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Gut Health and CBD Oil: A Complete Guide

At some point during your education, you were taught that your heart pumps blood, your lungs circulate oxygen, and your immune system defends your body from harmful invaders. Chances are you also learned the purpose of your digestive system: to break down food and eliminate waste.

Thanks to advances in technology and research, today we understand that digestive function is far more complex than once believed. The microbial composition of your digestive system has a significant impact on your overall health and emotional wellbeing.

Understanding the vital connection between your gut and your brain will help you appreciate the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD Oil and the Gut’s Microbiome

The number of bacteria in your body outnumber your human cells ten to one. The bacterial profile of your gut microbiome is as unique as your fingerprint. While the growing popularity of probiotics suggests a better understanding of digestive health, relatively few people realize how the composition of the bacteria in their gut influences numerous functions in their bodies.

Research shows having a variety of beneficial gut bacteria prevents intestinal inflammation, strengthens immunity, and regulates moods and emotions through the production of essential neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The neurotransmitters created by the microbes in your gut are essential to the communication between your digestive tract and your brain.

Current research suggests a strong connection between imbalances in the microbial composition of the gut and numerous health conditions, including food allergies, depression, obesity, chronic inflammation, and cancer.

Cannabinoids like CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are being studied for their potential effects on the health of the gut microbiome. In a 2019 study, rats with neuroinflammation were given a combination of CBD and THC. The researchers wanted to find out if the cannabinoids would have an effect on the neuroinflammation through effects on the rats’ gut microbiome.

The researchers found that the CBD-THC mixture reduced the amount of Akkermansia muciniphila (A. muc) bacteria in the gut, leading to a reduction in neuroinflammation. The study concludes, “Collectively, our data suggest that cannabinoids may…suppress neuroinflammation by…promoting healthy gut microbiota.”

More research is needed, but it’s an intriguing start.

The Gut’s Endocannabinoid System

Your gut maintains constant communication with your central nervous system to regulate neurotransmitter production, protect the intestinal barrier, regulate motility, and more. Keeping essential communication systems running efficiently depends on continuous interaction with your endocannabinoid system, the largest regulatory system in your body. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) relies on the generation of specific messengers (neurotransmitters) that act on endocannabinoid receptors.

The messengers of the endocannabinoid system are called cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids synthesized in your body are the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-Ag (2-arachidonoylglycerol). These essential messengers regulate the conversation between your gut and your brain. Endocannabinoids are produced as needed and quickly broken down by metabolic enzymes.

Ideally, your body would produce enough endocannabinoids needed to keep essential processes functioning efficiently. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. Under the influences of stress, illness, or injury, your body may need more cannabinoids than it can make on its own.

When your body does not generate enough ECS messengers to interact with their corresponding receptors, communication breaks down. Since the ECS regulates nearly every essential function in your body, many researchers believe that endocannabinoid deficiencies cause disease.

Fortunately, your body is also geared to respond to the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. CBD (cannabidiol) is just one of more than 113 phytocannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana, both varieties of cannabis. CBD mimics the effects of the endocannabinoids made in your body, interacts with ECS receptors, and helps support crucial functions regulated by the ECS, including those of your gut.

CBD Oil for Gastrointestinal Issues

The growing popularity of hemp-derived CBD is likely due to growing evidence of how it may regulate many essential functions in your body. Research shows that CBD has anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nausea, and antispasmodic properties. That means CBD has the potential to keep inflammation, nausea, chronic pain, and stress responses from wreaking havoc on your gastrointestinal and digestive health.

Knowing more about the gastrointestinal issues people are using CBD for could help you decide whether CBD oil is right for you.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), one of several gastrointestinal disorders caused by an overly aggressive immune system response to the gut biome. Ulcerative colitis is believed to be caused by an imbalance between intestinal microbiota and mucosal immunity causing excessive intestinal inflammation. Symptoms of the disorder can include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea (with pus or blood), rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fatigue.

In animal studies, CBD has been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation by inhibiting proinflammatory cytokine production. In other words, CBD has been shown to stop intestinal inflammation before it even begins. Similar results were noted by researchers examining colon samples from ulcerative colitis patients taking CBD oil.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

One of the more important functions of your gut biome is to protect the lining of your digestive tract. When the delicate balance of the gut microbiota is disrupted, harmful bacteria thrive. Imbalances between helpful and harmful bacteria trigger inflammation that increases intestinal permeability. The increased gut permeability allows harmful bacteria to pass through your intestines and migrate to other areas of your body. Some researchers believe leaky gut syndrome can lead to other types of IBD.

Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome include chronic diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, headaches, widespread inflammation, joint pain, and skin concerns like rashes, acne, or eczema. Current research suggests CBD oil helps restore healthy intestinal barrier function, protects the lining of the digestive tract from damage, and restores the integrity of intestinal mucosa.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a relatively common digestive disorder affecting the large intestine. Those living with irritable bowel syndrome are likely to experience gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or both. While the precise causes remain unclear, stronger than average contractions of the musculature of the digestive tract, poorly coordinated signaling between the brain and intestines, and changes in gut flora are believed to be the main contributors. Symptoms can be triggered by certain food, hormone fluctuations, or stress.

Renowned cannabinoid researcher Dr. Ethan Russo considers IBS to be one of the many chronic health conditions caused by endocannabinoid deficiencies. While very few clinical investigations have been conducted to confirm the benefits of CBD oil for IBS, we do know that gastrointestinal secretion, propulsion, and inflammation all involve processes regulated by the ECS.

Research shows that people living with IBS have elevated TRPV1 nerve fibers believed to contribute to the hypersensitivity of the GI tract. CBD has been shown to increase anandamide production, which is thought to act on TRVP1 receptors, while inhibiting the enzymes that break it down, which ultimately desensitizes TRVP1 nerve fibers.

Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to mistakenly target helpful gut bacteria while allowing unhealthy bacteria to thrive. The resulting chronic inflammation from this imbalance causes intestinal injury and ulcers.

The symptoms of Crohn's disease can include abdominal cramping, fever, fatigue, weight loss, and bloody stools. Complications can include abscesses of the intestinal wall, fissures, and nutrient malabsorption.

A 2018 study confirms the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids (CBD and THC) for treating symptoms of Crohn's disease. Study participants who received cannabis oil reported improved quality of life and significant reduction of Crohn's symptoms, with 65% meeting the strict criteria for disease remission. Surprisingly, researchers found no significant improvement in inflammatory markers but noted that CBD did improve symptoms for a significant number of test subjects.

Weight Gain and Obesity

While many people would not consider obesity the result of digestive disturbances, your ability to maintain your weight and manage food cravings may be more dependent on gut health than you realize. Evidence suggests that the composition of the bacteria in your gut has a direct impact on the way your body burns calories, absorbs nutrients, and fuels your desire to eat.

To help manage your weight and appetite, gut bacteria break down previously undigested carbohydrates (polysaccharides) into short-chain fatty acids. When fat cells detect short-chain fatty acids, they release a hormone called leptin to signal to your brain that you are full. If an unhealthy gut biome inhibits the release of short-chain fatty acids, you will want to continue eating. Your sense of satisfaction with your meal will depend on which bacteria are winning the battle.

Research shows that cannabinoid receptors are directly involved in regulating food intake, caloric expenditure, hormone secretion, and fat storage. Stimulation of specific ECS receptors is shown to reduce food intake and increase fat metabolization. Supporting the functions of your endocannabinoid system could help you feel satisfied with less food while supporting healthy digestive processes.

How To Use CBD Oil for Gut Health

Numerous people are using CBD oil for gut health, but CBD is not ideal for everyone. If you are receiving treatment for a medical condition or take medication, it's important to discuss CBD use with your healthcare provider before placing an order. CBD can interact with a significant number of medications, so you’ll want to confirm with your doctor that you’re making the safest decision for your health.

If your doctor says it’s okay for you to try CBD oil, you’ll then need to decide which type(s) of CBD product you’d like to use. The following product explanations could be beneficial for first-time CBD users.

CBD Tinctures or Drops

CBD tinctures include alcohol-distilled CBD and are often water-soluble for optimal bioavailability and absorption. CBD oil drops are a blend of cannabis extract and a carrier oil. Many companies use MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides) to aid cannabinoid absorption and provide additional health benefits.

While CBD tinctures can be mixed with food or added to your favorite beverage, many people prefer using sublingually (under the tongue) administered CBD oil drops. To use a sublingual CBD oil, simply hold the CBD oil under your tongue for 30–90 seconds before swallowing to allow the cannabinoids to enter your bloodstream. It can take up to 30 minutes to feel the effects of a sublingual CBD oil, but they usually last 2 to 4 hours.

CBD Vape Products

You can inhale cannabinoids in a manner quite similar to smoking by selecting a disposable vape pen, prefilled vape cartridges, or CBD vape oil to use with your favorite vape gear. Vaping CBD is considered to be among the most efficient CBD delivery methods because the cannabinoids bypass your digestive system. By doing so, this allows you to experience the full effects of the CBD vape oil within minutes of your first puff. While vaping CBD provides fast results, the effects are not as long-lasting as other CBD products, and typically wear off within an hour.

CBD Suppositories

CBD suppositories offer distinct advantages for gut health over other delivery methods because rectal absorption assures the most bioavailability of the cannabinoids. The effects of CBD suppositories are commonly felt within 10–15 minutes of insertion and the effects can last 6 to 8 hours. Suppositories may be your best option if you have difficulty swallowing, nausea, stomach pain, or other digestive complaints.

CBD Capsules and Edibles

CBD capsules, softgels, and other edibles like CBD gummies are most often preferred by CBD users who want a consistent dose of CBD in a convenient form. Capsules and gummies travel well and eliminate the need to mix, measure, or count drops.

Because capsules and edibles need to pass through your digestive system, you may not feel the effects for up to an hour. Once they do set in, you can typically expect the effects to last 4 to 6 hours, depending on your dose and metabolism.

CBD Transdermal Patches

When using a transdermal patch, cannabinoids enter your bloodstream through the surface of your skin. Your skin regulates the rate of product absorption. Like CBD suppositories, transdermal patches could be ideal if you have difficulty swallowing, have an upset stomach, or gastrointestinal pain. When you wear a CBD patch, the cannabinoids are released over a longer span of time, usually 24 to 48 hours.

CBD Dosage for Gut Health

Since CBD products are available in numerous concentrations, many people are initially confused about how much CBD they should take per dose. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer and thus you may have to experiment. The amount of CBD that works for you could be far more, or considerably less, than a dosage that works for someone else. While taking a larger dose than you need is not particularly harmful, taking too much CBD could increase your risk of minor side effects.

As a starting point, we’ve tested hundreds of CBD products and have come to the following dose recommendation:

The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25 mg of CBD Taken Twice Daily

Since everyone is different, it could take time for your body to respond to CBD. If you're not experiencing the results you are hoping for, increase your dosage by 25 mg every 3 to 4 weeks until you experience relief.

For more information, you may want to consult our CBD dosage guide. If you still have questions, consider consulting your physician or a naturopathic doctor who can offer personalized dosing advice based on your unique situation.

The Best CBD Oil for Gut Health

You don't need to be experiencing significant digestive distress to be living with the symptoms of an unhealthy gut. Since many of the neurotransmitters in your body are synthesized in your digestive tract, an unhealthy gut biome could affect your mood, energy levels, pain levels, or skin health.

If you are interested in supporting healthy gut function with CBD oil, be sure to purchase from a reputable source. Your CBD experience is directly influenced by the potency and purity of the products you select. Consider the value of the following suggestions.

Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, or CBD Isolate?

Since CBD is a cannabis product, there are two potential sources, hemp and marijuana, which are defined by their THC content. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that causes the intoxication or ‘high’ that marijuana is known for. Most CBD oil products are sourced from industrial hemp, which does not contain enough THC to cause intoxication.

If you are looking for a hemp-derived product, you have three possible formulations to choose from: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolate. Full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD contains all of the cannabinoids, plant terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals found in the original plant source, including trace amounts of THC—the federal limit for THC content in industrial hemp products is 0.3%.

If you prefer a THC-free option, you will want to select a product made with broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate. Broad-spectrum CBD contains the same basic profile as full-spectrum CBD oil but without the THC. CBD isolate is a flavorless, odorless substance that is pure CBD.

Know How Much CBD Your Products Contains

There are far too many companies selling hemp-derived products that contain far less CBD than specified on the label. Some mislead customers by claiming their hemp seed oil products offer the same therapeutic potential as CBD. It's important to remember that hemp seed oil does not contain CBD. If a CBD company is using vague terminology like “most potent” or “extra-strength” without specifying the CBD content in milligrams (mg), their products are not likely to contain enough CBD to be of any value.

Look for Third-Party Test Results

Reputable CBD companies insist on sourcing their product from plants cultivated using natural, sustainable farming methods. To ensure customer safety, products are routinely tested by an independent lab to ensure their purity and potency. Since any company could claim their products are tested, take a look at the Certificate of Analysis (COA) for any product you’re considering buying.

You can use these third-party test results to verify the cannabinoid content and terpene profile of your products, as well as check for evidence of microbial contamination, heavy metals, and solvent residue.

Verify the legality of CBD in Your State

Before placing your first order, be sure to verify the legality of CBD in your state. Although hemp-derived products containing 0.3% THC or less were decriminalized by the federal government with the passing of the 2018 farm bill, the legality of cannabis products is still determined at the state level.

Hemp-derived CBD products are legal in most states, but not all. Some states require that CBD users obtain a prescription from their doctor, while others restrict their residents to purchasing THC-free products. Several states don't allow CBD under any circumstances. We recommend checking your state’s .gov pages for the most up to date information.

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