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CBD Constipation? The Link Between Your Endocannabinoid System and Gut Health

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In the past few years, the world has seen an explosion in the popularity of CBD products. Many users tout its potential health benefits, from stress relief to pain relief.

But as with all good things, there could be a flip side.

Some people wonder whether CBD can cause digestive issues, specifically constipation. Let's take a look at the science and see if these claims have any truth.

Can CBD Cause Constipation?

Woman holding her stomach standing in a restroom

CBD, or cannabidiol, interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex system that plays a role in numerous body processes, including those in the digestive system.

While research on CBD and constipation is limited, medical cannabis, which contains CBD, has been used by patients to address digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome [1].

That said, a few personal accounts and limited studies have suggested that extremely high doses of CBD might lead to constipation. However, the quantities discussed in such scenarios are significantly higher than what is found in typical over-the-counter CBD oils or gummies.

Even still, since there are so many underlying lifestyle factors for constipation, we don't want to discount that CBD oil may contribute to the cause of constipation or may alter one's bowel movements in some individuals.

What Causes Constipation?

Constipation is a common digestive issue where individuals have infrequent bowel movements, often accompanied by hard, dry stools. Here’s a deeper dive into the underlying causes:

  • Lack of Fiber: Dietary fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, acts as a "sweeper" in our digestive tracts, aiding in the movement of stool. A diet low in fiber can lead to harder stools that are more difficult to pass.
  • Low Fluid Intake: The colon can't add enough water to stools, making them hard and dry.
  • Physical Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle can lead to constipation. Regular physical activity can help stimulate the muscles in the intestines, aiding in bowel movements.
  • Medications: Some medications, especially certain antacids, painkillers (like opioids), and antipsychotics, can lead to constipation. Always consult with a healthcare provider regarding the side effects of any medication.
  • Stress: Chronic stress can lead to a disruption in the normal digestive process. When the body is under stress, it diverts energy and blood flow away from the digestive system, which can lead to constipation.
  • Ignoring the Urge: Regularly ignoring the body's signal to have a bowel movement can increase the risk of constipation over time.
  • Changes in Routine: Traveling or any other changes in routine can affect the digestive system. Changes in dietary habits, water intake, and even time zones can lead to temporary constipation.
  • Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis can cause constipation. Additionally, problems with the colon or rectum, like intestinal obstructions or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can lead to constipation.
  • Age: As people age, their metabolism slows, leading to decreased bowel activity.
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can slow down the digestive system, leading to constipation. The growing fetus can also exert pressure on the intestines, further contributing to the condition.

Does CBD Oil Cause Constipation More Regularly?

The vast majority of CBD oil users do not report constipation as a routine side effect. In fact, many users turn to CBD and cannabis products for potential relief from various gastrointestinal issues.

CBD oil and CBD tinctures are a concoction of CBD extract from the hemp plant mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut or hemp seed oil. This combination aids in preserving the CBD and its absorption when consumed.

Even though CBD oil is a popular CBD product that's been found to be well-tolerated, a subset of users might experience some digestive discomfort, particularly with high doses or when first introducing CBD oil into their routine.

This discomfort might manifest as gas, bloating, or bowel habit changes. However, it's essential to differentiate between temporary discomfort and genuine constipation. Everyone's body reacts differently, and what may be a therapeutic dose for one individual could lead to side effects in another.

How to Treat CBD Oil-Induced Constipation

If you believe CBD oil is the culprit behind your constipation, it's essential to approach the situation holistically, considering multiple aspects.

  1. Evaluation:
    • Reassess CBD Dosage: Sometimes, the body might react to higher doses of CBD. Consider reducing your dosage or taking a short break to observe if symptoms improve.
    • Other Medications and Interactions: Ensure that other medications or supplements you're taking aren't contributing to the constipation. Some drugs, especially certain antacids, painkillers, and certain high blood pressure medications can lead to constipation.
  2. Dietary Adjustments:
    • Increase Fiber Intake: Fiber acts as a natural laxative. Incorporating more fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can help stimulate bowel movements.
    • Hydration: Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can worsen constipation, as the colon pulls water from the stools to maintain hydration, making them harder and more challenging to pass.
    • Limit Dairy and Processed Foods: For some, reducing the intake of dairy or heavily processed foods can help alleviate constipation.
  3. Physical Activity:
    • Regular Exercise: Engaging in physical activity can help stimulate the muscles in your intestines, aiding bowel movements. Even simple activities like walking can have a positive impact.
  4. Over-the-Counter Solutions:
    • Mild Laxatives: If you're looking for quick relief, mild over-the-counter laxatives can be an option. However, they should be used sparingly and not as a long-term solution.
    • Stool Softeners: These can make it easier to pass stools.
  5. Natural Remedies:
    • Probiotics: These can help balance the gut microbiome, potentially aiding in regular bowel movements. They can be consumed in the form of supplements or fermented foods.
    • Herbal Teas: Some teas, such as peppermint or senna, can have a mild laxative effect and might help constipation.
  6. CBD Product Quality:
    • Check Product Source: Ensure that your CBD oil is of high quality. Low-quality products might have impurities or additives that could contribute to digestive discomfort.
  7. Consultation:
    • Medical Advice: If constipation persists or is severe, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. They can offer personalized advice, rule out other underlying issues, and guide managing symptoms.

Can CBD Gummies Cause Constipation?

A bottle of CBD Gummies spread on a wooden piece next to a gummies jar

CBD gummies have risen to popularity in the many possibilities of CBD products because they're easy to consume, deliver pre-measured doses of CBD, and taste great.

However, like any consumable, the ingredients that make up these gummies can potentially affect one's digestive system. While CBD might not be the primary cause of constipation for most users, some components of gummies could be the underlying culprits.

Ingredients in Gummies That Can Potentially Affect Digestive Health

  • High Sugar Content: Sugar, especially in large quantities, can upset the balance of the gut microbiome. A disrupted gut microbiome can slow down digestion, potentially leading to constipation.
  • Gelatin: This common gummy ingredient, derived from animal collagen, can be hard for some individuals to digest, leading to stomach discomfort. Neurogan CBD Gummies are vegan-friendly and made from pectin, a plant-based gelling agent.
  • Artificial Colors and Preservatives: Some individuals might be sensitive to certain artificial additives, which can disturb their digestive processes.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): HFCS, often used as a sweetener, can cause bloating and uncomfortable digestion in some individuals when consumed in high quantities.
  • Sorbitol: This sugar substitute, often used because of its moisture-stabilizing properties, can have a laxative effect when consumed in large amounts. However, it might cause the opposite effect for some, leading to constipation.

Can CBD Help with Constipation? The Link Between the ECS and Digestive Tract

The world of CBD is curious — its effects are multifaceted and sometimes paradoxical.

One person might experience digestive slowing, while another might find relief from constipation. To understand this, one must delve deeper into the underlying mechanisms, particularly the interplay between the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and digestive health.

The ECS has a prominent presence in the gastrointestinal (GI) system. CB1 and CB2, the primary cannabinoid receptors, are found throughout the gut lining and play roles in gut motility and inflammation.

The rate at which food moves through the digestive tract is known as gut motility. Studies suggest activating CB1 receptors can decrease gastrointestinal motility, potentially leading to constipation [2]. Conversely, blocking these receptors might increase motility, suggesting a nuanced role for cannabinoids.

The ECS and CBD have also been studied for their role in managing pain and inflammation in the GI tract, particularly in conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) [3]. By potentially reducing inflammation, cannabinoids might alleviate some of the secondary symptoms, like constipation or diarrhea, associated with these conditions.

The Promise of CBG (Cannabigerol) and Bowel Function

Cannabigerol (CBG) might be less famous than its cannabinoid siblings, but it's emerging as a compound of interest.

Hand holding a CBD + CBD Oil dropper in a study room

Preliminary research highlights its potential in multiple areas. For instance, much like THC, CBG is believed to stimulate appetite without the accompanying psychoactive effects [4]. A consistent and healthy appetite can pave the way for regular eating habits, indirectly promoting smoother bowel movements.

CBG, like its better-known counterpart CBD, might also possess anti-inflammatory properties. These could significantly regulate bowel function and alleviate symptoms commonly seen in inflammatory bowel conditions like Chron's disease and IBD [5].

Is There a Recommended Dose of CBD Oil for Constipation?

Given the lack of extensive research on the topic, there's no universally recommended CBD dose for constipation. Everyone's endocannabinoid system is unique.

If you're new to CBD, starting with a modest dose, say 5-10 mg daily, and gradually increasing it can be a safe approach to avoid potential digestive problems.

Can CBD Oil Cause Constipation in Dogs?

There's no direct evidence linking CBD oil to constipation in dogs.

However, excessive doses might lead to appetite changes or diarrhea in pets. Dogs have a unique endocannabinoid system like humans, and introducing cannabinoids can produce different responses. The popularity of CBD oil for pets, especially dogs, has surged in recent years, with the best CBD oil for dogs offering potential relief from anxiety, pain, and various other conditions.

Infographic of the Endocannabinoid System in animals

One common concern that pet owners might face when administering CBD oil to their dogs is the potential for side effects.

Overdosing or giving excessive amounts of CBD oil might not directly lead to constipation, but it can cause other digestive issues. Appetite changes are a potential consequence, with some dogs experiencing an increase or decrease in their usual food intake. Diarrhea is another possible side effect, indicating that the pet's digestive system might be reacting to the CBD oil.

Infographic of the Endocannabinoid System in dogs and cats explained

To avoid these unpleasant experiences, choose products that have been third-party tested. This ensures the purity of the CBD and confirms that harmful elements, such as pesticides or heavy metals, are absent.

While sharing your CBD stash with your furry friend might be tempting, it's not recommended. Dogs have different metabolic rates and body structures, meaning they process substances differently. Many CBD products for humans might contain additives or concentrations unsuitable for pets. Therefore, it's best if you stick to CBD oil or dogs with arthritis instead of using human-grade CBD oil.
Katrina Lubiano

BA in English Katrina has always had a passion for health sciences and literature. She works as a content writer, editor, and strategist in the health and wellness space, primarily focusing on cannabis education. She’s written well over 400,000 words on the subject—including demystifying laws a...

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