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CBD: A Potential Treatment for IBS?

Very recently, our federal government passed the latest version of the Farm Bill, which included language that legalizes the regulated production of hemp and its most well-known derivative, Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. To clarify, Cannabidiol does not contain THC (delta-9-tetra-hydrocannabinol), which is the psychoactive compound present in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. CBD has the anti-inflammatory properties usually associated with cannabis, but not the components that give someone a “high” feeling, which is why it’s legal, while marijuana still is not.

The Farm Bill

Until this Farm Bill was passed, federal law did not differentiate from between cannabis plants, whether hemp or marijuana–despite that some did not contain THC. While medical marijuana is legal in 32 states and recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states and Washington D.C., marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. So, for those who live in states where they cannot access marijuana for medical purpose, or can’t afford (or perhaps can afford it or access it, but prefer to stay within federal laws as well as avoid taking a substance that can elicit a high feeling), CBD may be an alternative. This could include treatment for IBS.

Does the science support CBD as a treatment for digestive disorders such as IBS? Well, due to federal regulations that have barred a lot of research on it, not a lot is known about its impacts on many diseases. However, what little research that has been conducted has been promising.

What does the research say?

A study released in 2016 found that patients suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) found some symptom relief by treating themselves with cannabis–both THC and CBD. Specifically, the study noted: “A significant portion of IBD patients, particularly those with severe disease, use cannabis to relieve symptoms of pain, nausea, and appetite and to improve their overall mood.”1 While IBD is a different disease than IBS, the two share many similarities in terms of symptoms and both share some overlap treatment plans (such as dietary changes) that can offer relief of symptoms, so this study may resonate with IBS sufferers as well.

Additionally, a book by National Academies Press explores the potential medical benefits of cannabis–again both THC and CBD–for a number of ailments, including IBS. Of IBS, the authors state: “Studies in healthy volunteers have shown effects on gastric motility and colonic motility…Thus, cannabinoids have the potential for therapeutic effect in patients with IBS.”2 This seems to be because the colon has cannabinoid receptors in it, which may means the use of CBD helps better regulate the function of the colon.

Personal use

I personally take CBD for chronic pain related to my fibromyalgia and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and it definitely helps! However, I find that it also seems to offer some benefits to my IBS (at the least it does not seem to hurt it). In particular, I find CBD helps me sleep better as well, and sleeping well can be crucial to regulating digestion.

CBD products can be found in some health food and nutrition stores, as well as online. But if you do decide to try it, do your homework first and ask around as not all products are alike in quality.

Have you tried CBD to manage your IBS? Did it help? Share your experiences in the comments below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. W, Ahmed. PubMed Central (PMC). (2019). Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5193087/.
  2. Sciences NA of. Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Current neurology and neuroscience reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425767/. Published January 12, 2017.

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