Chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an unpleasant inflammatory disease that affects a significant proportion of the population, for example affecting a total of 1.6 million people in the USA, and includes conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Although there are a number of different treatments for IBD, many of the symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, bloody stools, diarrhea and loss of appetite, are not always completely suppressed by the available medications. So people begin to look elsewhere for relief from these symptoms. More and more people with the condition are turning their attention to cannabis products, which include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We will review current research as well as information on how CBD can help people with IBD.
CBD has many health benefits, from reducing anxiety and pain, to reducing inflammation. This makes it particularly useful for many different types of chronic diseases, including IBD;
What research says about CBD and IBD
Although cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat inflammatory bowel disease, it has only recently become the focus of scientific interest. The more research and studies that are done, the more information we receive about the role it plays in our bodies;
CBD can help people manage the symptoms of IBD
A 2018 study from Israel, which has not yet been published, found that CBD helped people with Crohn’s disease better manage their symptoms. But interestingly, it didn’t actually reduce the inflammation in their guts.
CBD can help reduce leaky gut
The 2019 study (link to study) investigated the use of CBD and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) to reduce intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut). PEA is a fatty acid amide produced by the body and is known for its ability to reduce pain caused by inflammation. A study showed that CBD and PEA together reduced colonic permeability, which could be beneficial for people with IBD.
However, the study noted that many of the variables used may have influenced their findings and the study was not conducted exclusively in people with IBD;
CBD can help treat colitis when taken with other cannabinoids;
A 2016 study (link to study), which was conducted on mice, showed that when CBD was taken alone, it had no effect on colitis. However, when CBD was taken along with other cannabinoids, it reduced colitis damage. At best, we can assume that CBD can positively affect the symptoms associated with IBD. However, we cannot say for sure that it has any effect on the inflammation itself. The medical community acknowledges that there is still insufficient clinical trial data to demonstrate efficacy, safety and long-term tolerability in people with IBD;
Research regarding CBD and IBD treatment is ongoing and more evidence is likely to become available in the future on how cannabis, or CBD specifically, can help;
How CBD relieves the symptoms of IBD
CBD works with your endocannabinoid system. However, scientists are still figuring out exactly how it does this.
A likely possibility is that CBD takes advantage of the natural cannabinoids that already exist in your body and encourages them to stay active for longer. Then again, CBD binds to receptors in your body.
CBD and body receptors
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When CBD binds to your serotonin receptors, it can help reduce anxiety, pain, nausea, and insomnia. These symptoms are also common in people with IBD. When CBD binds to vanilloid receptors, it could alter pain perception and reduce inflammation. This could help explain why CBD can help reduce inflammation in the body.
How to use CBD for IBD
Smoking or vaping has the fastest effect, using creams or consuming has a slower effect. Keep in mind that even though smoking and vaping have quick effects, they can have other adverse effects on your health;
Check with your doctor before trying CBD. A consultation with your doctor is especially necessary if you are taking any medications, as they could interact with CBD;