CBD and diarrhea
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- Research overview
- The studies
- Patient perspectives
- What the experts say
- Bottom line
CBD oil has been gaining traction among cannabis doctors and patients as a potential remedy for ailments ranging from arthritis to epilepsy. Taking CBD oil generally causes few side effects compared with many prescription medications and over-the-counter painkillers. There are possible side effects associated with CBD, though these may be rare and/or only occur in high oral doses.
Can using CBD oil help diarrhea? Or can CBD oil cause diarrhea? In this article, we’ll take a look at the effects of the cannabinoid on the body and highlight the most current research on CBD oil and diarrhea.
In 2019, the Mayo Clinic reported that CBD is generally well-tolerated but may cause a number of side effects — among them, diarrhea. At least two studies have confirmed a possible link between CBD oil and diarrhea, but research is still emerging and it’s important to consult your physician about starting a regimen and determining appropriate dosages.
Can CBD oil help diarrhea?
For some people, CBD oil and other cannabis products may help alleviate diarrhea and other symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). According to a 2016 literature review published in the journal Gastroenterology & Hepatology, cannabis and CBD may be used therapeutically to treat IBD. The authors of the review expressed concern for the side effects of cannabis on IBD patients, but ultimately concluded, “A significant portion of IBD patients, particularly those with severe disease, use cannabis to relieve symptoms of pain, nausea, and appetite and to improve their overall mood.” It is worth noting that the researchers focused on cannabis overall and not specifically CBD products.
For some people, CBD oil and other cannabis products may help alleviate diarrhea and other symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
One 2018 randomized control trial examined whether a CBD-rich botanical extract could help people with ulcerative colitis, a type of IBD with a litany of symptoms including diarrhea. Results, published in the scientific journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, determined that “CBD-rich botanical extract may be beneficial for symptomatic treatment of ulcerative colitis.”
Can CBD oil cause diarrhea?
One 2019 report, published in the journal Current Neuropharmacology, discussed the effects of CBD based on clinical trials of the FDA-approved drug Epidiolex, which is derived from CBD and prescribed to treat severe cases of childhood epilepsy. It also looked at the use of Epidiolex to treat psychiatric problems. The researchers determined that diarrhea was among the most common adverse effects for individuals taking Epidiolex to treat epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. They noted, however, that the incidence of any side effect was low compared to other drugs used to treat such conditions.
In 2018, results of randomized CBD trials were published in the journal CNS Drugs. In these trials, CBD was found to have a high level of tolerance with minimal adverse effects. Similar to the Epidiolex trials, these studies showed that diarrhea was among the most common side effects of CBD and occurred more frequently in individuals on a regimen of the cannabinoid than those taking a placebo. Researchers reported that the effects ranged from mild to moderate, with no severe cases.
Brooke Bogdan has been using medical cannabis since 2012 to address symptoms of ulcerative colitis. In a 2019 article published in Everyday Health, Bogdan shared how medical marijuana helped her find relief from chronic pain. When she started using cannabis, Bogdan’s condition was so severe that she needed to have a total colectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the colon.
Prior to the surgery, Bogdan had endured constant discomfort and nightly insomnia, but with the integration of medical marijuana into her treatment, she has witnessed vast improvements. Bogdan wrote, “Cannabis helped provide an outlet of relief for me when I was close to losing my life. When prescription medication doesn’t help my ulcerative colitis symptoms, I turn to cannabis.”
To help alleviate diarrhea, it is suggested to use CBD oil vape pens, tinctures and dabs rather than edibles. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Specifically, Bogdan mentioned that CBD oil vape pens, as well as tinctures and dabs, have relieved her symptoms. She advised against the consumption of edibles for people coping with ulcerative colitis because, “Our digestive tracts don’t function well, therefore we may not be able to absorb the medication into our systems via chewing and swallowing.”
Other patients have described experiencing minor diarrhea after consuming high levels of CBD. Curt Rollins is a retired florist who lives in Brunswick, Georgia. For more than 30 years, he worked with his hands designing intricate floral arrangements for weddings and baby showers. “I loved the work, but my hands paid the price,” Rollins revealed in a phone interview with Weedmaps.
When Rollins developed debilitating arthritis in both his hands, he turned to over-the-counter painkillers and cortisol shots, but nothing brought relief. Then, his doctor suggested CBD oil and his hands started to improve. “The pain got a lot better without too many side effects. But I did find that my stomach would get a bit upset if I had too much CBD oil every day,” Rollins shared.
How many milligrams of CBD would qualify as excessive? That depends on the individual, but a rule of thumb is that 500 milligrams or more is a high dose of CBD. Rollins continued, “When I reduced the dose or just rubbed the CBD oil on my hands instead of swallowing it too, I didn’t have any problems with nausea or diarrhea anymore.”
So, does CBD oil cause diarrhea? The answer is probably not, as long as you’re using CBD at lower levels under a qualified physician’s care. But elevated doses of CBD (or any medicine) may be problematic and affect the digestive system. Vaping or dabbing CBD can help users avoid the issue completely.
What the experts say
A link between CBD oil and diarrhea may exist, but only at high oral doses, according to Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist at Legacy Research Institute in Portland, Oregon, and a scientific adviser to Weedmaps. “Yes, CBD causes diarrhea at high oral doses, as reported in the Epidiolex clinical trials and randomized clinical trials in adults,” said Rae, referencing the two trials cited in this article.
Rae was quick to add that “most people will not take enough CBD to cause diarrhea; this usually happens at very high doses of 500 milligrams or more.”
Of course, a lower oral dosage of 400 milligrams, for example, could still trigger diarrhea in some individuals. Height and weight may also play a role. In addition, dietary habits, exercise frequency, and general health may influence whether taking CBD oil leads to diarrhea or not.
CBD oil interacts in different ways with the endocannabinoid system of each unique individual. Before you take CBD, discuss your best treatment options with your healthcare provider and always listen to what your body is telling you.
In terms of CBD easing diarrhea, especially acute bouts, Rae noted that there is little evidence that CBD is a directly useful tool. She asserted, however, that “CBD could still improve the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic bowel disorders, even if it doesn’t improve some specific symptoms like diarrhea.”
Other researchers agree. Dr. Timna Naftali, a gastroenterology specialist at Tel Aviv University’s Meir Hospital in Israel, studied the effects of a treatment with 15% CBD and 4% THC on patients with Crohn’s disease. Naftali found that 65% of patients experienced clinical remission and improved quality of life after eight weeks of cannabis treatment.
Mild to moderate diarrhea may coincide with using oral CBD at elevated doses, but no studies currently indicate that such effects are serious or result from taking CBD oil in lower doses or in different forms. As for whether CBD can help gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, the Israeli study is promising but more human trials are needed. For those who want to try it, an inhalable route is probably best.
CBD and diarrhea Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview The studies Patient perspectives What the experts say
CBD Oil Diarrhea: What is it and How NOT to Get it
Cannabidiol (CBD), is one of more than 110 cannabinoids found in marijuana. It is also available in large quantities in industrial hemp. CBD is non-intoxicating (meaning children can use it), and some experts link it with the alleviation of symptoms ranging from headaches to anxiety.
Aside from not causing a psychoactive high, CBD has few side effects. Still, there is a possibility of getting diarrhea from using too much CBD oil. This seems a little odd since some use CBD to successfully treat the symptoms of gastrointestinal issues (i.e. Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Other commonly reported side effects of CBD include tiredness and changes in appetite and weight.
Why Am I Getting Diarrhea from CBD Oil in the First Place?
Although it doesn’t happen particularly often, some users of CBD oil report feeling sick to their stomach soon after using it. Apart from the upset stomach, you may also take several trips to the bathroom as diarrhea takes hold. Does this mean you are one of the unlucky few who doesn’t react well to cannabidiol?
The likely answer is ‘not necessarily.’ While CBD oil can cause diarrhea as a side effect, it could be the other ingredients in the CBD oil that are causing your gastrointestinal distress instead. It could also be a simple case of flaws during the manufacturing process.
CBD oil can cause diarrhea as a side effect, but it could be other ingredients in the oil that are causing your distress.
CBD typically helps (not causes) stomach issues
In actual fact, most discuss CBD in the context of it helping with stomach issues rather than causing them. When the cannabinoid binds to the CB1 receptor in your endocannabinoid system (ECS), it reduces excessive gastric acid,* increases blood flow to your stomach lining to speed up the healing process,* and aids the lower esophagus in preventing reflux.* CBD may also help heal the digestive tract.*
If you are having GI problems with CBD, your first step should be to analyze the full list of ingredients. As with all health supplements, it is the quality and source of ingredients that make the difference. With CBD oil, hemp or marijuana grown in poor soil can significantly reduce quality. Lapses in quality can also result from including harmful chemicals in the extraction process.
Perhaps the biggest potential issue is the ‘carrier’ oil used in conjunction with the CBD. CBD oil is used with numerous carriers including MCT oil, emu oil, olive oil, hemp seed oil, or grapeseed oil. These carriers may improve the bioavailability of the cannabidiol.*
Beware MCT Oil!
Coconut oil and MCT oil are by far the most common carriers and are two of the possible culprits for stomach pain, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. This may especially be the case when using large quantities.
You may have heard of the ketogenic diet, which helps your body use fat as its main energy source. One of the biggest fads of the modern era is the ‘supercharged’ or ‘bulletproof’ coffee drink. This drink consists of brewed coffee, MCT oil, and grass-fed unsalted butter. It is for those following a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Proponents claim that they benefit from mental alertness, improved brain function, and more energy after consuming the drink, but you tend to get that feeling when drinking coffee anyway; at least in the short-term.
In any case, there are many reports of bulletproof coffee drinkers being forced to rush to the bathroom. While the coffee itself may be enough to make you go, some experts feel that the fats from the MCT oil could be making the situation worse.
In one study* that assessed the use of coconut oil (from which MCT oil is derived) for improving cholesterol, some participants reported diarrhea as a side effect. Other oils have also been known to be effective as a laxative, such as castor oil. And there have been reports* that people following an MCT ketogenic diet have side effects including bloating, cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea.
How to Avoid Disaster Pants When Using CBD Oil
It might be funny to hear about a person’s travails with diarrhea, at least until you become the victim! If possible, try and learn more about the MCT oil or other ingredients that a firm puts into their CBD tinctures. Email or call them if necessary.
Another option is to try out different CBD oils that have different ingredients or carrier oils. Compare which ones give you diarrhea and which ones do not. If you find that only certain combinations of ingredients cause you diarrhea, avoid those combinations in the future. If you find that they all give you diarrhea, it may be the CBD oil itself that is causing diarrhea. Try looking into edibles, capsules or balms to see if you can consume them without ill-effect.
It is also not wise to consume the CBD oil on an empty stomach, which might be the case when consumed in the morning. Ideally, eat some protein with your CBD to help reduce how quickly the body absorbs it.
If you take CBD oil and have diarrhea, make sure you stop taking it until the symptoms are gone. You may use this time to investigate whether it is another issue, such as stress or your diet, that is causing the problem. If your symptoms do not improve, contact a healthcare provider as you may have a different cause of diarrhea that is unrelated to the CBD oil.
A few final notes
Some doctors are not as “convinced” as others when it comes to the clinical efficacy of CBD. Still, it is more than worth it to try and speak with a general practitioner or healthcare provider about implementing CBD into your lifestyle. CBD (and cannabis in general) are becoming increasingly accepted. As such, more and more physicians are educating themselves as to the compound’s uses and applications.
Finally, be wary of the specific CBD product you’re purchasing. Due to lack of regulations, massive disparities in quality can exist from brand to brand. Take some time to research a few companies, read plenty of reviews, and seek out professional advice before deciding on any one particular brand. For your convenience we’ve listed a few of the top CBD brands below:
What to do if you are suffering from the unfortunate side effect of CBD diarrhea.