CBD, Gut Health, and Digestion—Is There a Link?
French lawyer, politician, and author Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said two centuries ago: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” He wrote this not in a medical book, but in a witty work on gastronomy and cuisine that was hugely popular at the time. Today, the saying is understood to be true quite literally, especially in the light of the way the gut influences mood and mental health. Also, research is increasingly demonstrating the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD)—gut health and digestion seem to be significantly modulated by this remarkable cannabinoid.
CBD Gut Health and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe disorders characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. The two IBDs include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Crohn's disease is caused by inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. It often spreads deep into the affected tissue.
- Ulcerative colitis causes chronic inflammation and ulcers in the innermost lining of the colon and rectum.
Symptoms of both include severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, bloatedness, and weight loss, and both can be very debilitating. Both IBDs can also develop life-threatening complications.
An alarming fact is that IBDs are on the rise, as explained in a review published in the Phytotherapy Research Journal (2013): 
“In the last 50 years, the incidence of inﬂammatory bowel diseases (IBD), namely ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, has dramatically increased in industrialized countries, and despite their increasing epidemiological impact, a pharmacological treatment for these diseases is still disappointingly inadequate.”
Cannabis preparations were and still are being tested for IBS, but the psychotropic action of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) severely limits its therapeutic testing and application. CBD, on the other hand, does not cause any psychedelic alterations of the mind, and it has so far been shown to be very safe for human consumption. Therefore, this makes it the natural cannabis compound to investigate when addressing IBS-related conditions and diseases.
What’s more—CBD has demonstrated the capability to mediate a strong inhibition of neutrophil chemotaxis and proliferation. (High neutrophils indicate inflammation or infection.) In both acute and chronic animal models of inﬂammation, this has been considered as the basis of CBD’s great efﬁcacy as an anti-inﬂammatory drug, according to the authors. Addressing inflammation is the first-line treatment in most IBS-related diseases.
Furthermore, many protective functions of CBD have been linked to the “impressive antioxidant function displayed during inﬂammation,” explain the authors, “and such antioxidant activity has been reported to markedly inhibit colon injury.” IBD is often linked to tissue damage via a number of mechanisms. 
CBD has also shown great efficacy in colitis due to its ability to modulate colonic hypermotility (colonic diarrhea).
The authors speculate that CBD gut health and related actions are conferred via extra-cannabinoid receptor binding, which makes it not only an exciting treatment option for IBDs but also a preventative agent in such diseases.
That said—a lot more well-designed clinical research is needed before this can be confirmed and formally added to CBD’s list of therapeutic benefits.
Traditionally, it’s the endocannabinoid receptors in the gut that are significantly linked to a variety of gastrointestinal functions, including motility, gut-brain-mediated fat intake, and hunger signaling, inflammation and gut permeability, and dynamic interactions with gut microbiota. This is pointed out by the authors of Endocannabinoids in the Gut (2016). 
However, this wondrous system of receptors in the bodies of vertebrates is indicated in many physiological processes, and one of its main functions is to keep the body in balance. In this, CBD has proven benefits that can promote a healthy digestive system.
CBD Oil Benefits
According to a Harvard article, microbiomes in the gut constantly send messages to the brain and the other way around. This means that what goes on in the gut affects the brain, and brain activity can affect the gut.
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This is not difficult to believe—everyone is familiar with “butterflies in the stomach,” and gastrointestinal disturbances such as stomachache, nausea, vomiting, etc. are often ascribed to severe anxiety.
In the words of the Harvard article’s authors:
“...stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection.
In addition, research suggests that some people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains are more responsive to pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.” 
They furthermore point out that a review of 13 studies showed that patients who tried psychologically-based approaches had greater improvement in their digestive symptoms compared with patients who received only conventional medical treatment. Perhaps taking a natural supplement for anxiety will alleviate gut issues, and in this sense, CBD oil can be a lifesaver. Plenty of literature supports its track record as a nerve calmer. The authors of a 2015 review point out CBD’s considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders. 
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How to Take CBD Oil for Gut Health
CBD can be taken in many preparations to help soothe the nerves and the gut, but direct ingestion or sublingual administration traditionally work the best. Edibles are a favorite, but it would be prudent to keep in mind that these are often very potent and are not necessarily low in THC. Also, there’s no way to determine the quantity of CBD in the product, unless this is clearly stated on the package.
Taking CBD oil or tincture under the tongue will ensure its fast absorption and equally fast effect.
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The maxim to keep in mind when taking CBD is: “Start low, go slow.” This pertains, of course, to the dosage.
Individual responses differ, but starting on a 15–25mg CBD dose taken at night should be good. If no severe somnolence or side effect is observed, the same dose can be repeated the next morning. It would be ideal to experiment to see which would work best: one dose at night, or two separate doses during the day.
Also take the product with a spoonful of coconut or hemp oil, as this will further enhance absorption.
Taking CBD, gut health could improve immensely, especially if this is supported by a sensible diet and stress management. Always consult with a physician first before attempting to replace prescription medicine with any CBD product.