Estimates suggest that irritable bowel syndrome affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. This common condition affects the lives of its sufferers significantly. However, it can be frustratingly difficult to treat, or even prevent.
That said, there are various ways to ease the symptoms of IBS. The problem is that many of the medications used come with a list of side effects. Diet and lifestyle changes can also help, but we all know these kinds of changes are difficult and take time.
What if there were a natural remedy out there to relieve this condition, without having to change your lifestyle significantly? Could we be using CBD oil to treat irritable bowel syndrome? First, let’s take a look at what this condition actually is.
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a medical condition that affects the body’s digestive system. It is a chronic problem that affects patients throughout their lives. IBS can cause tremendous pain, discomfort, and frustration. It can occur in people of all ages, though it tends to be more common in women.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown. Several theories link it to the digestive tract passing food through either too quickly or too slowly. Other theories suggest that stress, genetics, and oversensitive nerves in the gut are culprits. What’s worse is that there is no real cure for IBS. However, there are several ways to control the symptoms.
Usually, IBS manifests itself through stomach pains or cramps. These symptoms (which may become worse after eating) include bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Symptoms can fluctuate, as sufferers often find they have good days and bad days. For this reason, it is debatable whether IBS flare-ups are triggered exclusively by diet.
In addition to the common symptoms, IBS sufferers may also encounter flatulence, fatigue, nausea, backache, and incontinence. Some research even suggests that IBS may be linked to depression and other mental health issues. This is likely due to the chronic nature of the symptoms. Of course, all of these symptoms can be horrifically unpleasant. This is why millions of IBS patients are left so desperate to treat the condition.
Traditional Treatments for IBS
Most medical practitioners will recommend one or more of the following traditional treatments to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. In reality, none of them offer guaranteed 100% effective results. What works for one individual, might not work for the next.
This brings a certain degree of trial and error into the process of treating IBS. Sometimes discomfort can persist for long periods of time while an individual tries to find an effective treatment.
Adjustments to diet
There are suggestions that adjusting your diet can alleviate the symptoms of IBS:
- Cook using fresh ingredients
- Eat oats such as porridge frequently
- Eat up to 1 tablespoon of linseeds per day.
Furthermore, diet changes mean avoiding things like:
- Fatty, spicy or processed foods
- Eating more than 3 portions of fruit per day
- Drinking more than 3 cups of tea or coffee per day
- Drinking lots of alcohol and fizzy drinks
- Foods that are hard to digest (such as broccoli, beans and brussels sprouts)
- Products containing sorbitol (a type of sweetener)
- High fiber foods such as wholegrain alternatives.
If you look at these lists, you will see that IBS patients have to cut out a significant number of enjoyable snacks. Dieting is not easy for everyone, and what’s more, changes in diet do not always alleviate IBS symptoms.
Adjustments to lifestyle
Apart from the above changes in dietary needs, some doctors suggest changes in lifestyle to reduce IBS symptoms. Since IBS links with stress, some recommend finding ways to relax in order to ease symptoms. Furthermore, some say that getting plenty of exercise and sleep can be beneficial in terms of managing IBS. Again, these things can be a lot easier said than done. After all, we all know that being told to “calm down” never gets rid of stress!
Another traditional treatment for IBS, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that may have several health benefits. Usually, they are administered as food supplements or added to yogurts.
Probiotics are believed to restore the presence of natural bacteria in your gut, which may help to reduce the symptoms of IBS. However, even medical professionals are not sold on the benefits that probiotics claim to have, since they don’t work on all patients.
Thankfully, they are completely safe to ingest as they are usually classed as a food rather than a medicine. If you want to try probiotics to treat IBS, doctors usually recommend taking them for at least 4 weeks to see if they help.
How might CBD help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
CBD oil is a growing industry in the US and across Europe. It makes use of the CBD compound found in the Cannabis plant, which is non-psychoactive unlike THC (the other well-known component of cannabis). CBD is also thought to have a number of health benefits, which are coming to light thanks to numerous studies currently being conducted.
CBD treatments work by targeting the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), named after the cannabis plant which had a hand in its discovery. This biological system contains two primary endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. While the CB1 receptors, found predominantly in the brain, are stimulated by THC, the CB2 receptors are stimulated by cannabidiol (also known as CBD).
In a 2008 review, the neurologist Ethan Russo suggested that IBS may be caused by an endocannabinoid deficiency. Endocannabinoids are the natural cannabinoids that occur within the body, produced through biological processes. This review presents a strong foundation for the belief that CBD may help to alleviate symptoms.
As revealed by the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2016, CBD actually has a positive effect on IBS symptoms. When administered, CBD interacts with the CB2 receptors found along the human digestive tract, causing a number of benefits. The properties of CBD cause spasms to ease along this tract, and lead to improved intestinal motility (i.e. there is less sporadic movement within the intestines).
In other words, CBD really just stimulates your own body to relieve the symptoms. Furthermore, since cannabis is a naturally-occurring plant, CBD oil is quite a natural supplement to use during treatment.
Why use CBD oil over other treatments
IBS is a very tricky condition to treat, since all the traditionally recommended treatments do not work for everyone. In some cases, patients end up at the end of their tether, having tried all the common treatments and with nowhere else to turn.
A quick Google search could reveal to you numerous testimonies from IBS patients who have tried CBD oil to treat their ailment. Most of these individuals found that, despite the lack of improvement from all the other treatments they tried, CBD oil actually seemed to work.
CBD oil does not claim to have no side effects, but those that do occur tend to be mild and favorable when compared to those that occur to other medicines. Nor does it claim to be a cure to IBS – as of yet there is no cure – but if there is such a simple way to relieve yourself of the awful, ongoing symptoms, why wouldn’t you use it?
Some people are quite apprehensive about the use of CBD oil, due to the way that cannabis has been demonized in the media over several decades. However, as noted above, CBD has no psychoactive properties and would not get the user ‘high.’
Final thoughts about CBD for IBS
IBS is a very uncomfortable condition that affects millions of people worldwide. For such a common syndrome, it is quite unusual that there is no known cause, and no known cure. There are, thankfully, a number of treatments out there that can help to alleviate the horrid symptoms of IBS, but these seem to work on quite a trial and error basis, and many patients still experience flare-ups of the condition despite diet and lifestyle changes.
Studies are currently showing that CBD oil may offer a solution to those looking for a simple, natural way to treat IBS. Although it does not offer a cure, many patients that have used CBD oil for this condition will testify to the positive effects that it has on the body.
CBD oil works by targeting the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, preventing spasms in the gut and improving intestinal motility. Therefore, CBD reduces the symptoms experienced by IBS sufferers by easing cramping, diarrhea and constipation. Given these facts, it is plausible that CBD oil could be effective in managing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms with few side effects.
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