Perhaps you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Irritable bowel syndrome. You may have been advised to seek a nutritional plan that helps to mitigate your discomfort—you may also have been advised to try incorporating some CBD into your diet. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about using CBD in improving the functioning of the digestive tract and combating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
IBS is a shockingly common condition estimated to affect over 10% of the world’s population with women being more commonly affected than men. It is a chronic functional disorder of the digestive tract. The term “functional” means that there is no structural (e.g. a tumor) or biochemical abnormality present. So, essentially, the digestive tract looks completely normal but there are issues with the way it functions leading to symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting
IBS is often classified based on the most prominent symptom as either constipation-predominant or diarrhea-predominant. However, some patients alternate between the two forms.
The exact cause of IBS is still unknown and, unfortunately, there is currently no cure for it. However, treatment options are available to help alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life of those who suffer from this often debilitating condition. Some of the traditional treatment methods include dietary and lifestyle changes, stress reduction techniques, and medications.
However, these methods don’t always provide adequate relief and scientists continue to explore other options. One promising option that has become quite popular recently is CBD.
What is CBD?
CBD is the short form of the word cannabidiol, one of the hundreds of compounds found in Cannabis Sativa plants. CBD exerts most of its effects by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a collection of chemicals and receptors - CB1 and CB2 - around your body that work together to maintain homeostatic balance.
Normally, your body produces its own cannabinoids: anandamide and 2-arachidonoglycerol. These are called endocannabinoids and they are the chemicals that bind to and interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors to produce various beneficial effects.
One prevailing theory is that in conditions like IBS and inflammatory bowel disease, there is a deficiency of endocannabinoids. This leads to misbalance and a loss of the benefits associated with these compounds. As such, ingesting external cannabinoids like CBD may serve a supplementary purpose and help the ECS function normally. However, more research is needed to confirm this theory.
How Can CBD Help People With IBS?
Via its interaction with the receptors of the ECS, CBD basically mimics the action of endocannabinoids resulting in benefits such as:
1. Reduced Inflammation and Pain
IBS sufferers tend to have inflammation along their digestive tracts. This inflammation contributes to other symptoms like pain. By interacting with CB2 receptors, CBD can regulate inflammation and consequently reduce the abdominal pain and cramping associated with IBS.
2. Improved Appetite
Decreased appetite is common in IBS. This can stem from several factors including nausea and the fact that the pain of IBS is commonly intensified when food is eaten. Several studies have found that one of the most common side effects of CBD use is increased appetite. For instance, one study found that over 6% of CBD users experienced increased appetite as a side effect. CBD may also improve appetite by combatting nausea and reducing abdominal pain.
3. Reduced Gut Motility
Normally, the muscles in your gut contract to produce a propulsive action known as peristalsis. This helps food move through your digestive system allowing it to be broken down and the nutrients absorbed. In conditions like IBS, this action is sometimes accelerated leading to a hyperactive gut and diarrhea.
The activation of CB1 receptors can decrease this hyper-motility by inhibiting the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (ACH). CBD may, therefore, help calm a hyperactive gut in patients with IBS by interacting with CB1 receptors.
4. Decreased Anxiety and Depression
IBS has been associated with an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression. On the flip side, because of the gut-brain connection, anxiety and depression can worsen the symptoms of IBS. This leads to a vicious cycle. This cycle can potentially be broken by CBD which has been shown by research to reduce anxiety levels and combat depression.
5. Improved Sleep
Difficulty sleeping is common in people with IBS, especially when it is severe. Because of its calming effects on the nervous system and the potential alleviation of symptoms that cause discomfort, CBD may help improve sleep in people with IBS.