Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common problem in the UK. With an estimated 10% – 20% of people suffering from IBS at any one time in the country, it is certainly something that scientists are trying to understand better.
IBS is actually the name given to a group of conditions which involve the bowel. The symptoms can be annoying or embarrassing at best or debilitating and can severely affect people’s lives at worst. It is still not really known what causes IBS, but the symptoms can include bloating, nausea, pain, cramps, constipation and diarrhoea. Doctors believe that IBS can flare up at any time, but it often happens when someone has a change in their lifestyle, diet or are going through a period of stress.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Treatment
The symptoms of IBS can vary according to your own specific circumstances, and in addition to the symptoms above, other symptoms can include tiredness, heartburn, indigestion, headaches, backache, the need to pass urine frequently, depression and anxiety.
Some people believe that anxiety and stress are common reasons for IBS to flare up, and most treatment involves making a lifestyle or dietary change. Sometimes, the symptoms of IBS are treated but as of yet, there is no actual treatment for IBS.
IBS is unpredictable and is possible to be lived with – with the right medical and psychological treatment. However, one of the difficulties is that you don’t know when it can strike.
What is CBD? And could it help with IBS?
CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a compound which is found in the cannabis plant. It is what’s known as a cannabinoid and the medical world is getting very excited about its potential for a number of medicinal reasons.
Although officially, CBD producers are only allowed to say that it can help with general health and well-being, there are a number of additional health issues which anecdotal evidence is showing that can be helped by CBD.
Within the human body, we have a number of systems, one of which is called the endocannabinoid system. This system takes responsibility for ensuring that other functions in the body are kept regulated and working at their optimum levels. The endocannabinoid system consists of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors, which interact with each other to keep the body in a state of homeostasis – or internally balanced.
When the levels of endocannabinoids are low, health problems can occur, and so by taking CBD (which is a phytocannabinoid and acts in a similar way to the endocannabinoids) you can replenish some of the levels of the cannabinoids and help to deal with some of these health issues.
Although we still don’t know what the cause of IBS is, CBD can certainly help with some of the symptoms which occur as a result of it.
CBD can alleviate digestive tract spasms
There are a number of theories about what causes IBS, and the current thinking is that it can be caused by a mixture of diet and stress in varying degrees. They believe that spasms are caused along the digestive tract which can lead to pain.
According to research, there are many CB2 cannabinoid receptors concentrated around the human digestive tract, and it is thought that when CBD is taken, it can interact with these receptors and alleviate the spasms which occur, reducing some of the symptoms of IBS.
CBD can help to reduce nausea
CBD can help to reduce feelings of nausea because it can affect the receptors which release serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical which can alleviate nausea and vomiting, and so by stimulating its production, the feelings of nausea can be reduced.
CBD can help to relieve pain
One of the most common symptoms of IBS is abdominal pain. This can often be caused by inflammation and swelling, and CBD has anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce swelling and inflammation, and therefore help to relieve pain.
As stated above, CBD can also help to calm spasms and stomach cramps which will also be able to help to reduce pain for some people.
Although some over-the-counter painkillers can be used, they also come with negative connotations. There is an increasing number of people who are getting addicted to opioids, for example. CBD is non-addictive and natural.
There are also many negative side effects from the long term use of NSAIDs like Ibuprofen particularly when it comes to the gut, and these are something which should be avoided if you can – especially if you already have problems with your digestion.
CBD can help with low mood and anxiety
Low mood and anxiety are intrinsically linked to IBS, often with one perpetuating the other. Doctors believe that stress and anxiety can be a trigger for IBS flare ups, but at the same time, suffering from IBS can accentuate anxiety and depression.
When we get anxious, some people find that their food moves too quickly through the GI tract – this is known as hypermotility. This can lead to poor absorption, the loss of fluids, ineffective digestion and IBS flare ups.
CBD can help to raise levels of serotonin in the body, which is a chemical which can help to regulate emotions. Scientists believe that taking CBD will inhibit the breakdown of serotonin, helping the body to reduce instances of anxiety and depression.
This means not only that CBD can help people when they get the symptoms of IBS, but also play an important role in helping to prevent it from happening in the first place or worsening through anxiety.
CBD can help to stimulate the appetite
It is very common when someone is suffering from IBS, that they lose their appetite – perhaps to nausea or perhaps to general discomfort in the gut. This means that they won’t eat much as a consequence and that once their IBS has calmed a little, they then go on to overeat. Which can then lead to another flair up, and it goes around in circles.
The best way to deal with this would be to keep eating steady and stable, and CBD can help with this. By reducing pain and nausea, CBD can stimulate your appetite when you are suffering from IBS, allowing you to eat properly, giving your body the nutrition that it needs and reducing the risk of the overeating when it has all calmed down.
Due to its impact on the makeup of the bloodstream, it is very important that if you are thinking about trying CBD and you are taking medication, you speak to your doctor first. The CBD can make certain medications work differently to when it is not present, sometimes making it less effective, and sometimes making it stronger. Likewise, if you are taking CBD and the doctor wants to put you on medication, make sure that you let them know before you start.
Although there is still a lot of research which needs to be done to understand both IBS and the effect of CBD on it, the signs are looking promising. Thanks to the high concentration of cannabinoid receptors around the bowels and digestion system, as well as the close links to the symptoms of IBS, it seems that CBD could be valuable to people who suffer from the condition in the future.