Can CBD Help With Diarrhea, and if So, How?
- Diarrhea is characterized when a person experiences watery or loose stools, occurring at least three times a day. Although it is usually short-lived, approximately 5% of Americans experience chronic diarrhea, a subtype of diarrhea that can last for several weeks(1).
- Loperamide is one of the most commonly prescribed anti-diarrheal medications to control severe symptoms and reduce the frequency of bowel movements. However, these drugs can trigger certain medical conditions, potentially causing them to worsen upon intake.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) might be a possible treatment for diarrhea due to how the chemical compound affects the body. Several studies show that CBD could ease the symptoms of diarrhea, such as abdominal pain(2), gut inflammation(3), and hypermotility(4).
- However, there is no direct evidence proving that CBD can cure diarrhea since most of its studies on digestive tract disorders were performed on animals.
Why Some People Are Turning to CBD for Diarrhea
Diarrhea is the term used when a person experiences loose or watery stools, occurring approximately three or more times a day.
Although most of its episodes are brief, about 5% of people in the U.S. experience chronic diarrhea that can last for weeks(5). This type of diarrhea may be due to a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Other signs and symptoms linked with diarrhea include fever, abdominal pain, blood in the stool, bloating, and uncontrollable bowel movement. A person should seek help from a doctor if their diarrhea persists beyond a few days or if they experience dehydration and severe pain.
Anti-diarrheal medications, such as bismuth subsalicylate and loperamide, are often prescribed to reduce bowel movements and control severe symptoms. However, some health conditions and infections may be worsened when using these drugs, preventing the body from stopping the leading cause of diarrhea(6).
Several conditions can result in diarrhea. Viruses, lactose intolerance, bacteria, and digestive disorders, like Crohn’s disease, are a few factors that can lead to it(7).
Given the multitude of potential causes, a patient with diarrhea can be challenging to evaluate and treat.
Cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, offers a potential solution in treating people with diarrhea. CBD is a chemical compound acquired from the cannabis plant that might offer numerous therapeutic benefits(8).
Research on CBD has been mostly centered in its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), as it is said to modulate pain(9), mental health(10), and inflammation(11). The ECS is a system responsible for several critical bodily functions, such as the immune system and the central nervous system.
A promising area of CBD research is its effects on the digestive tract and how it might potentially contribute to managing symptoms associated with various intestinal diseases.
A study in 2017 mentioned that cannabinoids, like CBD, are responsible for alleviating the symptoms of diarrhea and abdominal pain(12). This study’s data were obtained from several surveys and small clinical studies in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Additionally, the study stated that inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) might improve when cannabinoid levels are increased in the body, and the ECS receptors are activated by agonists, such as CBD(13). This idea is supported by a study on mice, which hinted that CBD inhibits GI inflammation by controlling the inflammatory response and activation of specific cells(14).
CBD’s anti-inflammatory potential has also been reviewed in another study on inflammatory bowel diseases. The review hinted that cannabidiol might be a possible candidate in developing a new class of medications for various digestive tract disturbances(15).
Some findings suggested that CBD may affect gut contractions, gastric emptying, transit time, and peristalsis. Studies on mice showed that cannabidiol has relaxant effects on the subjects by reducing hypermotility, or abnormal movement of the digestive tract, which is often associated with diarrhea(16-17).
Meanwhile, a study on human subjects with IBD hypothesized that CBD might reduce intestinal inflammation by interacting with the ECS. This study was performed to confirm CBD’s supposed effects on GI inflammation on mice with similar conditions(18).
Although these studies showed promise for CBD as a potential treatment for gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea, most of the data were obtained through trials involving rodents. More studies are necessary to see if CBD’s therapeutic effects on the digestive tract can translate to human beings.
How CBD Oil Works to Help with Diarrhea
The ECS plays an essential role in managing various functions in the body, such as stress levels, immune response, and inflammation. The ECS does all of these functions through regulatory compounds it produces called endocannabinoids(19).
Additionally, the ECS is also vital in keeping the gut healthy and in good condition(20). Although researchers do not fully understand how the ECS affects the digestive process, they know it affects motility and inflammatory responses crucial to overall digestive tract health(21).
The gastrointestinal tract is made up of a complex system of muscles and nerves that help food pass through it. Issues with any of these nerves and muscles can result in an increase in contractions or motility in the gut, leading to digestive problems, like diarrhea.
A study on rats with acute colitis revealed that CBD, together with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), reduced inflammation in the gut while also lowering gut movement(22). Although the study was made on rodents, the result may indicate a possible therapeutic use for CBD in regulating proper digestive tract function.
Stress and anxiety can also cause symptoms that are often associated with irritable bowel syndrome. These signs may appear in the form of excess gastric acid, pain, and diarrhea(23).
According to a 2015 study, CBD is a potential treatment for anxiety disorders due to how it affects the endocannabinoid system(24).
CBD interacts with the ECS by helping modulate hormones in the body, like serotonin and cortisol. This engagement may result in a person feeling more relaxed and less likely to experience stress-related gastrointestinal discomfort.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Diarrhea
- CBD, along with other cannabis compounds, is believed to help regulate gastrointestinal health by how it affects the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS.
- A study on rodents showed that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that might benefit people with diarrhea by reducing gut motility.
- CBD is non-psychoactive, unlike THC, and does not cause mind-altering side effects when consumed.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware of CBD’s potential health benefits and is supportive of science-based research of the cannabis constituent(25).
- The consumption of cannabidiol is legal in most states, allowing individuals to purchase them even without a prescription from their doctors.
- Most of the studies on CBD concerning its interaction with GI tract disorders were made on animals. There is no direct evidence proving that CBD can cure human digestive tract diseases and their symptoms, including diarrhea.
- There is only one CBD product that has been approved by the FDA, and that is Epidiolex, a medication prescribed to treat epilepsy(26).
- At this time of writing, CBD is poorly regulated by the federal government, leading to many of its products being labeled inaccurately(27).
- Despite its potential health benefits, there are side effects of CBD oil use, including nausea, fatigue, dry mouth, and irritability(28).
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Diarrhea
Besides drinking plenty of fluids, people are sometimes advised by medical practitioners to consume probiotics. Probiotics are made up of live bacteria and yeast, which are beneficial to one’s digestive system.
A person suffering from diarrhea can lose healthy bacteria in their stomach and intestines, which are crucial in maintaining a healthy gut. Probiotics, containing good bacteria and yeast, are said to replace the protective microorganisms in the digestive tract, helping restore normal bowel function.
A review of the probiotics’ effectiveness for diarrhea concluded that the treatment might reduce the duration of the said condition by at least one day. There are also varying reports that probiotics might have the potential to prevent diarrhea altogether(29).
Nowadays, probiotics can be consumed in various forms, such as milk, yogurts, powder, and capsules.
There are CBD products today that are infused with probiotics to provide the maximum benefits for GI disorders. It is also possible to find CBD mixed with herbs, like peppermint, chamomile, and aloe vera, which are said to counteract the symptoms of IBD.
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Diarrhea
For people considering the benefits of CBD oil to treat diarrhea, there are three main types of this compound manufactured today.
The first, and most popular, is full-spectrum CBD. This type of CBD contains all of the chemical compounds that are found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
It includes varying amounts of the psychoactive THC and is often sold as CBD tinctures, edibles, creams, and vaping oils. People often purchase full-spectrum CBD to experience its well-known synergism called “the entourage effect.”
The next type of CBD is called broad-spectrum, which contains all of the same compounds as full-spectrum, minus the THC content. This mind-altering substance is removed to allow individuals to consume CBD without the THC present.
Lastly, there are the isolates that are made of pure CBD only. These are usually acquired from industrial hemp plants since they provide the highest CBD among the cannabis strains.
CBD isolates do not contain the other phytocannabinoids present in medical cannabis and are often sold as crystals or powdered form.
Before deciding to purchase CBD oil for diarrhea, users need to seek medical advice from a doctor to avoid complications. Choosing a doctor who is experienced in using cannabis and its constituents can be especially beneficial.
The following are tips that can help people choose the safest and most reliable CBD products:
- Only buy high-quality CBD products from reputable brands. Many legitimate CBD companies cultivate their hemp plants or purchase them from trusted producers.
- Before buying from an online CBD shop, be sure to read their product reviews first. For physical stores and dispensaries, ensure that they are authorized by the federal government to sell CBD.
- Research about the legal stipulations concerning CBD use in the area where one wishes to purchase and consume it.
- Look for certification codes from the CBD products. Certification authorities approve certain CBD goods once they have undergone strict screening and testing.
CBD Dosage for Diarrhea
Although there are many potential therapeutic applications for CBD, healthcare experts and providers are still trying to figure out the proper dosage that is effective and safe for users.
Since the FDA has yet to release guidelines on the right CBD dosing, it may help to look at the dosage used in past human clinical trials to get an idea.
In a 2018 study concerning ulcerative colitis, 50 mg of CBD hemp oil was given to the participants twice each day, increasing to 250 mg when no side effects were observed. The scientists learned that the subjects that took CBD experienced clinical remission and quality of life improvements(30).
Furthermore, the study showed that the participants did not have any adverse reactions after taking CBD oil for ten weeks as part of their treatment. This study could indicate that 50 mg of CBD, twice daily, might be well-tolerated in humans.
Some health experts recommend starting with a dose of 40 mg and slowly increasing this amount until the desired effects are felt.
Perhaps the best advice, as of now, is to start with the lowest effective dose possible and then gradually increase it as required. Upon experiencing the desired effect, users should make a note and stick to this dosage.
How to Take CBD Oil for Diarrhea
The CBD products that are available today can be bought in various delivery formats.
There are CBD pills and capsules which can be taken similar to standard health supplements or tablet medications. One study on ulcerative colitis in human subjects used CBD capsules and showed improved quality of life scores for most patients(31).
CBD in the form of edibles is available as chocolates or gummies and might be better for people who have trouble swallowing CBD pills.
Perhaps the most popular cannabidiol products in the market are the CBD oils and tinctures. These items usually come with droppers that allow users to measure and apply CBD directly under the tongue.
Can CBD Cause Diarrhea?
According to a review in 2017, diarrhea is among the most common side effects that researchers found among several clinical studies on CBD use(32). The other adverse reactions that were observed are tiredness and reduced appetite.
CBD may have different effects on each individual. Some may experience positive results, while others may not be able to tolerate the substance and experience some side effects.
People who cannot tolerate CBD oil will most likely experience adverse reactions, like diarrhea or tiredness. Although CBD has shown to be beneficial to many, each person is unique, and some are simply not compatible with it.
That is why it is crucial to consult a doctor before deciding to purchase CBD products.
Is It Possible to Overdose With CBD?
In their review of cannabidiol, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that there is no evidence of major health-related problems linked to pure CBD use. The WHO also mentioned that CBD has an ideal safety profile and is generally well-tolerated by humans(33).
The same review mentioned earlier also supports the safety profile of CBD use. Researchers learned that even high doses of up to 1,500 mg of CBD per day have no adverse reactions to clinical trial participants(34).
However, high doses of CBD might increase the chances of experiencing possible side effects, like diarrhea, drowsiness, and loss of appetite. Although these effects are not life-threatening, it is essential to pay attention to CBD oil consumption for the best experience.
Types of Gastrointestinal Disorders
The following are the most prevalent types of GI diseases today.
This gastrointestinal condition is a disease wherein an individual experiences watery or loose stools that can last for weeks. Approximately seven out of a hundred Americans suffer from this condition.
Besides watery stools, and the urge to move bowels frequently, other common symptoms of chronic diarrhea include bloating, nausea, and abdominal cramps. Seeking advice from a doctor is recommended to know the best approach in treating chronic diarrhea.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a condition that causes inflammation in the large intestine. It is characterized by symptoms, like cramping, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, weight loss, constipation, and diarrhea.
According to the International Foundation of Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS affects around 25 to 45 million individuals in the United States, with two out of three sufferers being women(35).
IBS is a chronic disease that has no cure, but its symptoms are said to be manageable by a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes, fiber supplements, and medications. Stress can trigger or intensify IBS symptoms, so counseling and antidepressants may also be necessary.
Together with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is another type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), affecting more than 1% of adults in the United States(36). Crohn’s disease has symptoms similar to IBS with the addition of reduced appetite and weight loss.
People should see a doctor if they experience constant changes in their bowel habits or have abdominal pain or bloody stools.
At this time, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, and treatments commonly recommended involve lifestyle and dietary changes.
Ulcerative colitis is another form of IBD which causes ulcers and inflammations to form in the digestive tract. Colitis is different from Crohn’s disease in that it specifically targets the rectum and colon.
Some of the most common colitis symptoms include difficulty defecating, fever, abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding. Similar to Crohn’s disease, the condition also does not have a cure.
This disease is often characterized by a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. Gastritis may be caused by overuse of alcohol and pain relief medications, or it could be due to bacterial infections.
To diagnose gastritis, doctors will review personal and family records, perform a physical evaluation, and even recommend blood and stool tests.
If left untreated, gastritis can become worse and turn into stomach cancer. Chronic gastritis is said to affect two out of every ten thousand individuals, but it can be cured with the right treatment.
Also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy (GSE), (entero means bowel and pathy means disease) celiac disease is a hereditary gastrointestinal condition caused by a gluten reaction. Gluten is a category of proteins that can naturally be found in grains, such as rye, barley, and wheat.
When a person who has celiac disease consumes gluten, their body triggers an adverse immune reaction that destroys intestinal villi. The loss of villi results in the small intestine being unable to absorb vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients effectively.
This scenario leads to malnutrition and can also result in a range of severe health problems, including permanent small bowel damage, infertility, and colitis.
Constipation is perhaps the most common among the digestive tract disorders. However, people can also experience chronic constipation characterized by painful bowel movements of hard stood that can last for weeks or even more.
Blockages and problems with the nerves surrounding the colon and rectum can result in constipation.
This digestive condition causes chronic pain and undue stress to its patients. The severity of its physical symptoms can disrupt one’s daily life and even cause embarrassment leading to anxiety.
Diarrhea is the term for when a person is experiencing loose or watery stools, which happens approximately three or more times a day. Other common signs and symptoms of diarrhea include upset stomach pain, fever, bloody stools, and uncontrollable bowel movement.
Anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide, are usually prescribed to control severe symptoms and reduce overall bowel movements. However, certain health conditions can become worse when taking these drugs.
Cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, is a potential solution for diarrhea due to its said characteristics. Several studies have shown that CBD can ease diarrhea and abdominal pain, common among inflammatory bowel diseases.
However, most of the clinical trials on CBD’s effectiveness in treating digestive disorders were done on animals. Some studies on human subjects have been made, but the findings are inconclusive.
The FDA recognizes the potential therapeutic applications of cannabidiol and supports scientific-based research on the chemical compound. More studies and clinical trials on humans are necessary to know if CBD can genuinely alleviate diarrhea symptoms.
As with any medication, interested CBD users should consult a doctor to avoid complications.
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