Cannabidiol (CBD) is the new kid on the block. This cannabinoid is believed to have numerous health benefits that can be harnessed to reduce pain and inflammation, stress, anxiety, sleep disorders, and even cure stubborn epilepsy.
CBD's growing popularity has left researchers and scholars playing catch-up. They can't explain how something as unconventional and maligned as marijuana can be such a panacea!
Meanwhile, more and more people are coming aboard the CBD bandwagon, believing it may just be the elixir of excellent health and wellbeing.
CBD's larger-than-life profile now leaves many wondering about the full extent of its potential. The more researchers dig deeper, the better it becomes.
So, given that, thus far, no empirical study has linked any serious health condition to CBD, can it be used to manage IBS? Let's find out.
What is IBS?
IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. It's a common digestive system disorder often characterized by abdominal pain and cramps, constipation, bloating, and diarrhea.
Even though the precise cause of IBS remains unknown, most publications refer to it as a 'functional gastrointestinal disorder,' believing it results from poor brain-gut interaction.
Others think it may be due to visceral hypersensitivity, where nerves in the GI tract become extra-sensitive to certain foods. There's also the position that it may be caused by dysmotility, where the GI muscles fail to move food through the GI tract effectively.
IBS affects approximately 10-15 percent of the general population in the western world. It is usually a long-term condition that, for the most part, is managed through diet, stress, and lifestyle. However, in severe cases, medication and counseling are necessary.
So if you've had IBS accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, rectal bleeding, unexplained vomiting, iron deficiency anemia, and persistent bowel pains that don't go away even after passing gas or stool, it may be time to see a doctor.
What is the difference between IBS and IBD?
IBS and IBD are conditions that affect the digestive system. As mentioned, IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. On the other hand, IBD stands for inflammatory bowel disease. This term generally refers to disorders characterized by intense pain and GI tract inflammation.
Inflammatory bowel disorder is also quite prevalent in the western world and is believed to affect some three million Americans. Even though it affects people evenly across the divide, it is more common among persons aged 15-30 years.
Like IBS, the exact causes of IBD remain unknown. However, researchers suspect it may be associated with a weakened immune system that responds inappropriately to external triggers like harmful bacteria or viruses.
Also, family history has been thought to play a role. So, if you come from a family where a member has had IBD, you're likely to get it.
One difference between IBS and IBD is that the former is a syndrome or group of symptoms, while the latter is a disease. As a result, their causes and treatments are also different.
The second difference is that IBS does not damage and inflame the intestines, whereas IBD does. For this reason, IBD is usually detected using imaging scans (endoscopic ultrasound and flexible sigmoidoscopy).
It also increases the risk of developing colon cancer.
Due to the different nature of these conditions, people with IBS rarely require serious medical attention, while those with IBD often need surgery and hospitalization.
Lastly, it's possible for both conditions to co-exist. However, IBD can cause symptoms of IBS, whereas there is no indication that IBS increases the risk of getting IBD.
What is the difference between IBS and celiac disease?
Celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or celiac sprue, is an autoimmune disorder caused by your immune system reacting to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in rye, wheat, and barley.
Essentially, your immune system attacks your tissues causing damage to the small intestines.
Over time, the damages prevent the small intestines from absorbing valuable nutrients (malabsorption), leading to health complications such as weight loss, anemia, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and constipation.
Celiac can affect growth and development in children and also present the usual symptoms and signs exhibited by adults. It is unclear what causes the immune system to respond this way, but researchers point to environmental triggers and genetics.
Celiac disease has no cure. So affected persons usually find relief by sticking to gluten-free diets to manage the symptoms and slow down long-term complications.
Fortunately, there's been an increase in the variety of gluten-free meals in recent years. So it's possible to still eat healthy on a gluten-free diet.
The main difference between these two medical conditions is that IBS is a disorder while celiac is an autoimmune disease. Further, celiac disease usually has body-wide symptoms and affects critical body functions like fertility and growth.
On the other hand, IBS is only limited to gastrointestinal symptoms.
If you have celiac disease but continually present GI symptoms even when avoiding gluten-based foods, you may be having celiac-IBS comorbidity. It happens, but thankfully, it's not very common.
What is the difference between IBS and Crohn's disease?
As earlier mentioned, Crohn's disease is an IBD. It affects different parts of the GI tract —from the anus to the mouth— and essentially shares the same symptoms with IBS.
This is why Crohn's disease is often confused with IBS, even though they are different in a strictly medical sense.
Crohn's disease is usually exhibited toward the end of the small intestines and at the beginning of the colon. With this disease, the immune system mistakes food and gut bacteria for harmful foreign substances and sends white blood cells to attack them. This results in chronic inflammation.
On the other hand, IBS is a collective term used to refer to a group of symptoms that attack the digestive system. They are typically characterized by severe abdominal pain and irregular bowel movement.
The colon muscle in people with IBS contracts more than in normal people, causing pain and cramps. These usually manifest across the entire abdomen, especially in the lower left or right parts.
The diagnosis of these two conditions is different. Crohn's disease is diagnosed by a series of tests, while IBS is often diagnosed by excluding and ruling out other conditions and diseases. In most cases, IBS diagnosis relies on medical history, family history, physical examination, and symptoms.
For Crohn's disease, diagnosis is made through stool and blood tests, ultrasound imaging, and endoscopic evaluations such as colonoscopy and esophagogastroscopy.
Treatment plans for both conditions also differ. IBS generally responds well to lifestyle changes like avoiding caffeinated drinks and fatty foods. In severe cases, medications involving intestinal antispasmodics (dicyclomine or hyoscyamine) can be used.
In Crohn's, the goal is to treat and prevent the inflammation from spreading. Treatment usually involves medicines like corticoids, immunomodulators, 5-ASA drugs, biologics, and surgery. Dietary changes can also help.
Role of the endocannabinoid system in gut health
Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), its importance in regulating vital bodily functions has become clearer. This system transcends the entire human body with receptors in every part and organ.
Its best-known cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2.
CB1 is prevalent in the enteric nervous system (ENS) and the intestinal epithelial. So many researchers contend that the ECS is a communication pathway between the brain and the GI tract.
The ECS interacts with the enteric nervous system (from the esophagus to the rectum) and the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain) to regulate numerous bowel functions. I
n many ways, the ENS can be regarded as the 'second brain' if you consider how it utilizes the same neurons, transmitters, and receptors as the CNS.
The ECS has a network of cannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB2, which interact with exogenous cannabinoids found in plants like hemp, cloves, black pepper, ginseng, hops, dark chocolate, and truffles. These are in addition to the cannabinoids that the body also produces (endocannabinoids).
The ECS supports three main functions in the gut. These are:
The ECS plays a major role in protecting your digestive system from inflammation. This is because the CB1 and CB2 receptors have been shown to modulate inflammatory responses when triggered by certain cannabinoids.
Control communication with the brain
As mentioned, the ECS is the communication highway between the brain and the digestive system. Pain and stress can cause changes in the brain and alter gastrointestinal functions.
Moreover, if the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed or infected, these messages reach the brain via the ECS. As such, anything that affects the ECS fundamentally affects communication between the gut system and the brain, effectively affecting bowel health.
A critical component of GI health is gut motility. This refers to the contraction of muscles in the GI tract. The movement makes the food move through the digestive system enabling vital nutrients to be absorbed.
Phytocannabinoids found in certain plants stimulate the CB1 receptors leading to various outcomes like the reduction of stomach acid, gradual emptying of the stomach, and calming nausea.
When overstimulated, the CB1 receptor will magnify the feelings of hunger, which explains why marijuana smokers often grab munchies after smoking. This is a primary effect of THC.
Does CBD Help IBS?
Existing research findings suggest that cannabidiol can help with IBS. Recall that one of the suspected main causes of IBS is poor brain-gut interaction. It may be caused by a hormonal imbalance in the ECS.
So, taking a phytocannabinoid like CBD can potentially have remedial effects on the ECS. In fact, one of the recommendations for maintaining a healthy gut system is taking phytocannabinoid supplements from hemp, black pepper, clove, and hops.
CBD and Gut Motility
CBD is great for gut health due to its ability to lower cortisol levels, thereby preventing intestinal permeability. Cortisol is a stress hormone with catabolic properties. This means it breaks down body tissues, including the GI tract lining.
When this happens, food particles enter the bloodstream causing the immune system to set off inflammatory responses. These include eczema, acne, hormonal imbalances, rosacea, joint pain, thyroid dysfunction, brain fog, low libido, and energy. So, it is evidently clear how important it is to manage our cortisol levels.
Further, gut health is intrinsically connected to our overall health and wellbeing. Often, there's a connection between chronic disease, gut health, and systemic inflammation.
For instance, an imbalanced microbiome coupled with a compromised cellular lining allows toxins and food particles to enter the bloodstream setting off inflammatory reactions highlighted above.
CBD has been shown to help modulate systemic and acute inflammation by inhibiting the release of interleukins and cytokines. These two hormones are the 'signals' for the immune system to initiate inflammatory responses.
The action of CBD on these two hormones results in therapeutic benefits for people with IBS, bloating, colitis, and gut-lining damage.
CBD and IBS Studies
A growing body of research shows that CBD may have an important role in controlling certain GI conditions such as inflammatory bowel syndrome. These studies indicate that targeting the ECS may be the key to modulating gut motility, intestinal inflammation, visceral hyperalgesia (hypersensitivity) and gut-brain changes.
Incidentally, these symptoms are associated with IBS.
The objective, therefore, is to identify agents capable of attuning the ECS. Fortunately, compounds such as CBD, PEA (N-palmitoylethanolamine), and peppermint oil can modulate the ECS and also have a good safety profile.
Subsequently, they are increasingly used to manage IBS symptoms. Further, in addition to THC, they are recommended for persons with IBS to relieve visceral pain and abdominal cramps and spasms.
Nonetheless, there is still a lot to be understood about the IBS mechanism and how cannabis containing both THC and CBD can be used as therapy.
How to use CBD oil for IBS
Many people who suffer from IBS are looking for alternative treatments since conventional medications have side effects. So here is how to use CBD oil if you have IBS symptoms.
It's vital to understand that CBD content differs across all CBD oils. If you want to try CBD oil for IBS, we recommend starting with a dose of 10-20 milligrams daily and up the dosage gradually. Clinical studies show that CBD can be tolerated quite well up to doses of 1,500mg (for oils and tinctures) or 50mg of pure CBD.
Obviously, the mode of use affects the effectiveness of CBD. Oral ingestion delivers CBD directly into the digestive tract, but some will be absorbed in the mouth, thus reducing the quantity of CBD reaching your gut. The same goes for CBD edibles, despite being convenient and tasty.
Topical CBD is applied to the skin and doesn't penetrate deep enough to enter the bloodstream. As such, the amount of the final product that reaches the gut is minimal, if any.
Capsules, on the other hand, are swallowed and broken down in the stomach. Therefore, they are more efficient in delivering high doses of CBD into your systemic circulation.
Best CBD oil for anxiety and IBS
Since CBD can modulate the ECS, it can help alleviate the symptoms associated with IBS. To this end, we believe that our FOCL CBD products offer the perfect blend of premium hemp CBD and potent botanical ingredients to re-energize your endocannabinoid system and get it firing.
Our Premium CBD Drops are designed to calm your mind and soothe your body. This product contains MCT oil, which significantly increases its bioavailability once ingested. So after days on end without proper rest and sleep, place the required dosage of drops under your tongue, and let it sit for 45 minutes before swallowing.
FOCL Sleep Drops contain MCT oil to support healthy brain development and promote better, deeper sleep. This is particularly necessary after the sleepless nights caused by unending stomach pains and cramps due to IBS. It also helps you recover quickly from everyday stressors and calms your mind.
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