CBD for Acid Reflux: Does It Help with Heartburn?

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Have you ever experienced that burning sensation after eating, especially after having something spicy?

Been there, done that.

Actually, we’re not alone in this.

According to statistics, 1 in 5 Americans experiences heartburn, also known as acid reflux.

Most people tackle acid reflux with over-the-counter medications, but to no avail. Relief is only short-term, not to mention an array of unpleasant side-effects if you take these meds regularly.

It’s no wonder that people are looking for a healthier alternative to treat acid reflux, one that could address the problem properly, and without taking a toll on their health.

You may be wondering if CBD can treat acid reflux. After all, CBD has a long list of science-backed benefits; support for the gastrointestinal system is one of them.

CBD oil can be an effective treatment for many digestive problems, including acid reflux disease. In this article, we’ll cover the potential benefits, explain how CBD works in the body to relieve heartburn and talk about CBD’s safety profile.

What is Acid Reflux?

acid reflux ger illustration on a white background

The gastrointestinal system is one of the most complex and sensitive human organ systems. Upsetting your digestive network may lead to the overproduction of backflow of stomach acid — an event referred to as acid reflux.

Acid reflux happens when the stomach acid travels backward in your stomach area to your throat via the esophagus, which is a tube connecting the two. This backwash often damages the lining of the esophagus, causing irritation.

The discomfort experienced around the upper abdomen, which sometimes results in a painful burning sensation in the chest known as heartburn.

People with acid reflux suffer from heartburn after a decent hearty meal, drinking coffee, and alcohol.

On top of heartburn, acid reflux may be accompanied by difficulty in swallowing, nausea, or vomiting. It can also make your voice hoarse, cause sore throat, and a bad taste from the mouth.

What Causes Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux can have many causes, but most commonly it occurs when the muscles that control the tube between the stomach and esophagus fail to entirely close, allowing acids and food to flow back in the stomach. This can damage the tissue around that area.

Is Acid Reflux the Same as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Yes and no.

From a medical standpoint, acid reflux is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux (GER). If this transforms into a more severe form that causes chronic symptoms, then it’s a Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly abbreviated to GERD.

GER and GERD share the same symptoms, including heartburn, but for GERD, the symptoms occur more than twice a week.

Furthermore, symptoms of GERD can include sour liquid, difficulty in swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and regurgitation.

Prevalence of Acid Reflux (Statistics)

In North America, up to 28% of the population is affected by GERD. Mostly the younger population — 30–39 years old — are more likely to suffer from the disease, contrary to a common belief that this problem is dominant among the older groups. (1)

The Healthcare and Utilization Project, a US government-run database of hospital care information reports that 60% of the population suffers from acid reflux some time during the year, with 20-30% experiencing the burn weekly.

Hospitalizations with either a primary or secondary GERD diagnosis increased by 216% between 1998 and 2005.

How Could CBD Help With Acid Reflux?

cbd affects ecs illustration

CBD can act on our gastroesophageal tract, but if you want to understand how this mechanism works, you need to take a closer look at the role of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in our well-being.

The ECS and its cannabinoid receptors regulate a vast range of biological functions, including the gastric function. A properly functioning endocannabinoid system ensures homeostasis — the state of balance between all processes that take place within your body.

Studies have shown that there are high concentrations of cannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. Cannabinoids produced by the body, as well as those derived from cannabis plants, can regulate gastrointestinal motility, immunity and inflammation, gastric and intestinal acid secretion, emesis pathways, and nociception (2).

Below we go deeper into the two main areas of acid reflux that CBD can help with.

CBD Is an Anti-Inflammatory

While more clinical trials are needed to determine if CBD is a viable option for treating acid reflux, some studies suggest that CBD may play an important role in dealing with the symptoms of the condition, increasing the endocannabinoid system’s ability to combat inflammation and repair mucosal damage.

Apparently, CBD attaches to cannabinoid receptors located in the soft muscle tissue of the gastrointestinal system to calm involuntary muscle movements (peristalsis) that move food and waste. It also controls the secretion of hydrochloric acid, reduces the chances of it going back into the esophagus. In addition, CBD can curb inflammation and burn in the lining of the esophagus.

CBD Helps Relieve Pain

In a 2017 study conducted in Sweden by scientists from AstraZeneca, the research team suggested that medical cannabis, including CBD, may help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD because “activation of cannabinoid receptors CB1, CB2 produces analgesic [or pain relieving] effects in several experimental pain models, including visceral pain arising from the gastrointestinal tract.” (3)

Since pain is a major problem with GERD, CBD’s painkilling properties have sparked attention in the medical community. An earlier study conducted in 2009 has highlighted the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of CBD and its role in the modulation CB1 and CB2 receptors (4).

How to Take CBD for Acid Reflux

CBD’s potential to treat acid reflux is promising, so it shouldn’t come to your surprise that so many people are considering it as an alternative treatment to OTC medications.

But how do you know how to take CBD for acid reflux to get the most out of your therapy?

Here’s a concise guide:

CBD Oil

CBD oil is the most common form of CBD. It comes in bottles with a glass dropper attached to them for precise dosing. CBD oil calls for sublingual administration. Simply put, the user needs to take it under the tongue, hold it in the mouth for about 60 seconds, and swallow. This way, CBD oil doesn’t have to pass through the digestive system and can produce its effects faster — usually within 15–30 minutes after ingestion. The effects last for up to 6 hours.

CBD Capsules

Like all health supplements out there, CBD has an encapsulated form. CBD capsules are usually soft gels that contain a pre-measured dose of CBD. Capsules make supplementation more convenient because they take away the whole dropper mess, not to mention that you can easily take them on the go or keep them in your office cabinet without anybody raising brows. However, if you want to take CBD capsules for acid reflux, keep in mind that they will have a slower onset. Unlike CBD oil, capsules have to be metabolized in your digestive system in order to take effect. You’ll need to wait anywhere between 40–90 minutes to feel the difference in your symptoms.

CBD Edibles

Edibles are just like capsules, but they’re more enjoyable because of the different flavors they are infused with. The most popular type of CBD edibles are gummies; these little gummy bears contain a fixed amount of CBD to provide you with a fun way to take your daily dose of cannabidiol. Again, the effects are delayed due to the “first-pass effect” in the liver.

CBD Vapes

Vaping is arguably the most efficient way to take CBD for acid reflux. It offers the highest bioavailability — up to 56% compared to 35% in tinctures and 20% in oral products — and produces the fastest effects. That’s because CBD is absorbed through the lung tissue right into the bloodstream. Usually, users report the first difference within 3–5 minutes after inhalation. However, CBD vapes achieve peak effects relatively fast and disappear within 2-3 hours, so there are better options out there if you need long-lasting relief from your acid reflux symptoms.

CBD Dosage: How Much CBD Oil Should You Take for Acid Reflux?

cbd oil bottle with cbd chemistry diagram on a decorative background

There are no officially established dosage guidelines when it comes to CBD. The FDA has yet to analyze and establish the efficacy and safety of hemp-derived cannabidiol in order to rule out any further recommendations. Until then, CBD oil and other hemp products are categorized as health supplements and thus lack regulations when it comes to dosing, labeling, and manufacturing standards.

The best CBD dosage for acid reflux will depend on several factors, such as your age, gender, weight, metabolism, unique body chemistry, the severity of symptoms, and your prior experience with CBD.

It’s generally recommended to start with a low dose to assess your body’s response to CBD. An optimal starting dosage is between 1–6 mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of a person’s body weight. After one week, you can reassess the effects and adjust the amount of CBD as needed.

Keep a dosage journal to write down different doses and times; this will help you get an accurate view of how they affect your acid reflux symptoms.

Is CBD Safe for Acid Reflux?

CBD has the upper hand over conventional anti-acid reflux medications because it lacks dangerous side effects associated with the latter. Numerous health organizations, including study, have acknowledged CBD as a safe and effective compound. Studies show that CBD is well-tolerated in humans in doses up to 1,500 mg daily (5).

That being said, CBD has a few mild side effects, such as dry mouth, a temporary drop in blood pressure, dizziness, or changes in appetite. Most people, however, don’t experience these side effects at regular doses.

Potential CBD-drug interactions are the main concern of people who want to incorporate CBD into their daily routine. CBD engages with the same group of enzymes that breaks down active ingredients in pharmaceutical medications. If you’re taking any prescription or OTC meds, be sure to consult your doctor in order to avoid these interactions and collateral side-effects.

Conclusion: Is CBD a Viable Option for Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is an unpleasant condition in which the stomach gets upset, leading to backflow or “reflux” of gastric acid to the esophageal tract. Acute acid reflux can turn into a chronic one due to a poor diet and bad lifestyle choices (e.g. smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol). When that happens, it results in GERD, which is a chronic disease.

CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system results in the softening of the gastrointestinal muscles and protects their lining against damage. Improved peristalsis of these muscles prevents fluid backflow to the esophagus, also regulating acid production.

CBD is a promising compound when it comes to treating acid reflux, although we need more longitudinal studies to draw definite conclusions in this subject. If you’re considering a CBD treatment for acid reflux, you should seek advice from a doctor expert on cannabis.

Do you take CBD for acid reflux?

References:

  1. Yamasaki, T. et al. “The Changing Epidemiology of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Are Patients Getting Younger?”. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility (2018), 24(4): 559-569. https://doi.org/10.5056/jnm18140
  2. Aviello, G et al. “Cannabinoids and gastrointestinal motility: animal and human studies.” European review for medical and pharmacological sciences vol. 12 Suppl 1 (2008): 81-93.
  3. Gotfried, J., Kataria, R., and Schey, R. “Review: The Role of Cannabinoids on Esophageal Function — What We Know Thus Far.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2017), 2(1):252–258.
  4. Elikottil, J. et al. “The Analgesic Potential of Cannabinoids”. Journal of Opioid Management (2009), 5(6): 341–357.
  5. The World Health Organization. “Cannabidiol (CBD): Critical Review Report”. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, Fortieth Meeting, Geneva, 4–7 June 2018. Source: https://www.who.int

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