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CBD for IBS: Will it Help Manage Your Symptoms?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common and debilitating condition with few options for treatment. Although no cure is known, many IBS sufferers have turned to CBD products as a natural remedy for their symptoms.

IBS effects approximately 11% of the population world-wide(1). This disorder is most common in people in their 30s and 40s, but it can occur at any age. People with IBS often experience cramping, excessive gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and pain. Although this condition is not life-threatening, those with IBS report signs of anxiety and lower quality of life(2). Imagine feeling like your digestive system has failed you or that the abdominal pain you experience is so great that you can’t get on with your day?

The treatment for IBS is focused on relieving symptoms through changes in diet or lifestyle and taking medications. Another promising treatment to combat symptoms may be CBD for IBS(3).

So, does treating IBS with CBD work? Is there a correlation between marijuana and IBS? Below we’ll explore how you can get the most out of using CBD oils and other CBD products to manage your symptoms and hopefully keep chronic pain at bay.

More than Funky Bowel Movements: What is IBS?

IBS is a functional disorder that affects the small and large intestines. This means that there is nothing wrong with the structure of the bowel, but rather the gut isn’t working the way it should. People with IBS experience abdominal pain, discomfort and a change in bowel habits. The exact cause of IBS is still unknown, but researchers believe both biological and psychological factors may be involved(4).

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Changes in bowel movements (constipation, diarrhea, or both)
  • Uncontrollable urge to relieve bowels

IBS Diagnosis: Helping Your Digestive Tract Stay Intact

Before diagnosing IBS, your doctor may request blood tests to rule out food allergies, anemia and celiac disease, or examine stool samples to rule out an infection. Once you have been diagnosed with IBS, treatment is focused on managing your symptoms.

CBD Oil for IBS: Can Cannabis Do the Trick?

If standard treatment has failed to reduce your symptoms, you may want to ask your doctor about trying other courses of treatment, like taking CBD. Cannabidiol is non-intoxicating, which means it does not have the ‘high’ that is usually associated with cannabis. CBD is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and works via the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is thought to play a major role in gut function, especially in regulating gut movement, sensitivity and inflammation(3).

CBD has been used for thousands of years to treat many gastrointestinal complaints. In promising new studies, CBD was found to directly impact the health of the gastrointestinal system, offering relief from pain and inflammation(3). CBD may help to relieve nausea, a common IBS symptom that often results in a loss of appetite and nutrient deficiencies(5).

In addition, CBD has been well studied for the effects it has on the gut-brain-connection. It has been found to have a calming effect on your nervous system, improving symptoms of anxiety, depression and long-term stress(6). This is good news, since stress and anxiety have a major impact when it comes to your gut health(2). In IBS patients, stress can lead to an overstimulation of the gut causing IBS flair-ups.

How to Use Cannabis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you’ve consulted with your doctor about the use of CBD for IBS, and you’re ready to start trying products, CBD oil is a popular product type. Taking CBD oil sublingually (underneath the tongue) as a tincture, is one of the most common methods because it allows for precise dosing and more immediate effects(7).

Depending on the concentration of CBD taken orally, most people describe the taste as grassy, earthy or bitter. As an alternative, CBD isolates can be added to food or drinks to help mask the taste.

CBS Oil Dosage for IBS

CBD is considered safe with minimal side effects. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that CBD oil, in its pure state, does not cause harm and is safe even at high doses(8). Regular use and dosages as high as 1500 mg/day of CBD have been found to be well tolerated by the body, so as long as you’ve consulted with a physician about CBD use, there is little concern about using too much9.

Research suggests that CBD can be used for IBS in doses up to 700mg per day and long term with minimal side effects(10). Your individual dosage will depend on a variety of factors, including your gender, body weight, and metabolism. If you are new to taking CBD, you should begin with a low dose and increase it cautiously until the desired effects are achieved. A good place to start is with smaller doses between 15-25mg of CBD, then slowly increase by 5-10mg until you find the right dose for you. Some people find a single dose in the morning or evening beneficial, whereas others may prefer taking a smaller dose twice a day. The best advice is to start low and go slow.

Getting Started: A Little CBD Digestion Aid

CBD is not a cure for IBS; however, multiple studies have shown that CBD may aid in relieving the uncomfortable and distressing symptoms of IBS. CBD goods are widely available online and we recommend looking for high-quality products that clearly state the ingredients on the label. CBD oil, capsules or soft gels are a nice addition to help support the gut and offer relief.

  1. Canavan, C., West, J., & Card, T. (2014). The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clinical epidemiology6, 71.
  2. Lee, C., Doo, E., Choi, J. M., Jang, S. H., Ryu, H. S., Lee, J. Y., … & Kim, Y. S. (2017). The increased level of depression and anxiety in irritable bowel syndrome patients compared with healthy controls: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility23(3), 349.
  3. Pesce, M., D’Alessandro, A., Borrelli, O., Gigli, S., Seguella, L., Cuomo, R., … & Sarnelli, G. (2018). Endocannabinoid‐related compounds in gastrointestinal diseases. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine22(2), 706-715.
  4. Pesce, M., D’Alessandro, A., Borrelli, O., Gigli, S., Seguella, L., Cuomo, R., … & Sarnelli, G. (2018). Endocannabinoid‐related compounds in gastrointestinal diseases. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine22(2), 706-715.
  5. Mortimer, T. L., Mabin, T., & Engelbrecht, A. M. (2019). Cannabinoids: the lows and the highs of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Future Oncology15(9), 1035-1049.
  6. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics12(4), 825-836.
  7. Millar, S. A., Stone, N. L., Yates, A. S., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2018). A systematic review on the pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol in humans. Frontiers in pharmacology9, 1365.
  8. (2017). WHO | Cannabidiol (compound of cannabis). WHO. Retrieved from
  9. Machado Bergamaschi, M., Helena Costa Queiroz, R., Waldo Zuardi, A., & Crippa, A. S. (2011). Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current drug safety6(4), 237-249.
  10. Pandey, S., Kashif, S., Youssef, M., Sarwal, S., Zraik, H., Singh, R., & Rutkofsky, I. H. (2019). Endocannabinoid System in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Cannabis as a therapy. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 102242.

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