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One of the many therapeutic applications of CBD oil is to help stop constipation. Stomach and intestinal pains can often be soothed with CBD products because CBD decreases inflammation, reduces nausea, and relieves stress. This article looks at the causes of constipation as well as how hemp oil might be useful.

It can be difficult to talk about constipation because of the taboo around bowel movements in our culture. It can also be difficult to treat because constipation can either be a problem itself, or a symptom of other problems in your stomach or digestive tract. However, using CBD can be part of the solution for most people failing to have regular bowel movements.

What is Constipation?

When everything in your digestive system is working properly, you should experience about three to four bowel movements per week. When you experience constipation, the amount of these bowel movements is lessened and sometimes even painful. While constipation comes in many forms, common symptoms include feeling bloated, painful bowel movements, lumpy or hard stool, and difficulty passing stool. It is entirely normal to have uncomfortable bouts of constipation due to consuming a super cheesy pizza or a short term medication. These are not uncommon or a sign of any kind of problems. The American Family Physician states that risk factors for normal constipation include:

  • female sex
  • older age
  • inactivity
  • low caloric intake
  • low-fiber diet
  • low income
  • low educational level
  • taking a large number of medications

While the risk factors above do not necessarily cause constipation, they are common identifiers amongst the group of people who often experience normal constipation.

What is Chronic Constipation?

However, constipation can also be chronic and leave patients with long term digestive system issues. Chronic constipation is then divided into either functional (primary) constipation or secondary constipation. Primary constipation is caused by something functionally wrong in your body whereas secondary constipation is caused by medical conditions or medication use.

Primary/Funcational Constipation

The category of primary constipation is then broken down into three categories: normal transit constipation, slow transit constipation, or outlet constipation. Normal transit constipation occurs when stool movement is normal throughout the colon but patients have difficultly actually defecating. This type of constipation usually responds to medical therapy, such as fiber supplementation or laxatives. Slow transit constipation occurs when the patient’s colon does not ramp up its activity levels after eating (as it should) to pass the stool through the body effectively. Patients with severe slow transit constipation tend not to respond to medical therapies. Outlet constipation occurs when patients cannot expel their stool when it reaches the rectum. Once again, this type of constipation is unlikely to respond to traditional medical treatment.

Secondary Constipation

Secondary constipation is named because the constipation is a symptom, rather than its own problem. For this type, some kind of medical problem or medication is the cause of constipation. Common medications that can cause this are antacids (especially with calcium), iron supplements, and opioids. Common medical conditions include cerebrovascular disease, depression, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, and irritable bowel syndrome.

What is CBD?

CBD is a cannabinoid found in the Cannabis Sativa plant species. Cannabis Sativa is the species of plant that is commonly known as pot, weed, or marijuana. This cannabis plant contains many different chemicals called cannabinoids. Two of the most famous cannabinoids found in cannabis are THC and CBD. However, researchers have found more than 100 cannabinoids as well as other smaller organic compounds, known as terpenes, in the plant. The Entourage Effect is a research-driven theory which states that all the compounds in a cannabis plant work together, and when taken together, they produce a better effect than when taken alone.

“Hemp” is a category name for the different strains of Cannabis Sativa that are rich in CBD and contains less than 0.3% THC. In 2018, the Farm Bill changed hemp plants fitting the above description from a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity, meaning that farmers across 46 states (sorry Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire and South Dakota!) could grow hemp legally.

While, in the common vernacular, hemp and CBD are generally used as interchangeable terms, hemp is a strain of the Cannabis Sativa plant which contains a high volume of the cannabinoid known commonly as CBD. Additionally, it is important to consider full spectrum CBD products as well to reap the benefits from the entourage effect.

How does CBD work in your body?

CBD products act on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system in the human body – which regulate sleep and sleep problems, mood, appetite, memory, immune responses, reproduction and fertility. The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors in our bodies that researchers still do not fully understand. These receptors create natural endocannabinoid substances to keep our bodies in homeostasis. This system is fully functional in all humans, even people who have never tried cannabinoids before. The system is only named after the cannabis plant that led to its discovery. The effects of CBD and CBD products on your body’s endocannabinoid system vary based on dosage, frequency of usage, weight, as well as a variety of other factors.

Can CBD help relieve constipation?

CBD works on your endocannabinoid system which (among its many responsibilities) is also responsible for regulating your gastrointestinal functions. Evidence even suggests that dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system may play a role in intestinal disorders such as including inflammatory bowel disease (one cause of secondary constipation).

While CBD acts on many parts of the human body, what can help fight constipation is its interaction with anandamide. Anandamide is one of the many natural endocannabinoids produced by our bodies. It is responsible for moderating pain and inflammation in damaged tissue. CBD controls inflammation and pain response by blocking an enzyme responsible for breaking anandamide down (FAAH). This allows your body to not only maintain sufficient levels of anandamide but also make it more readily available for your body. CBD can help address the triggers for slow transit and secondary chronic constipation.

Moreso, CBD also decreases stress which can aid in constipation relief. When in stressful situations, the body’s adrenal glands release a hormone called epinephrine. To protect your life, your body diverts blood flow from the intestines toward vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, and brain. As a result, intestinal movement slows down, and constipation can occur. While in a true fight-or-flight scenario this may be helpful, when you’re under daily stress this can cause you terrible discomfort with no benefit. CBD can help remind your body to divert blood flow evenly by reducing stress in addition to the aid it give through its anti-inflammatory properties. This will hopefully reduce constipation and allow for more normal bowel movements.

One increasingly common cause of secondary constipation is Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. An increasing body of research demonstrates a link between IBS symptoms like abdominal pain to the natural endocannabinoid system in your body. Since CBD acts to decrease inflammation in your body via the endocannabinoid system, it could be used to relieve pain. Additionally, recent studies have demonstrated as little as a single, 5mg dose of THC led to a reduction in colonic motility (the speed of gut emptying through the large intestine). For people with diarrhea-predominant and alternating IBS, This rate of emptying is often increased. This may also be another avenue for the Cannabis Sativa plant to offer symptom management of IBS.

Furthermore, CBD has been shown to help reduce nausea and vomiting, even to the point of increasing appetite. This can help combat secondary constipation as well as occasional bouts of constipation due to nausea or low-calorie intake.

Finally, CBD can help relieve secondary constipation caused by opioid use. CBD is non-addictive and can help reduce the dose and need for opioids use to treat chronic pain. CBD, and other cannabinoids, work to make opioids more effective in your body as well as reduce your tolerance to opioids. On top of its own pain-relieving effects, CBD can reduce the need for large qualities of opioids. Opioids can cause stomach pain and nausea leading to secondary constipation or can cause secondary constipation on their own. CBD can be an essentially side effect free solution for a reduction in opioid usage and thus opioid-induced constipation.

What form of CBD will be most effective?

There are many different ways to reap the benefits of CBD and each will have slightly different effects. For relieving constipation, topical CBD will have less of an effect because it is rubbed on the skin rather than ingested. Whereas edibles or under the tongue tinctures pass through the gastrointestinal system and therefore will be more effective for treating gastrointestinal issues such as constipation.

The effects of CBD in edible products take about one to two hours to start working because the cannabinoids are first absorbed in the gut and then modified in the liver. The effects of edibles usually subside after 6 hours in most people however, they may last up to 12 hours. CBD can also be made into a tincture which is then sprayed or dropped under the tongue. This allows the CBD to be absorbed directly into the blood vessels in the mouth. The cannabinoid effects will start within 15 minutes to an hour with a total duration of about 6-8 hours.

The best CBD products will always contain pure CBD. However pure CBD is much harder to obtain in America because of the deregulated CBD market. The FDA is responsible for protecting public health by regulating human drugs and biologics, animal drugs, medical devices, tobacco products, food and cosmetics. However, even though CBD can be used in all of these forms, it is not regulated by the FDA. The 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (also known as the Farm Bill) allowed farmers across 46 of the United States to grow hemp that contains less than .3% of THC. While this allowed Americans to have greater access to the healing benefits of CBD like never before, there has been no update in the safety regulation for the consumption of CBD. The FDA has even said that “CBD products currently sold in the United States are unregulated and untested” and that some of their own testing (via a third party lab) has revealed that some CBD products contain toxic metals, chemicals like BPA, herbicides, pesticides and even THC.

There are many CBD products on the market now, but the average consumer is still unable to know if their CBD products are safe and contain only CBD –– let alone where or how they are grown. All of this has a huge effect on the purity and efficacy of CBD products. It is important to make sure you get your CBD products from sources you trust to provide pure, high quality, and effective CBD products.

Additionally, it is important to consider full spectrum CBD products as well to reap the benefits from the entourage effect. Especially when using CBD oil to treat gastrointestinal issues, full spectrum CBD products can make a significant difference compared to isolated CBD products.

In conclusion……

There are many causes of both occasional and chronic constipation. Additional hydration, high fiber diets, and increased activity can help to relieve some constipation however not all forms of functional or secondary constipation will respond to conventional medical treatment. CBD may help your constipation, depending on the initial cause. CBD acts to reduce inflammation, reduce nausea and vomiting, and reduce stress. All of these problems can be triggers for constipation. Additionally, CBD has shown some promise in helping with endocannabinoid system disorders such as IBS as well as opioid reduction.

CBD oil for constipation is an excellent choice (as well as CBD edibles) because they are ingested and act on the gastrointestinal system. Additionally, it is important to source the right CBD from trusted providers to ensure quality and safety. There are very few side effects of CBD but overuse can sometimes produce dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and drowsiness or fatigue. In general, CBD can be an effective and safe way to treat both occasional and chronic constipation!

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