Can CBD cause constipation? How does it affect digestion?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is known to have side effects that are related to the digestive system. Do you think constipation is one of them? Well, here is one way to find out: keep reading.

A girl having stomach pain and discomfort lying on a bed

Key takeaways

  • Constipation means difficulty passing stool or having infrequent bowel movements. Similar to diarrhea, it is a common gastrointestinal issue.
  • CBD does not typically cause constipation; it is known to cause diarrhea rather. Diarrhea is a common side effect of CBD.
  • If you experience constipation after taking medical CBD, it's important to discontinue the medication and see a doctor for proper treatment.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural substance found in the cannabis plant. This substance doesn't make you feel high, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another compound found in cannabis.

People use CBD due to its health benefits, such as helping with sleep disorders, reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and reducing anxiety. It comes in different forms, such as CBD oils, topicals, tinctures, gummies, capsules, and lots more.

Can CBD cause constipation?

No, CBD does not typically cause constipation; rather, it does the opposite, i.e., it can cause diarrhea.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, one of the common side effects of CBD on the digestive system is diarrhea (frequent stooling) and decreased appetite when taken in excess. However, such symptoms typically improve when you stop taking CBD or when you reduce the amount you take.

CBD and the digestive system

CBD can interact with a network of the body's receptors and neurotransmitters known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), causing a chain of reactions, such as changes in appetite.

ECS is found in almost all parts of the body, including the digestive system. It plays an important role in regulating various processes in the body, including those related to the digestive system.

Here are some ways in which CBD may interact with the digestive system:

  • Regulation of appetite: CBD regulates appetite and feeding behavior. It may influence appetite through its interaction with the ECS receptors. Research suggests that it may have an anorexigenic effect (suppression or reduction of appetite and food intake). This corresponds with a decrease in body weight.
  • Reducing nausea and vomiting: Researchers have explored the antiemetic (anti-nausea and vomiting) potentials of CBD. This is important for people undergoing chemotherapy or experiencing nausea and vomiting due to other medical conditions or treatments.
  • Reduce inflammation: CBD has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, which may benefit people with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Inflammation in the digestive tract can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain and weight loss.
  • Pain management: CBD may help alleviate pain, including abdominal pain associated with medical conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Regulating bowel movements: Research suggests that CBD might influence gut motility, helping to relieve conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal pain.
  • Balancing gut microbiota: CBD also has a positive impact on the gut microbiota (a community of microorganisms that inhabit the digestive tract). A healthy gut microbiome is important for proper digestion and one's overall health.

What to do if you experience constipation after taking medical CBD

If you experience constipation after taking medical CBD, it's important to discontinue the medication and consult a healthcare professional.

Your doctor may take your medical history and run some tests to determine what might be the cause of the constipation. They may advise you to reduce the dose of CBD you take or even change to another form of CBD for you.

What are some potential causes of constipation?

Constipation is a common symptom that can be associated with different medical conditions. Potential causes of constipation include:

  • Not consuming enough fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can lead to constipation.
  • Not taking enough water can make your stool hard and difficult to pass through the guts.
  • Lack of physical activity can reduce bowel movements.
  • Suppressing the urge to have a bowel movement can lead to constipation.
  • Certain medications, such as some painkillers (e.g., opioids), certain antidepressants, and some antacids that contain calcium or aluminum, can cause constipation.
  • Medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hypothyroidism, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, or spinal cord injuries.
  • Hormonal changes, mostly in women during pregnancy and menstruation, can lead to constipation.
  • Physical blockages in the colon or rectum, often due to tumors or abnormal narrowing, can lead to constipation.
  • Pain during bowel movements can make one avoid pooing even when they feel like it. This can lead to constipation.
  • As people age, their digestive system may not function as well as it used to, or there may be impairments in how it functions, increasing the likelihood of intestinal and gut motility issues like constipation.

Tips for preventing digestive issues when using CBD

While it's generally considered safe to consume CBD, some people may still experience digestive issues when using it.

Below are some tips to help you prevent digestive issues when using CBD:

  • Start with a low dose: A doctor will recommend you start with a low dose of CBD and gradually increase it until the right dose for your body is achieved. This will help reduce the likelihood of experiencing digestive issues.
  • Choose high-quality products: When going to buy CBD products, buy from trusted pharmacy stores and reputable manufacturers. When it comes to CBD, quality matters, and low-quality products may contain additives that can lead to digestive discomfort.
  • Opt for full-spectrum CBD: Full-spectrum CBD contains a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds found in the cannabis plant. This can provide a more balanced and potentially gentler effect on the digestive system compared to isolated CBD.
  • Take it with food: Consuming CBD with a meal can help relieve any potential digestive discomfort. This will also enhance the absorption of CBD, as it is fat-soluble.
  • Stay hydrated: Make sure you drink plenty of water when using CBD. Staying hydrated can help support your digestive system and prevent any dehydration-related issues.
  • Monitor for allergies: Some people are allergic to certain compounds in CBD products. If your body reacts unusually or you experience digestive issues, it is advisable to stop using the product and consult a healthcare professional.
  • Consider Alternative Methods: If you experience digestive issues with one method (e.g., edibles), you may want to try a different form of CBD, such as topicals or capsules. But consider speaking with a medical professional before trying out other methods.
  • Maintain a Balanced Diet: Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve overall digestive health and may help complement the effects of CBD.

Everyone's body is different. What works for another person may not work for you. It's important to listen to your body and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about using CBD, especially if you have pre-existing digestive conditions or are taking other medications.

Treatment for constipation

Constipation can be uncomfortable, but there are several lifestyle changes, home remedies, and medical treatments that can help alleviate and prevent it. Let's discuss some treatment options below:

Increase fiber intake

Slowly increase your intake of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. This makes it easier for you to defecate.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and aim for at least 8–10 glasses of water every day. Proper hydration helps keep the stool soft and easier to pass.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is known to help stimulate bowel movements and promote overall digestive health. Opt for about 20–30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week.

Establish a routine

Try to have regular meal and toilet schedules. This can help regulate your digestive system.

Avoid processed foods and dairy

Highly processed foods and excessive dairy consumption can sometimes contribute to constipation. Consider reducing their intake.

Limit caffeine and alcohol

Both caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration, which can increase your chances of having constipation. It’s best to consume them in moderation.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications

If lifestyle changes aren't enough, over-the-counter medications like bulk-forming laxatives (e.g., Metamucil) or stool softeners (e.g., Dulcolax) may be helpful.


This is a specialized therapy that can help people with chronic constipation by teaching them how to control and strengthen the muscles used during bowel movements.

Final thoughts

When you experience constipation while taking CBD, it may not be because of the CBD itself. It can be from other ingredients used in manufacturing the particular type of CBD you are consuming. For example, certain additives, carrier oils, and sweeteners that are added to CBD may be the cause of your constipation.

If constipation persists or is accompanied by severe pain, bleeding, weight loss, or other concerning symptoms, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for proper treatment.