What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal condition which affects 35,000,000 Americans. Symptoms of IBS include constipation, diarrhea, visceral (stomach) pain, and even some mild psychological impediments. People usually experience their first IBS symptoms by age 35, and two-thirds of those affected are women. There is no known cause of irritable bowel syndrome, and research is focused on solving the underlying issue as this is a chronic condition that can persist for life in some severe cases.
The stomach and digestive tract have two basic mechanisms of digestion:
The first mechanism works by secreting acid and enzymes which break food down to its constituent nutrients.
The second mechanism is composed of the muscles lining the stomach and intestines, which push food through the digestive tract by contracting in a rhythmic pattern called peristalsis.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can involve negative reactions to food or the acidic environment of the stomach. Symptoms can also involve the function of the muscles, and the common neuromuscular condition of spasticity has been known to play a role in certain cases of irritable bowel syndrome. In many cases, anxiety and even depression occur as a result of IBS for reasons both conscious and neurochemical.
The vagus nerve controls the activity of peristaltic muscles, and every organ from the neck down. Rather than travelling through the spinal cord, it protrudes from very near to the fear/anxiety center of the brain, and scientists believe that a “gut feeling” is mediated by the vagus nerve.
Indeed, many of the symptoms of IBS seem to be neurological by nature, and the vagus nerve controls all of the organs involved in IBS. Research on the nervous implications of IBS focus on dysfunction of the vagus nerve, and CBD stands out among potential treatment options. Including spasticity, misfiring and over-sensitivity could both play roles in the diverse symptomatology of IBS.
Can CBD relieve the symptoms of IBS?
As the medical community has only begun to realize the true potential of endocannabinoid modulation as a viable medical treatment option, research on the true value of CBD for IBS is lacking. However, several studies show a correlation between CBD administration and positive changes in perceived symptoms. The digestive system has a relatively high number of CB1 cannabinoid receptors, which would partially explain the action of cannabis-based medicine on this disorder. The endocannabinoid receptors in the stomach and intestines function to fine tune the production of acid and enzymes in the stomach, and they also modulate the firing of the peristaltic muscles. Clearly, the endocannabinoid system has large implications in the causation and treatment of IBS.
Muscle spasms and spasticity go hand in hand, and CBD already has a strong clinical background in relieving these conditions. The muscles of the stomach can also spasm or simply contract at the wrong rate or pressure. This will result in cramps and diarrhea if the contractions are too strong, and constipation and discomfort if they are too soft. Through retrograde signalling, CBD is able to rebalance the endocannabinoid regulators that normally control this process.
As for the psychological implications of IBS, CBD is most popular for their treatment and relief in people who don’t even have irritable bowel syndrome. CBD is a serotonin agonist, and it also induces the secretion of serotonin. Both of these actions relieve anxiety and also promote even muscle function. Your body is designed to work correctly. Over millions of years of evolution, the kinks have been mostly worked out. The phytocannabinoids found in cannabis have an uncanny ability to bring proper function back to the systems of our body when the go awry.