What is Acid Reflux? 

One of the most sensitive and complex human organ systems is the gastrointestinal area. Upsetting this might result in the backflow of stomach acid or known as acid reflux. 

Acid reflux is the backward movement of the stomach acid in your stomach area to your throat through the esophagus (the tube that connects the two). This backwash often irritates the lining of the esophagus(1)

It prompts discomfort around the upper abdomen, which sometimes causes a painful, burning sensation in the chest (as if having a heart attack) known as heartburn. 

Individuals with this condition experience heartburn after a big hearty meal, drinking coffee, and alcohol(2)

Common symptoms aside from heartburn are nausea, vomiting, or difficulty in swallowing. Acid reflux can also cause hoarseness of the voice, sore throat, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth(3).

Why is this happening? 

There is no known single cause of acid reflux. However, when the muscles that control the tube between the stomach and esophagus do not entirely close, acids and food in the stomach flow back. And this could cause tissue injury around that area()

Is Acid Reflux the same with GERD? 

Medically, acid reflux is called gastroesophageal reflux (GER). If this progresses to a more severe form and produces chronic symptoms, then this is known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease or commonly known as GERD(5)

GER and GERD share the same symptoms, and shared among the two is heartburn. However, for GERD, it might occur between two or more times a week(6). 

Moreover, signs and symptoms for GERD can include food regurgitation, sour liquid, difficulty in swallowing, wheezing, and coughing. 

In North America, 18 to 28% percent of the population has this disease, where it affects mostly the younger (30-39 years old) population, contrary to the belief that is more prevalent in the older groups(7). 

How does CBD work? 

To understand how the cannabinoid (CBD) works in the gastroesophageal tract, one must understand the role of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in the body. 

CBD works by interacting with the body’s ECS and its particular cannabinoid receptors (CBRs)(8), including  its role in the gastric functions

Studies have shown that CBRs have demonstrated their effect on gastrointestinal motility, inflammation and immunity, intestinal and gastric acid secretion, nociception and emesis pathways, and appetite control(9). 

Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD also modulates the movement and volatility of intestinal propulsions. CBD interacts with the surrounding soft muscles of the gastrointestinal system that results in the relaxation and contraction of the muscles(10). 

CBD also manages the secretion of gastric acid. It inhibits gastric acid secretion via CB1 receptors. CBD decreases the likelihood of overburdening the gastroesophageal space and might reduce inflammation of the esophageal lining(11).

Treatment with CBD 

There is no known standard of dosage in the use of CBD to treat acid reflux. Like any other use of medicines and supplementations, taking CBD varies according to age, weight, and genetics. Generally, it is six (6) milligrams of CBD per body weight(12). 

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not yet regulate the use of CBD, it is quite tricky to find the right amount or dosage of CBD use. However, starting with a small dosage and only increasing it gradually over several weeks is recommended(13). 

It is important to note that before using CBD for acid reflux, always consult first with an expert or doctors experienced on cannabis used as a form of medication. 

Conclusion

Acid reflux or medically known as gastroesophageal reflux is an acute condition when the stomach is upset, resulting in backflow or “reflux” of gastric acid to the esophageal tract. 

However, when it progresses for an extended period and increases in severity, it would result in GERD. 

CBD interacts through the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS), resulting in the softening of the surrounding muscle of the gastrointestinal tract, helping in the peristalsis of these muscles, preventing fluid backflow to the esophagus. It also regulates gastric acid production.

CBD may show a promising position to help address acid reflux, however, one should not use it without seeking the advice of a doctor expert on cannabis.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2019, Jul 31). Acid reflux and GERD: The same thing. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/expert-answers/heartburn-gerd/faq-20057894
  2. ibid.
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2020, April 3). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. Medical School. (2019, September 10). 9 ways to relieve acid reflux without medication. Retrieve from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/9-ways-to-relieve-acid-reflux-without-medication
  5. Mayo Clinic. (2019, Jul 31) op. Cit.
  6. Harvard Health Publishing. op. cit.  
  7. Yamasaki, T., Hemond, C., Eisa, M., Ganocy, S., & Fass, R. (2018). The Changing Epidemiology of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Are Patients Getting Younger?. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility, 24(4), 559–569. https://doi.org/10.5056/jnm18140
  8. Turcotte C, Blanchet MR, Laviolette M, Flamand N. The CB2 receptor and its role as a regulator of inflammation. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016;73(23):4449–4470. doi:10.1007/s00018-016-2300-4. 
  9. Aviello, G., Romano, B., & Izzo, A. A. (2008, August). Cannabinoids and gastrointestinal motility: animal and human studies. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18924447
  10. ibid.
  11. Gyires, K., & Zádori, Z. S. (2016). Role of Cannabinoids in Gastrointestinal Mucosal Defense and Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5333598/
  12. Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333–1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93.
  13. PDF. (2017, November 7). Geneva. Retrieve from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf
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