According to a Frontiers in Neuroscience report: "Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder characterized by abdominal pain, spasms, and altered bowel movements." The report was made available by a group of Italian researchers led by the University of Padua's Viola Brugnatelli, a member of the Department of Neuroscience.

Between 10-15% of the U.S. population suffers from IBS. Related gastrointestinal attacks are often "associated with anxiety and depression." IBS patients are often prescribed medications like opiates or antidepressants, some riddled with undesired side effects. This leaves, according to Brugnatelli, "An urgent clinical need" for new IBS treatment options.

Can You Take CBD for IBS?

Yes: cannabidiol (CBD) has the potential to lessen a variety of symptoms typically associated with IBS. Furthermore, some scientific studies indicate that cannabinoids—natural compounds taken from cannabis plants, a classification that includes both hemp and marijuana—influence gastrointestinal motility. Also called GI motility, this phenomenon refers to "the movement of food from the mouth through the pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and out of the body," according to UC San Diego Health. Essentially: the path food takes while moving through the body.

It all has to do with endocannabinoid receptors. You see, the human body is full of tiny receptors that send chemical signals to one another. The most notable endocannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2 receptors, but cannabinoids have also been known to bind with other common bodily receptors.

The greatest concentration of endocannabinoid receptors exists within the central nervous system, a system referred to as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is an area of the brain responsible for most functions of the body and mind. Because of this, scientists believe cannabinoids can influence our primary senses, memory, perception, hunger, pain signaling, and beyond.

As contradictory as it may seem, however, the activation of CB1 receptors is associated with "inhibited" GI motility. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, counter these inhibitory effects.

According to a report in the British Journal of Pharmacology, "The presence and function of the CB2 receptor in the GI tract, whilst not yet well characterized, holds great promise due to its immunomodulatory roles in inflammatory systems and its lack of psychotropic effects.


  • The human gut is full of CB2 receptors, which bind to cannabinoids.
  • The activation of CB2 receptors in the gut is so powerful it eliminates CB1's influence on lessened GI motility.
  • CB2 receptor activation is associated with anti-inflammatory properties. This could explain why CBD for IBS is becoming more popular.
  • CB2 receptors are known to modulate irregularities in the gastrointestinal tract without serious side effects (like other medications with similar effects).

The Link Between IBS and Inflammation

K.L. Wright, lead author of the British Journal of Pharmacology study, mentions that "CB2 receptors represent a braking system and a pathophysiological mechanism for the resolution of inflammation and many of its symptoms." If you know anything about CBD products, it's likely that they act as potent anti-inflammatory agents. But what does that have to do with IBS?

"Inflammation may play a pathogenic role in IBS," says the Journal of Inflammation Research. In fact, serious IBS cases may lead to conditions like gastroenteritis, characterized by "system inflammation and altered microbiome diversity, which in turn perpetuates a cycle of chronic, low-grade, subclinical inflammation."

In short: nearly constant inflammation.

Pain: What It Has To Do With CBD and IBS

Pain, especially abdominal pain, is the most commonly reported side effect in IBS patients. Painful IBS-related sensations are often described as a feeling of cramping or bloating. Pain levels range from mild to severe, while the duration of pain fluctuates among patients.

Luckily, CBD has the innate analgesic ability to counter pain. Remember: the ECS is responsible for most of the sensations we experience, including pain. Because of this, CBD can potentially counter pain resulting from IBS. This is in line with thousands of years of medicinal cannabis use. In fact, one of the first historical uses of cannabis was to treat earache. Neat!

Modern medicinal cannabinoid treatments have been prescribed to cancer patients and multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in Canada, our neighbor to the north. Similar prescription medications are available throughout Europe, Israel (a leader in cannabis science, believe it or not), and beyond. Is it too much of a stretch to recommend cannabinoids for IBS-related pain? You be the judge.

Changes In Bowel Movements

In the human body, IBS typically materializes in two ways:

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Constipation

Some unfortunate IBS patients report a consistent alternation between ways (1) and (2). Beyond just throwing off the body's regular feng shui, this can increase or decrease the frequency of bowel movements. This can cause any number of gastrointestinal side effects.

Changes in bowel movements likely have to do with gut bacteria, in line with current scientific research. It's even said that changes to gut bacteria account for many age-related illnesses, including both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately for IBS patients, CBD is renowned for its homeostasis-boosting properties. Homeostasis is defined as an internal balance within the body or the body's innate ability to strive for equilibrium. And according to Brugnatelli in Frontiers in Neuroscience's report, "The ECS is ubiquitously expressed in the human body and it actively controls gut homeostasis."

In other words: CBD for IBS can potentially balance alterations in gut bacteria, promoting normal functionality and frequency of bowel movements. More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between CBD and changes to bowel movements, but current research trends are promising!

What's the Best CBD for IBS?

CBD products come in all shapes, sizes, and formulations. When discussing CBD for IBS, it is vital that IBS patients discuss all pertinent medical information with their doctor. This should allow IBS patients wishing to pursue cannabinoid treatment accurate dosage and product suggestions.

With that said, much of today's research indicates a trend towards multi-cannabinoid products in the treatment of gastrointestinal ailments. This especially includes preparations that contain both CBD and THC. Remember that THC—often associated with intoxicating marijuana plants—is found naturally in hemp. Full spectrum CBD oils retain this THC concentration, theorized to increase the overall effects of CBD in general. And at only 0.3% THC, the legal limit, CBD products will never cause intoxication.

Keep in mind that everyone is unique. What works for one CBD and IBS patient might not work for the next. In addition, the severity of IBS and related symptoms may affect how much CBD you should take.

Full Spectrum CBD Oils vs. CBD Edibles

Two specific product formulations come to mind when thinking of CBD for IBS or other gastrointestinal ailments. (1) CBD oils, one of the most popular and potent products on the wellness market, and (2) CBD edibles, which include any number of gummies, chocolates, and other gut receptor-targeting goodies.

CBD oils offer versatility. You can dose pure CBD oil by holding it directly under your tongue, a process known as sublingual ingestion. There exist a plethora of sublingual capillaries—kind of like receptors in their own right—which transport CBD molecules directly to the brain. This offers the most potent CBD experience, as cannabinoids aren't broken down by the digestive tract.

You can also ingest CBD oils orally, but you'll absorb less of the cannabinoids into your bloodstream. Consider adjusting your dose accordingly when not taking CBD oil via sublingual ingestion methods. Furthermore, you can add CBD oil directly to your favorite foods and beverages.

CBD edibles, on the other hand, must pass throughout the digestive tract. On the plus side, some researchers believe that CBD passing through the digestive tract possesses the ability to target more endocannabinoid receptors found in those regions of the body. If experiencing gut-specific ailments like IBS, CBD edibles may offer targeted relief. Who doesn't love CBD in combination with mouthwatering flavors?

CBD and IBS: In Conclusion

To review what we've already learned:

  • IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder affecting roughly 10-15% of Americans.
  • Current IBS medications come with detrimental side effects.
  • Researchers believe that cannabinoids like CBD and THC may offer a natural alternative for IBS patients.
  • CBD has the potential to lessen many side effects from IBS, including pain, nausea, alterations to gut homeostasis, and more.
  • CB1 receptors inhibit GI motility, but CB2 receptors make up for this, increasing motility and easing typical symptoms.
  • The ECS, which includes both CB1 and CB2 receptors, governs most bodily functions, including the functions of the digestive tract.
  • Researchers have yet to find the definitive link between CBD and IBS, but current research indicates a profound, beneficial relationship.
  • Perhaps the best CBD products for IBS are those containing small concentrations of THC, otherwise known as "full spectrum" CBD products.
  • CBD oils or edibles seem to offer the most optimal benefits of CBD for these purposes.

Do you have experience taking CBD for a gastrointestinal issue? Tell us about your experience in the comments! We always love to hear from our CBD Choice family on how CBD has affected your overall health and wellness.

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