Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
No one likes to talk about it, but at one point or another, everyone has experienced issues while going #2. Anecdotal stories, in particular, abound about problems arising in cannabis use. But the question remains, can marijuana actually cause diarrhea?
The short answer is somewhat complicated: anecdotally, marijuana can cause and soothe discomfort associated with diarrhea and constipation. However, the research still has a long way to go to provide medical cannabis patients with an informed answer.
This article dives into the specifics of how cannabis interacts with our digestive system and what to know about diarrhea and constipation associated with the use of marijuana.
How Marijuana Helps You Poop
For centuries, people have used cannabis for medicinal reasons, including problems with our digestive system. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) manages multiple regulatory processes in our bodies, including digestion and waste elimination. Since cannabis directly interacts with the ECS, added to the fact that the gastrointestinal organs have a high concentration of endocannabinoid receptors, it makes sense that it would interplay with our time in the restroom.
The cannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestinal tract influence bowel movements, though little research has explored precisely how cannabis compounds interact with these receptors.
Most studies on cannabis’ effect on gastrointestinal issues focus on patients with irritable bowel disease (IBD) or Crohn’s disease due to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory effects. However, there’s promising research to suggest that cannabis may be helpful for other digestive illnesses.
Marijuana reduces abdominal pain and increases appetite, potentially encouraging the body to properly digest foods and poop normally. And a recent population study found that current cannabis users were less likely than non-users to report experiencing constipation.
How to Recognize Diarrhea and Constipation From Marijuana
If you think you’re experiencing marijuana-induced diarrhea or constipation, look out for the following signs and learn how to mitigate or stop unpleasant symptoms.
The symptoms of cannabis-related diarrhea and constipation are, understandably, the same as diarrhea or constipation related to other illnesses. Signs of diarrhea include:
- Loose, runny stools
- Stomach cramps
- Sudden and frequent need to visit the restroom
The symptoms of cannabis-induced constipation include:
- Less than frequent bowel movements,
- Painful to go to the bathroom
- Cramps in abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Hard stools
How to Stop It
When experiencing diarrhea or constipation related to medical marijuana use, simply stopping your use or lowering your dosage should be enough to mitigate any unpleasant symptoms. Additionally, some anecdotal evidence points to edibles and oils as more likely to cause digestive issues – if you use edibles to medicate, switching to vapes or smoking may also stop symptoms.
When to Be Concerned
Diarrhea or constipation, whether cannabis-related or not, usually goes away within a few days after taking steps to address the issue. However, longer-term symptoms may be an indication of a larger health concern.
Colon or rectal cancers, tearing in the lining of the anus, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) all feature diarrhea or constipation as a symptom. If you are experiencing long-term bowel movement problems, it may be worth consulting your doctor for a professional opinion.
Cannabis users can also experience diarrhea or constipation due to what’s called cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). This rare but concerning condition often occurs in heavy, continued cannabis use, potentially due to an overload of THC stored in fat cells in the body.
CHS is accompanied by recurrent bouts of pain in the stomach and intense nausea and vomiting. Symptoms typically vary in the three phases of CHS:
- Prodromal Phase. Includes abdominal pain and nausea.
- Hyperemetic Phase. Lasts 24-48 hours and often includes compulsive vomiting.
- Recovery Phase. Symptoms gradually lessen and disappear with decreased cannabis use.
While all these symptoms are unpleasant, it’s easy enough to treat CHS: simply abstain from THC for a while until you can rebuild your tolerance. A hot shower, black pepper (which contains beta-caryophyllene), and soothing distractions will help soothe symptoms.
The Bottom Line
More research is needed to understand how and why cannabis can cause and alleviate diarrhea and constipation. However, each individual should act according to their body’s needs and response to cannabis. If it helps, great! If it causes more problematic symptoms, be sure to discuss your experience with a Leafwell doctor to understand better how to mitigate issues while enjoying the many benefits of medical marijuana.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes diarrhea, the THC or the CBD?
There’s no definitive answer. We need more research to affirmatively say which cannabinoid, THC, CBD, or the hundreds of others in cannabis, actually causes diarrhea. The entourage effect also affects how a particular cultivar interacts with the body’s gastrointestinal system, making it more complicated.
Why does eating cannabis upset my stomach?
Eating cannabis edibles upsets the stomach due to the high levels of THC introduced into the body via the liver instead of through the lungs. The liver processes THC into a version of the cannabinoid that’s much more potent, and too much can bypass cannabis’ anti-nausea effects and go straight to causing nausea and stomach discomfort.
An upset stomach after cannabis use may also be associated with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. It’s also worth remembering that the edible you’re eating may have ingredients other than cannabis that may be causing an upset stomach.
Is marijuana good for constipation?
While more research is needed, marijuana anecdotally is good for helping with constipation. Cannabis can relax stomach discomfort and increase appetite, encouraging users to eat food that’ll help the digestive system get back on track.