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CBD for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Does It Help? 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic neuro-gastrointestinal disorder that affects an estimated 13 million people in the UK and 11% of the population around the world. Common symptoms include stomach cramps, abdominal pain, excessive bloating and gas, diarrhoea, constipation and altered bowel movements. Although the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it has been linked to oversensitive nerves in your gut, the result of severe infection, childhood stress, and changes in gut microbes. You are also more likely to have IBS if you are young, female, have a family history of IBS, or have a mental health condition. 

If you have IBS, certain things can trigger symptoms. Although a trigger doesn’t cause the condition, it can cause or worsen a flare-up. This might include getting your period, eating certain foods (common culprits include dairy and gluten), and stress.

There are a number of medications and home remedies that can help manage IBS symptoms. One emerging natural approach to managing IBS is Cannabidiol (CBD), with research suggesting that it could help to prevent and ease symptoms of IBS. In this article, we’ll cover what CBD is, and how it might help to treat the gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS. We’ll also share the factors to consider before you start taking CBD, and how to incorporate CBD into your routine.

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is one of the compounds found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound and does not induce the “high” or other intoxication symptoms often associated with cannabis. Instead, CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and influences its CB1 and CB2 receptors to regulate several of our cognitive and physical functions. Learn more about the difference between cannabis and CBD oil in our guide.

Molecular structure of CBD: C21H30O2.

Although still in its early stages, research suggests that CBD could be an effective treatment for IBS because of its relationship to our endocannabinoid system.

Evidence suggests that dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system might play a role in intestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). CBD, on the other hand, can regulate our endocannabinoid system and encourage a state of homeostasis (including in the gut) through interacting with our cannabinoid receptors. Our CB1 receptors are associated with memory processing, appetite, pain sensation, mood and sleep, while CB2 receptors are involved with inflammation and pain.

Researchers think that, because of this relationship, CBD could help to modulate gut motility (the movement and contraction of the muscles in the digestive tract), visceral hyperalgesia (pain in internal organs), low-grade intestinal inflammation, and gut–brain axis alteration (how the gut and the brain communicate). Both anecdotal reports and scientific studies seem to confirm this.

Graphic illustrating the endocannabinoid system involving a neuron and immune cell. It shows cannabinoids sending signals to neuron, immune cell, and our CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Image via Harvard Health of the endocannabinoid system.

Let’s look at how CBD can help IBS in more detail.

Inflammation may play a pathogenic role in IBS. Research indicates that CBD might be able to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and activating anti-inflammatory pathways.

It is thought that the effect of CBD on intestinal motility (the movement of food in, through and out of the body) may be brought on through reduction of inflammation as CBD reduces intestinal inflammation. This is because CBD influences intestinal motility through the gut-brain axis, which is a bidirectional neural system that affects physiological functions. Specifically, CBD may mitigate upper gastrointestinal dysfunction and interact with a variety of receptors implicated in the movement of the digestive system.

One study on mice found that CBD could slow or speed up gut motility in various ways depending on the context. To be more specific, early studies showed that CBD doesn’t affect gut movement in healthy animals, unlike some other cannabinoids which slow it down. However, when gut movement is abnormal (like in diarrhoea), CBD and other cannabinoids can help to normalize it.

Another small study concluded that a combination of CBD and PEA (also an endocannabinoid) reduced leaky gut and intestinal inflammation in humans.

Three out of four people with IBS have continuous or ongoing pain. CBD might be able to help with abdominal pain due to its pain-relieving properties.

A study on shrews with digestive issues concluded that CBD could slow down the movement of food through the digestive system and reduce gut tension and contractions.

A study on six patients also concluded that cannabinoids could reduce IBS symptoms, especially in the reduction of abdominal pain, with five of the six patients having a reduction in pain after taking CBD.

Research on two female patients (45 and 22 years old) who had no luck with previous treatment found that CBD eliminated their IBS symptoms, including reducing episodes of diarrhoea and eliminating joint pain in the 45 year old, and removing all manifestations of IBS in the 22 year old (except for a few days in the premenstrual period).

Stress is both a cause and trigger for people with IBS. CBD has been shown to have stress and anxiety-relieving properties, which could help decrease flare-ups. For example, researchers evaluated the effects of CBD treatment in 72 adults with either anxiety or sleep problems and, after 2 months, 78.1–79.2% of participants reported improvements in anxiety symptoms. In another review of 387 current or past-CBD users, 37% used CBD for stress. Of those 37%, 92.2% responded that they felt less stressed when using CBD.

There is no one product that has been designated for use for IBS symptoms. Individuals should consider the following factors when choosing a CBD product: 

  • Product Form: CBD comes in various forms, including oils, edibles, and topicals. For targeted relief, topical creams or balms are the most effective, while oral consumption offers systemic effects for more convenient relief. 

  • Type of CBD: Broad-spectrum CBD is a great option for those who want to experience the effects of CBD without consuming THC, the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. Clinical reports suggest that broad or full-spectrum CBD may have a better effect due to the number of cannabinoids and other plant compounds they contain that work together, otherwise known as the entourage effect. 

  • Dosage: Finding the right dose and administration method can be a trial-and-error process as results can vary significantly from person to person. In general, you should start with a low dose and gradually increase it while monitoring its effects.

  • Source and Quality: Choose CBD derived from organically grown hemp, as this ensures minimal exposure to harmful chemicals. You should also look for third-party laboratory reports to verify how pure and potent your product is, and to ensure there are no contaminants.

  • Individual Variability: The effectiveness of CBD may vary from person to person; what works for one individual may not work for another.

  • Irritants: Check the product’s ingredients list for allergens, such as nuts and nut oils, that might trigger your IBS (if your IBS is triggered by certain foods or ingredients). 

  • Medications: CBD has the potential to interact with certain meditations, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking CBD.

There is no one recommended dose for taking CBD to manage IBS. If you want to use CBD to treat your IBS symptoms, you should speak to a doctor about whether it will be beneficial or safe, and how much you should take.

As a general rule of thumb, you should take a low and slow approach; start with a low dose and increase at a gradual rate until you find a dose that works for you. 

Despite its complexities, managing IBS has seen progress with both traditional medications and emerging natural remedies like CBD. CBD’s potential benefits for IBS lie in its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in gut health and inflammation regulation. Studies suggest CBD’s anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anxiolytic properties may offer relief from symptoms. That saId, understanding the nuances of CBD selection—product form, type, dosage, quality, and individual variability—is key to maximizing its effectiveness while minimizing risks.

Need additional help? Take our CBD Quiz for product recommendations in minutes or get in contact with our expert team – we’d love to hear from you.

We are Purity Hemp, the UK’s #1 Online CBD provider. Backed by science, and built on the principles of traceability, transparency & trust, we are dedicated to improving the health & wellness of people around the world. We are proud to be one of the only companies to guarantee full traceability from seed to shelf with our premium range of CBD products, tested by third-party, independent quality control analysts.

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Directions for Use:

  • Shake well before use
  • Add dose directly to your pet’s food, stirring it in if necessary
  • Use up to twice daily – (See dosage table for guidelines)
  • Store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight

Weight of Pet Regular Dosage Strong Dosage
Up to 20lbs/9kg 1 to 4 drops 4 to 8 drops
20 to 40lbs/9-18kg 2 to 8 drops 8 to 16 drops
Over 40lbs/18kg 4 to 20 drops 16 to 40 drops

Contains Zero THC, chlorophyll free

*This product is sold for use by pets only, as it contains CBD Isolate.

We recommend discussing the use of CBD with a qualified vet, especially if your pet is pregnant or nursing a litter.

Keep out of sight or reach of children.