have any questions or want to share any personal experience regarding Irritable Bowel Syndrome and CBD, please, leave a comment below
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DISCLAIMER: The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided is not meant to cure any disease or disorder. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider for any medical condition.