Woman having painful stomach ache.

Benefits of Cannabis for IBS Sufferers

How do IBS patients use medical marijuana to get symptom alleviation? In each of us, the endocannabinoid system exists. Endocannabinoids are fat-based neurotransmitters that the body creates. Endocannabinoids are molecules in the body that may help to alleviate nausea and vomiting. They assist with inflammation, immune system functioning, and neurotransmission. Anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are some of the most well-known endocannabinoids manufactured by oneself.

Cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), may interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body to help relieve chronic pain, bloating, abdominal discomfort, migraines, and other problems. Cannabis binds to cannabinoid receptors, including CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors in various tissues throughout the body. Cannabinoids can significantly influence the levels of AEA and 2-AG endocannabinoids as well as the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis by acting on these receptors directly.

Cannabinoids that interact with CB1 receptors in the gastrointestinal tract are known to have anti-inflammatory effects and inhibit peristalsis, or digestive motion. The CB2 receptors also play a role in IBS by targeting immune cells in the intestines, which reduces visceral intestinal pain and has anti-inflammatory effects.

Cannabinoids can also modulate receptors outside the CB1 and CB2 families, which may impact common gastrointestinal tract functions such as stomach emptying, motility, immunity, inflammation, microbiome balance, and gut-brain communication. Continue reading to learn more about CED and this disease.

For more information on how the endocannabinoid system works, visit here.

Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome and Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED)

According to a recent study, many irritable bowel patients may have clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED). This was demonstrated through investigations of AEA and 2-AG levels in spinal fluid. Researchers believe that these insufficiencies might be genetic or congenital, as well as caused by injuries or illnesses.

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is an uncomfortable condition that causes severe bloating, abdominal pain, cramps, and a significant shift in stool frequency. CED has been discovered to be prevalent among those who have IBS, fibromyalgia, and migraines. When it comes to irritable bowel syndrome, “optimal gut health without pain and with the maintenance of proper body weight appears to require a complicated interaction between diet, endocannabinoid balance, and enteric flora,” according to researchers.

Obese mice have shown that the microbiome-gut-brain axis is involved. This implies that the microbiome biome of the small intestine, large intestine, and brain health are all critical elements in treating this condition. THC-treated patients had a distinct microflora in their stomachs, suggesting they were less likely to get fat while consuming a high-fat diet.

For additional information, see our post on clinical endocannabinoid deficiency.

Medical marijuana and IBS symptoms: potential benefits

Cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) can help patients with pain alleviation, constipation problems, and inflammation reduction. Stress and anxiety have also been linked to IBS. Medical Cannabis and CBD may aid in the management of stress and anxiety, two aggravating factors in this illness that can be improved by regulating CED.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that cannabis might help with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, although there is no clinical proof to support it. Fortunately, the number of clinical trials on this topic is increasing as we conduct more research; however, additional study is required to establish a link between marijuana usage and symptom alleviation in this group.

In a small study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, CBD chewing gum was tested on 32 female patients. This randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial compared the impact of chewing gum containing 50 mg of CBD to that of placebo gum. In this research, there were no significant differences between the CBD gums and the placebos.

While the study’s design was affected by the paucity of male participants as well as the fact that chewing gum stimulates digestion, there are several limitations to consider. However, this research would be worth replicating in a larger population of IBS patients using alternative CBD delivery methods.

Cannabis and IBS: Important considerations

It’s critical to discuss cannabis or CBD with your doctor, especially if you’re taking other medications. Drug interactions are possible, and a medical marijuana doctor can help you determine appropriate starting dosages. THC is beneficial for patients who suffer from stomach aches and inflammations at night or as needed. Some people respond well to CBD in the absence of THC. In addition, with low dosages, THCA and CBDA may assist patients to improve their symptoms.

Terpenes are the chemicals in cannabis that contribute to the scent and taste. The following terpenes may also aid with IBS symptoms:


  • Pinene
  • Limonene
  • Caryophyllene, which is also called beta-caryophyllene, is a chemical that is found in many plants.

It might take eight to 12 weeks for THC and CBD treatments for IBS to provide substantial symptom relief, although many individuals report symptom improvement in the first two to three weeks. You may wish to avoid edibles or read the label carefully to ensure you don’t consume ingredients that will irritate your symptoms.

The pathology of IBS has yet to be completely understood. “Currently, IBS patients are treated with opioids, anticholinergics, and antidepressants, however with quite a poor benefit.” According to research on the endocannabinoid system and IBS. Some medications alter serotonin levels in the body, but these medicines have side effects and other undesirable effects such as ischemic colitis or cardiovascular events.

Irritable bowel syndrome is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which means that while cannabis may help with IBS, it will not cure it. Please see our sections on ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease for further information and the effects of cannabis.

IBS Types: Understanding Their Differences

There are several forms of irritable bowel, as well as the symptoms they can cause in your body and digestive system:

IBS with Constipation (IBS-C)

  • Patients’ stools are hard more than 25% of the time, while loose stools are less than 25% of the time.

IBS with Diarrhea (IBS-D)

  • Patients have diarrhea at least 25% of the time, as well as hard stools less than 25% of the time.

Post-Infectious IBS

  • After an infection or virus in the intestines

Post-Diverticulitis IBS

  • After diverticulitis symptoms, this occurs.
  • Abdominal discomfort is felt by patients on the left side.
  • In the lower-left abdomen, you may notice an inflammatory mass.

Unclassified IBS (IBS-U)

  • Patients who meet IBS diagnostic criteria but have irregular bowel habits that do not fit into any of the other subtypes are described.

Mixed IBS (IBS-M)

  • More than 25% of the time, patients have hard and soft stools.
  • Around 33% to 50% of all cases of IBS are accounted for by medical and pharmaceutical accounts. 

Observations from a Neuroscience Researcher

The DIGIdrs team had the opportunity to converse with Dr. Viola Brugnatelli, a neuroscience researcher and endocannabinologist, about their findings. Dr. Brugnatelli began working as a scientist in 2012, and her research focuses on the interaction between natural substances (such as plants and spices) and the nervous system. Cannabiscienza is an organization established by Dr. Brugnatelli and others to provide scientific training on the endocannabinoid system and medicinal cannabis.

Let’s look at what Dr. Brugnatelli has to say about IBS and cannabis as part of his unique understanding of the subject.

Q: What is the relationship between the gut and the brain in IBS?

“The microbiome-gut-brain axis is highly reliant on HPA stress management, which is disrupted in IBS patients. The ECS controls basal and circadian HPA activation, and these variations relate to the differences in the visceral sensation that characterize IBS.” 

Q: What is the mechanism through which THC and CBD might alter it?

“We understand that chronic stress kills CB1 receptors, induces the HPA stress response, and causes anxiety. In IBS patients, THC may be used to enhance cramps, abdominal spasms, and internal pain by activating CB1. “Moreover, because endocannabinoid receptors are present throughout the gastrointestinal tract, CBD and THC may help to cure clinical endocannabinoid insufficiency and alleviate IBS symptoms.”

Q: How would this benefit those living with IBS?

“Currently, IBS patients are given opioids, anticholinergics, and antidepressants, however with poor results. In this scenario targeting the ECS may be a good approach to alter gut motility, low-grade intestinal inflammation and gut-brain axis change, all of which might alleviate IBS symptoms. It is also evident that both an IBS diet and a stress-relief practice are required to boost the beneficial effects of any of the agents suggested.”

Dr. Brugnatelli’s study shows that medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for IBS sufferers who suffer from an endocannabinoid deficiency. As additional research becomes available, it is expected that healthcare providers will evaluate the use of medical marijuana for those who have IBS.

*DigiDrs is not offering this as professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self diagnose, or prescribe treatment based on the information provided in these pages. Consult a physician before making decisions on the treatment of any of these medical conditions.

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