Here’s Why You Should Be Taking CBD Oil with Food

How eating affects the bioavailability of CBD


When you Google ‘CBD,’ you are greeted with thousands of search results. Trying to find useful information is as hard as sourcing Super Bowl tickets on the day of the game! Most sites parrot the same information about how CBD doesn’t provide a psychoactive high, but there is a real lack of detailed information.

A prime example is the dearth of details regarding whether you should take CBD oil with food or not. It is not something I had considered before, but yesterday, I felt nauseous after using CBD oil and promptly threw up. Maybe if I hadn’t used it on an empty stomach, I would have been spared a visit to the bathroom.

As it happens, it IS better to eat food with your CBD oil, but not necessarily due to gastrointestinal issues.

A Question of Bioavailability

One of the ‘buzzwords’ associated with CBD is bioavailability. In simple terms, this is the rate and degree at which any substance becomes absorbed into the bloodstream. As far as CBD is concerned, the higher the bioavailability, the more effective the cannabinoid, because more of it impacts your system when it actually reaches the bloodstream.

The problem with many forms of CBD consumption is that our digestive system absorbs it before it makes it to the bloodstream. Here are a few different ways to use CBD along with the likely bioavailability.

CBD Oral Consumption

This involves consuming CBD via drinks, edibles, and capsules. The problem here is that any substance that is orally consumed must pass through the metabolic and digestive systems, filtering out most of the cannabidiol. There is a degree of disagreement in the scientific community as to the exact bioavailability rate of oral consumption.

A 1986 study by Ohlsson et al., published in the Biomedical & Environmental Mass Spectrometry journal, suggested that oral bioavailability was just 6%. A 2009 study by Huestis, published in Chemistry Biodiversity, was slightly more optimistic and showed that bioavailability was anywhere between 4% and 20%. Even on the upper end of the scale, only 20mg of that 100mg edible you ate will make it to your bloodstream.

CBD Sublingual Consumption

This is how you use tinctures or oils. You hold it beneath the tongue so that it is administered to your sublingual gland. As a result, it is directly absorbed into the bloodstream. The quality of CBD is all-important in this scenario. A 2012 study* by Schoedel and Harrison, published in Current Pharmaceutical Design, showed that sublingual consumption of CBD had a bioavailability rate of between 12% and 35%.

CBD Vaporizers

You can use a CBD e-liquid in a vaporizer and enjoy far higher bioavailability. As it directly enters the lungs, the CBD enters the bloodstream faster. A 2007 study by Huestis, published in Chemical Biodiversity, showed that vaporization had an impressive bioavailability rate of 56%.

CBD Nanotechnology

CBD sellers such as CBD Living use nanotechnology in their products. In this process, Nano-sized CBD molecules are infused in products. It allows for easy absorption and an apparent bioavailability rate of 90%, by far the highest on the market to date.

The different forms of CBD consumption and assigned bioavailability rates dictate the prices of products. Let’s say an edible has a bioavailability of 10%; you would need 100mg to get 10mg of useful CBD. If you use a vaporizer with a bioavailability rate of 50%, you need just 20mg to get the same amount of usable CBD. Keep this in mind when purchasing CBD products.

Eating Also Has Positive Effects on CBD Bioavailability

Now I am finally able to get to the crux of the matter. Eating food DOES impact bioavailability. Remember, when you use CBD orally, the active ingredients are absorbed via digestion rather than in the mucous membranes in the mouth (which is how CBD gets absorbed when used sublingually).

The primary reason why oral CBD has such a low bioavailability rate is ‘first pass metabolism.’ This is caused by the actions of the digestive system’s enzymes before the cannabidiol gets to your circulatory system. When you eat CBD edibles or swallow tinctures, the CBD goes to the stomach and is broken down during the journey. Next, the small intestine absorbs the CBD, and it goes to the liver.

There are enzymes in the liver called Cytochrome P450, which metabolize the CBD before it gets sent throughout the circulatory system. It is at this point that ‘first pass metabolism’ breaks down the CBD even more, and it creates over 100 metabolites. The vast majority of these metabolites are not useful and are excreted.

Unfortunately, this means the bioavailability of CBD plummets. However, there are types of food which prevent cannabidiol from running the ‘first pass’ gauntlet, thus improving bioavailability.

The above is more than mere theory; it is backed by scientific evidence. A 2013 study** by Stott et al., published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, assessed the effect of food on the bioavailability of a single dose of THC/CBD spray.

The team looked at what happened when a cannabinoid product was absorbed sublingually and then in the digestive tract after being consumed. They discovered that bioavailability was four times higher when taken after a meal, compared to being swallowed on a relatively empty stomach. It is important to note the study also showed that using the cannabinoid product with food delayed peak concentration of the cannabinoid in the blood by a couple of hours.

Best Type of Food to Eat with CBD Oil

It appears as if foods containing fatty acids and medium or long-chain triglycerides are your best bet. This is why so many CBD sellers include MCT oil in their tinctures. Fatty acids act as potent binding agents, and they are metabolized into pure energy by the liver. As a result, your CBD does not go through the first pass metabolism process. Your body burns these fats and uses them, and the cannabidiol, immediately.

Therefore, if you decide to consume CBD oil with food, consider eating foods such as olives, coconut, sesame oil, soybeans, oily fish, meat, eggs, and avocados. Yes, you can even feast on donuts!

Final Thoughts on Using CBD Oil with Food

Not everyone will remember to use their CBD oil when they eat, and some people simply don’t like doing it. In that case, you are better off exploring other methods of consumption. You can still use CBD oil, but it is better to purchase an e-liquid which works with a vaporizer. With a bioavailability rate that is several times higher than via oral consumption, you tend to get better bang for your buck. Alternatively, use CBD from brands that utilize nanotechnology.

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