Can CBD help IBD?

What is IBD, you ask? It’s an umbrella term for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which include Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, as well as lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis, the two main types of microscopic colitis. Essentially, these conditions are a form of inflammation in the digestive tract. Symptoms often include abdominal pain or cramping, gas and bloating, and in microscopic colitis, chronic nonbloody watery diarrhea.

Treatment for IBD can take a combination of the following:

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  • Antidiarrheal medications

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Medications that block bile acids

  • Immune system-suppressing medications

  • Antibiotics

  • Corticosteroids

  • Biologic therapies

  • Changes in diet and nutrition

  • Surgery (in very rare cases)

However, according to a February article, Manipulation of the endocannabinoid system in colitis: A  comprehensive review, “Current immunosuppressive therapies available for treatment of inflammatory bowel disease offer limited benefits and lose effectiveness, exposing a significant need for the development of novel therapies.” 

CBD and IBD

Some research indicates that the endocannabinoid system in everybody protects gut health. Inflammation, which is key in colitis, suggests that the body’s immune system is compromised. As we’ve discussed before, CBD is an anti-inflammatory and when consumed as a dietary supplement, acts on the C1 and C2 receptors to help our bodies regulate pain, mood, appetite, gastrointestinal function, memory, emotions, stress response, immune function, and more. In addition, CBD activates glial cells in nerve tissue. Glia roughly translates as glue, and they protect the nerves and in the gastrointestinal system, they regulate function. These cells help maintain the integrity of the intestinal mucosa and act as a barrier to the stimuli that can cause the disease. However, glial cells can also trigger and perpetuate intestinal inflammation by interacting with other types of cells in the immune system. CBD can serve as a moderator that keeps the glial cells from running amok and exacerbating the inflammation.

Research has shown that in the face of colitis or other forms of IBD, CBD can curb the disease, relieve symptoms and assist prescribed medicines do their jobs more effectively. Once the symptoms are under control, people could continue to use CBD without adverse side effects, which can help keep the immune system strong and healthy, potentially avoiding future flare-ups.

The current research results offer hope that a new approach to monitoring intestinal conditions may be forthcoming. But, as always, more research needs to be conducted in order to fully understand how CBD works in the body to respond to the inflammatory nature of IBD.