A beginner guide to CBD oil for eating disorders

A beginner guide to CBD oil for eating disorders


Sam North is an experienced cannabis consultant and writer who provides education and guidance for businesses, commercial projects, and private clients. With over 5 years of industry experience, Sam is passionate about the potential of cannabis to help restore balance and well-being into people's lives.

Eating disorders (ED) are among the most common mental illnesses, and some of the most debilitating, with an estimated 1.25 to 3.4 million people affected in the United Kingdom alone. Eating disorders most often develop during adolescence, although there are cases where people as old as seventy and as young as six years old have been diagnosed.

While there are many forms of eating disorders, the three most prevalent are

  • anorexia nervosa – where sufferers have a distorted body image and try to contain their weight by restricting caloric intake, over-exercising, or a combination of both.
  • bulimia – where sufferers feel out of control when eating and compulsively binge and purge afterwards.
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – people suffering from BED will consistently overeat to the point of being uncomfortably full and typically have feelings of guilt, shame, and distress afterwards.

Treating eating disorders can be a long and arduous journey, usually requiring the help of clinical psychologists, nutritionists, and a mix of conventional and natural therapeutic options. The rate of recovery from eating disorders is lower than many other mental health issues, but thankfully, there are new therapeutic aids on the horizon, one of them being CBD oil.

What is CBD oil?

CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol, a chemical compound (phytocannabinoid) found in hemp and cannabis plants. CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant and, here in the UK, should contain no more than 0.2% THC. THC is the main psychotropic cannabinoid in cannabis, meaning CBD oil can offer potential medicinal benefits without the 'high' that is associated with cannabis consumption.

In this article, we are going to dive deep into the world of CBD oil, how it interacts with the human body, and how those connections may help ease the symptoms and effects of eating disorders.

The connection between CBD oil and eating disorders

To understand how CBD oil may be beneficial to those battling an eating disorder, we first have to go into a little bit of detail about the endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS)

The ECS is a vast network of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), signalling molecules (endocannabinoids), and enzymes responsible for the breakdown of the endocannabinoids. 

It is located throughout the brain, organs, tissues, and glands of humans and other mammals. It regulates vital functions including appetite and digestion, mood, metabolism, sleep, learning and memory, motor control, and reproductive system function – among a range of other processes.

These functions help the body maintain homeostasis, or balance of the internal environment in response to external stimuli.

The role of CBD oil in the endocannabinoid system

While researchers are still unsure of the entire scope regarding how CBD interacts with the ECS, there is some evidence to point to a few possible ways.

It is believed that CBD oil may help restore balance in the ECS by either activating or inhibiting certain receptors, blocking enzymes from breaking down endocannabinoids, and/or increasing the production of endocannabinoids. It has also been shown to interact with the CB2 receptor.

Research on CBD oil and eating disorders

As of the time of writing, there are no specific physical treatments for eating disorders, but with the rise of CBD oil, that may be about to change.

The problem is, there is still a lack of conclusive clinical evidence to say either way, mostly thanks to the almost global prohibition (or at least heavy restriction) of cannabis in the past century or so. These restrictions have made it difficult for researchers to legally access the plant and conduct robust research on the effects of CBD oil, so the medical community is still in the dark to a certain respect.

That being said, there have been a few promising studies conducted in the past decade that do point to the fact that CBD (and THC) may be effective in treating some of the symptoms and underlying causes of eating disorders.

One study, out of the University of Helsinki in 2021, may have some implications for sufferers of binge eating disorder and bulimia. It looked at how CBD could be beneficial in modulating the reward-response mechanism in rodents, which may help curb the binge-purge cycle of those with bulimia and help reduce the compulsive need for food in people with BED.

A 2017 study found that a low daily dose of THC significantly improved self-reported symptoms of anorexia. Participants were given a 1 mg dose per day for the first week, and then 2 mg daily for the next three weeks. Feelings of depression and ineffectiveness were reduced, and self-care increased.

While there have been no specific studies conducted into how CBD may help ED sufferers in general, there is evidence from other research that CBD could very well help reduce some of the associated symptoms.

Potential benefits of CBD oil for eating disorders

CBD oil may help reduce the symptoms of eating disorders in a variety of ways, including:

  • Anxiety Reduction – CBD has been found to have potential antianxiety and antidepressant effects. This could help lessen mood issues that often come with EDs, as well as help improve overall psychological health.
  • Appetite Regulation – CBD has been found to help regulate appetite, which could help those with EDs (especially sufferers of BED) overcome their unhealthy eating habits.
  • Physical Pain and Inflammation – Many people with EDs experience sore muscles and fatigue from over-exercising, as well as various gastrointestinal issues. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce physical pain associated with EDs.

Risks and side effects of CBD oil for eating disorders

As with any therapeutic aid, there are risks associated with using CBD oil to treat eating disorders. It is important to speak to a physician before beginning treatment, as well as monitor oneself after starting use.

Some potential risks include:

  • drug Interference
  • gastric pain
  • dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • low blood pressure
  • fatigue

The wrap up

While the need for further clinical trials is ever-present, there is some evidence to suggest that CBD oil may be beneficial for those suffering from eating disorders. Still, it’s critical to note that the administration of CBD oil should be done in consultation with your doctor and monitored closely as you progress through your treatment plan.

If medicinal cannabis interests you, feel free to reach out at any time.

Accessing medical cannabis can be challenging due to the stigma surrounding it. However, Releaf makes it simple with our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your cannabis prescription.

Releaf - Removing the Stigma from Medical Cannabis

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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