If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it could feel extremely isolating. But you are not alone. Approximately 1.6 million people in the United States are living with IBD. The rise of IBD over the last few decades is alarming – the diagnosis is rising worldwide while skyrocketing in developing countries. And for more than 1 in 100 million American adults, this IBD diagnosis comes with expensive medical bills, a higher likelihood of major surgery, and an increased risk of mortality.
IBD is an umbrella terminology that describes inflammatory disorders affecting the gastrointestinal tract, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The hallmark of IBD –inflammation within the digestive tract – can cause pain and discomfort that is mostly unbeknownst to the people around you. The chronic gut inflammation can damage and weaken your digestive tract gradually, and even increase the risk of colon cancer. And one of the most frustrating aspects about IBD is that there’s no obvious reason why you have it – or why it constantly flares up.
There is no cure for IBD. Conventional treatments will, at best, merely prevent the worsening of IBD symptoms. This is why many people are seeking holistic remedies such as cannabinoids (i.e., CBD and THC) to deal with their recurrent symptoms.Surveys from the past few years show that between 10-20% of people with IBD use cannabis products to help manage their IBD symptoms.
|1.||Types of cannabinoids|
|2.||CBD may ease IBD symptoms|
|3.||CBD may help reduce leaky gut|
|4.||The different forms of CBD|
|5.||What types of CBD are ideal for IBD?|
|6.||Are there any risks associated with taking CBD?|
Cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) can attach to the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body to help reduce pain and inflammation. Furthermore, CBD oil can delay the gastrointestinal motility and reduce intestinal secretions, thereby reducing diarrhea.
Types of cannabinoids
The active compounds in the cannabis plant are called cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabinol).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive chemical that is responsible for the “high” linked to marijuana. The presence of THC in marijuana plants is the unique characteristic that distinguishes them from hemp. Standard marijuana contains about 25-30% THC.
THC has been associated with a reduction of nausea and pain, increased appetite, and psychological effects like euphoria and altered sensory perception.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active compound derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive properties – this means it doesn’t get you high. Hence, although both THC and CBD are known to have medicinal benefits, many people are opting for CBD to avoid the psychoactive side effects associated with THC.
CBD has a myriad of health benefits, including relieving pain, inflammation, nausea, and anxiety. This makes it particularly useful for various types of chronic illnesses, including IBD.
CBD may ease IBD symptoms
In recent years, there has been growing interest in using CBD to manage IBD symptoms and improve quality of life.
Earlier studies have shown that people who use cannabis experience and maintain IBD remission (1). One small study found that CBD oil may help relieve symptoms of Crohn’s disease (2). Other research suggests that CBD could help reduce inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis (3). Cannabis users also claim that the drug helps them to manage abdominal pain, cramping, joint pain, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and nausea.
Unfortunately, very few studies have reviewed the effectiveness of CBD for IBD treatment. Most studies have tested cannabis, which contains both THC and CBD. More clinical research is necessary to determine whether CBD can effectively treat IBD symptoms. Meanwhile, CBD should not be considered a replacement for more comprehensive, conventional IBD treatment.
CBD may help reduce leaky gut
The gastrointestinal tract acts as a selectively permeable barrier that permits the body to absorb water and nutrients. It can simultaneously block the absorption of harmful bacteria and lipopolysaccharides. Gut inflammation can disrupt this delicate balance and result in the harmful substances being erroneously absorbed, leading to conditions such as IBD.
CBD may improve the permeability of the gastrointestinal tract and may therefore help reduce “leaky gut.” A study was conducted in 46 people whose Crohn’s disease was moderately severe (5). After the treatment, there was a significant remission in Crohn’s disease symptoms in the CBD oil group (65%) compared with the placebo group (35%)(5). The group that received the CBD oil also showed meaningful improvements in life quality measures, compared with the control group(5).
The different forms of CBD
There are many different ways to use CBD. The delivery method does affect how rapidly you may experience relief.
Forms of CBD that you could use to relieve symptoms of IBD potentially include:
|Forms of CBD||Description|
|Oils, nasal sprays, and tinctures||CBD can be infused in a carrier liquid such as coconut or olive oil. Oils placed under the tongue using a dropper or sprayed into the nose absorb quickly into the bloodstream. These are usually placed under the tongue and absorb rapidly into the bloodstream. Like edibles, they’re ideal for people who have trouble swallowing pills.|
|Soft gels or capsules||CBD pills are in the form of either oil or tincture. The duration from ingestion to the onset of effect can take a while. Daily use of CBD pills may keep IBD symptoms at bay.|
|Transdermal patches||Patches contain CBD oil that typically penetrates the skin to reach the bloodstream. They provide a steady infusion of CBD for localized treatment.|
|Edibles||CBD is also infused into gummies, lollipops, mints, and other candies. Like capsules, time from ingestion to effect may take time. These gummycandies or chocolates are good options for people who have trouble swallowing pills.|
|Vaping oils||Inhaling vaporized CBD oil (using e-cigarettes or vaping pens) is the fastest way to reap benefits. CBD is absorbed directly from the lungs into the bloodstream. Vaporizing CBD may be helpful for sudden IBD flare-ups.|
What types of CBD are ideal for IBD?
There are three primary types of CBD you may consider for IBD treatment. But not all types may be appropriate for you.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all the cannabis compounds, including THC, in varying amounts. It typically comes in oils, tinctures, creams, and edibles.
A 2018 review of several studies found that full-spectrum CBD oil helped improve quality of life and eased some of Crohn’s disease symptoms (6).
By law, full-spectrum CBD products must contain not more than 0.3% THC. However, CBD products are not as tightly regulated as conventional medications, so the actual potency of THC may vary considerably between products.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains all other cannabinoid compounds, except THC. This type is less popular and is typically sold as an oil.
CBD isolate is pure CBD. It does not contain other cannabinoids. It comes in oil, tincture, or powder form.
Are there any risks associated with taking CBD?
The long-term risks of CBD are yet to be established. Furthermore, the FDA doesn’t yet regulate CBD for purity and safety. This means there’s a risk that you may ingest THC or other compounds that you should otherwise avoid.
Interactions with other medications
CBD may elevate the levels and activity of other medications, especially those that carry a “grapefruit warning.” Also, if you take Coumadin (a blood thinner), CBD may elevate its level circulating in your body, therefore increasing the risk of bleeding complications.
Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking CBD and other medications.
Side effects and safety concerns of CBD
CBD is relatively safe for most adults and its benefits may outweigh any side effects. Nevertheless, it is still essential to note the potential side effects.
Possible side effects
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in weight
If you’re keen to try to use CBD to help relieve your IBD symptoms, talk with your doctor first.
CBD may confer symptom relief for patients with IBD. If you’re interested in trying CBD, do your research and always consult your physician before trying any new supplement or drug.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (less than 0.3% THC) are legal on the federal level but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-delivered CBD products are illegal on the federal level but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Remember that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and might be inaccurately labeled.