Your stomach hosts a microbiome. Trillions of bacteria—over 1,000 unique species—live inside your gut, helping you metabolize nutrients, protecting you from intestinal infections, and influencing your overall health in ways you’d never expect. A healthy gut means healthy digestion, but that’s not all; your gut health is integrally involved in your immune system function, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and even your mental health, as the majority of serotonin is produced in the gut.
There are plenty of ways to improve your gut health. Research in the past few decades shows ensuring good hydration, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and changing your diet can all help those gut bacteria maintain the ideal balance within you. In recent years, scientists have even been looking into CBD as a potential way to improve gut health.
The Endocannabinoid System
To understand how CBD could help gut health, we first need to understand how CBD acts within the body. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was “discovered” in the 1990s—that may seem like a while ago, but it’s fairly recent in terms of scientific history, so scientists are still learning more about how the ECS works.
Here’s what we do know: the ECS plays a hand in so many functions throughout the body. It affects sleep, mood, memory, reproductive health, metabolism, and digestion—and that’s just to name a few.
Endocannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoids) are cannabinoids produced naturally by your body—they’re present even if you don’t use cannabis products. These endocannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout your body, triggering your ECS to maintain homeostasis.
The interaction between your ECS and CBD isn’t yet entirely understood, but some scientists theorize that while CBD and endocannabinoid receptors have a low binding affinity, CBD influences them in some way, allowing people to experience the benefits of the ECS activation.
Using CBD to Improve Gut Health
As mentioned, the ECS plays a role in healthy digestive function, involved in both motility (the contraction of GI tract muscles) and gut inflammation. Stimulating and balancing the ECS with the use of CBD, combined with CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, may offer some benefit for people with IBS, IBD, colitis, and damaged stomach lining. In a less direct way, CBD can also be used to stimulate appetite, allowing those who struggle to maintain a consistent diet improve their gut health through more regular meals and healthier choices.