Do Edibles Cause Constipation? 

Do edibles cause constipation?
By Rebecca Olmos Updated April 5th

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

There are a few different methods of consumption cannabis users can use to achieve their desired effects. Smoking is the most traditional, but the various flavors and varieties of edibles are rising in popularity. In Colorado, edibles accounted for almost 45% of the state’s total cannabis sales.  Is it possible edibles have an unexpected downside? Do edibles cause constipation?

In comparison to combustible options like joints, bongs, or vaping, edibles provide a more discreet consumption while delivering more potent, full-body effects that can last an average of four hours. Consumers can purchase baked goods, gummies, hard candies, butter, syrups, beverages, and other foods. They can select infused edibles that fit their personal preferences, including dosage, effect, and dietary needs.1 

Medical patients can use cannabis to treat a variety of stomach and digestive-related issues. However, some consumers wonder if cannabis edibles can cause digestive problems like constipation. 

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What are Edibles?

Edibles are foods infused with cannabis. They are often found in gummy candies and baked goods, like cookies or brownies. In more recent years, consumers have been able to find them at their local dispensary in the form of hard candies, syrups, butter, beverages, and various other types of food. 

Edibles can be precisely dosed to deliver the desired effects within 30 minutes to two hours. Edibles can be infused with a range of isolated cannabinoids, most commonly THC and CBD, and more recently with other cannabinoids like CBG, THCV, and CBN. 

Consumers often choose infused foods because of their discrete and flavorful delivery. There’s no combustion involved, so there is no smoke to cause any lingering clouds or smells. This also means that no stress or damage is done to the mouth, throat, and lungs, making it a healthier alternative for those with oral and lung concerns.

In addition to discreet consumption, edibles can be a more potent experience than smoking, with effects typically lasting around four hours. 

Edibles can be purchased at dispensaries but can get a bit pricey. Sometimes, it’s best to make your own. It is relatively easy for people to make edibles in the comfort of their own homes.

What Typically Causes Constipation?

Does weed slow digestion?

Some medical experts suggest that the standards for what constitutes a “regular” number of bowel movements are general guidelines and unique to each person. However, passing stool too frequently or not frequently enough can lead to other medical issues.

Constipation is a common condition where a person rarely experiences bowel movements (less than three times a week) and has small, hard, dry stool. This is caused by too much water absorption by the colon. Constipation can be uncomfortable, causing bloating, pain, and lethargy. Over four million people experience frequent constipation.

Typically, as food moves through the large intestine, the colon absorbs water while forming the stool. Muscle contractions then move the stool to the rectum. If the muscle contractions are slower, the stool moves slower, causing the colon to absorb more water than usual, resulting in constipation. It can be caused by a long list of conditions and external factors, including aging, medications, lack of exercise, IBS, not consuming enough liquids or fiber, and even misuse of laxatives.

Constipation can lead to other ailments and complications, like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal bleeding, rectal prolapse, and fecal impaction.

Does Weed Slow Digestion?

The treatment of digestive disorders like dysentery, diarrhea, and appetite loss is the second most common use of cannabis.2 There has also been research to support the use of cannabis for conditions like nausea, vomiting, chronic abdominal pain, and bowel diseases.3

Studies show that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) maintains the gastrointestinal tract's homeostasis. The CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS are responsible for modulating the effects of the cannabinoids. CB1 receptors are found throughout the GI tract, with the most concentrated amount found in the stomach and colon. The CB2 receptors are not as involved unless inflammation is present in the gut. 

Research has found that some cannabinoids may reduce small intestinal, gastric, and colonic mobility, which may provide some insight into whether or not cannabis can cause conditions like constipation.4

Can Weed Make You Constipated?

Can weed make you constipated?

Through their interaction with the ECS and the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the GI tract, cannabinoids may cause a reduction in mobility of the small intestine, stomach, and colon. This suggests that ingesting cannabinoids may have the possibility to lead to conditions like slow digestion, discomfort, and changes in bowel movements like constipation

However, the potential for cannabis to cause constipation is combated with research that suggests that medical patients who use cannabis experience constipation less frequently than those who do not use cannabis. One study found that cannabis use was associated with a 30% decrease in odds of constipation.5

Do Gummies Make You Constipated?

Like some foods, cannabis gummies and other infused foods have the potential to cause constipation – although it may be challenging to decipher if it’s due to pre-existing conditions in the consumer, the edible’s ingredients, or the isolated cannabinoids infused into the food that are inducing the issue. 

Research suggests that cannabinoids may reduce the motility of the digestive tract, which may help aid conditions like diarrhea but not so much to cause constipation. However, more studies need to be conducted to get a better understanding of the correlation between cannabis and constipation.

If you are interested in consuming edibles but concerned about constipation, try to find fiber-rich options. Since each person’s experience with cannabis is unique, it is best to start with low dosages, slowly increasing if and when you feel appropriate. Remember that edibles can take up to two hours for the consumer to feel their full effect.6 

If you are new to cannabis or trying to find a correlation between cannabis use and your digestive concerns, it’s best to speak with a medical professional, document your experience, and adjust your consumption accordingly. 

Is Weed a Laxative? Can it Have the Opposite Effect?

Is weed a laxative?

Some studies support the use of cannabis to treat conditions like dysentery and diarrhea through the cannabinoids' ability to reduce the motility of the GI tract.

It is still unclear how cannabinoids affect fluid accumulation, which plays a significant role in the movement of stool through the bowels. More research needs to be done to determine if cannabinoids can act as a stool softener or laxative or affect the absorption of fluids and ion transport within the GI tract. 

How to Avoid Constipation From Edibles

While it may be unclear if edibles are leading to constipation, implementing these few tips can help minimize the likelihood of constipation. 

Eat enough daily fiber. A diet rich in fats, dairy, eggs, processed foods, or sweets can lead to higher rates of constipation. It’s also important to drink adequate amounts of water, exercise regularly, and not hold in your bowel movements

When concerned about digestive issues, reading the list of edible ingredients may be helpful before consuming them. Knowing the dosage can also help avoid overconsumption. Appropriate dosages of cannabinoids may avoid ailments like constipation.

Tips to Relieve Constipation

Tips to relieve constipation

Even with our best efforts, constipation happens. It is normal to experience it occasionally, even more so as we age. If you are experiencing mild constipation, there are a few ways to self-treat the issue, like increasing fiber through foods like vegetables and whole grains, drinking more water, taking over-the-counter laxatives and stool lubricants, or giving yourself an enema. 

If you are experiencing intense pain with constipation and none of these remedies work, it’s best to contact your doctor. They may be able to provide further assistance, especially in cases where fecal impaction is present.

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  1. Barrus D, Capogrossi K, Cates S, et al. Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles. Methods Rep RTI Press. Published online November 15, 2016. doi: ↩︎
  2. Balant M, Gras A, Ruz M, Vallès J, Vitales D, Garnatje T. Traditional uses of Cannabis: An analysis of the CANNUSE database. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2021;279. ↩︎
  3. Goyal H, Singla U, Gupta U, May E. Role of cannabis in digestive disorders. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;29(2):135-143. doi:10.1097/MEG.0000000000000779 ↩︎
  4. Izzo AA, Muccioli GG, Ruggieri MR, Schicho R. Endocannabinoids and the Digestive Tract and Bladder in Health and Disease. In: Pertwee RG, ed. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology. Springer International Publishing Switzerland; 2015:423-447. ↩︎
  5. Adejumo AC, Flanagan R, Kuo B, Staller K. Relationship Between Recreational Marijuana Use and Bowel Function in a Nationwide Cohort Study. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2019;114(12):1894-1903. doi: ↩︎
  6. MacCallum CA, Russo EB. Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2018;49(49):12-19. ↩︎

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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