CBD for Diabetes

Nearly 10% of Americans have diabetes, and although lifestyle changes and medication generally help stabilize blood sugar levels, many Americans are considering the use of cannabidiol (CBD) as another option. 

In fact, some research shows it might help control blood sugars, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost cardiovascular health, all of which are important for people with diabetes. Other studies indicate that CBD could possibly help prevent diabetes.

However, it has only been legal for scientists to conduct human trials with CBD since 2015, so the research is very preliminary and there’s a lot still to be learned. Here’s what we know—and don’t know—about CBD and diabetes. 

CBD oil

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What Is CBD?

CBD is the non-psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis.

The Benefits of CBD for Diabetics

CBD can have a therapeutic effect on the brain without causing hallucinations or psychoactivity that most people associate with the “high” from cannabis. Because of that, CBD has a lot of potential for therapeutic uses.

But before the scientific and medical communities can make definitive statements about the health benefits of CBD, they need more thorough and long-term research about the compound and how it affects the body and brain.  

That said, there are indications that CBD has health benefits. For example:

  • The endocannabinoid system, which regulates food intake and energy use, is often overactive in people who are overweight or who have type 2 diabetes.
  • CBD acts on receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which is the root of many of its possible therapeutic applications.

Obesity and Insulin Resistance

Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, is closely linked with being overweight.

CBD and Weight Gain

CBD shows some promise in fighting weight gain and insulin resistance, both of which can increase the risk for diabetes.

A 2020 medical review found that CBD has the potential to affect a number of factors that contribute to the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. These include the potential to reduce inflammation and alter glucose metabolism.

In turn, that can reduce the symptoms of:

Blood Sugar Control

When combined with a THC-based compound, CBD helped people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugars, according to a 2016 study that looked at fasting blood sugars.

The study found that CBD alone:

  • Decreased resistin: A hormone that can contribute to insulin resistance.
  • Increased glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide: A hormone that prompts the release of insulin.

This indicates that CBD could help with some of the hormonal imbalances that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. 

Nerve Pain

Nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, is a common complication from diabetes. Symptoms can include pain and burning sensations, especially in the hands and feet.

An animal study on rats found that CBD can increase neurons, possibly alleviating nerve pain.

Although this hasn’t been shown in humans, rodent studies are considered an important indication of what might be seen in human studies.

Anxiety and Stress Management

For some people with diabetes, managing the condition causes stress and anxiety. In turn, that can make the symptoms of diabetes worse.

Stress and Diabetes

When the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, they prompt the body to release glucagon, which can cause your blood sugar levels to rise.

Managing anxiety and stress can have a positive impact on the physical symptoms of diabetes.

Research shows that CBD can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. For people who struggle to control their blood sugars due to the hormonal effects of stress and anxiety, this means that CBD might help with better blood sugar control. 

Other Conditions Related to Diabetes

Many people with diabetes have other health conditions as well, and CBD may help control the symptoms of those conditions. These include:

  • Insomnia: CBD has been demonstrated to help treat insomnia, which is experienced by as many as half of the people with type 2 diabetes. Improving your sleep can help control your blood sugars, reducing the risk for complications from diabetes.
  • Chronic pain and inflammation: CBD has been shown as an effective way to treat chronic pain and reduce inflammation, both of which can improve the quality of life for people with diabetes and accompanying conditions.
  • Blood pressure: CBD can reduce blood pressure, therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which people with diabetes are at increased risk for.

Forms of Cannabidiol

CBD is available in many forms. If you’re considering taking CBD to help with your diabetes, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about what dosage and strength might be beneficial.

Some common forms of CBD are:

  • CBD Oil: CBD oil is a popular form of CBD. It mixes CBD extract into an oil like coconut oil, forming what’s known as a tincture. The tincture can be taken orally or applied to the body. Be sure that you know what concentration your CBD tincture is, and whether it’s safe to be taken orally. 
  • Edibles: Like cannabis, CBD can be infused into edible products, including chocolate, gummies, and other candies and foods. 
  • Capsules and sprays: CBD can also be taken as a pill or an oral spray that is given under the tongue. 

The form of CBD that you use will affect how quickly the substance enters your bloodstream.

How Quickly Does CBD Enter the Bloodstream?

Inhaled CBD enters the blood fastest, while edibles take longer to get into your system. It’s not clear how much CBD from topical products like creams and lotions gets into your bloodstream.

Side Effects of CBD

Because there is limited research on CBD, scientists don’t fully understand the side effects of the compound. However, it’s believed that using CBD can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

Research has found that most often, the compound is generally well-tolerated.

CBD and Diarrhea

CBD can cause diarrhea, which many people with diabetes already struggle with, so it's important to speak with your doctor about whether CBD might make the condition worse.

Finally, CBD can have interactions with over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. It's important not to underestimate the risk of CBD, especially if you're taking other medications or supplements.

Interaction and Warnings

There are a few important things to consider when taking CBD.

CBD Is Not Regulated by the FDA

Because CBD is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is not a thorough understanding of its benefits and risks.

Some things to consider include:

  • Dosage: Recommendations widely range and depend on the condition that you're using CBD to treat.
  • Quality: Since CBD is not regulated, there’s no oversight for the quality and potency of the product. If you’re considering taking CBD, talk to your doctor about where and how to obtain high-quality CBD products.

Even though it is a “natural” product, CBD can still interact with other medications. Research indicates that cannabis-derived products, including CBD, can interact with 139 medication, and can be dangerous for people on 57 medications, including:

  • Metformin: Taking CBD alongside this medication used to treat diabetes can increase the risk for diarrhea. 
  • Coumadin/warfarin: Taking CBD with this blood thinner can increase the amount of medication in your bloodstream, undermining the dosage that your doctor has prescribed. 
  • OTC medications including Benedryl: This medication and CBD can cause drowsiness, so taking the medications together can amplify the effect. 
  • Tylenol and other medications that are processed in the liver: Taking CBD could increase liver enzymes. Talk with your doctor before taking CBD. Make sure you’re not taking it with other medications that stress the liver. 

What to Look For

Since CBD is not regulated by the FDA, it can take some legwork to find a reputable source for CBD.

Remember that products advertised online aren’t always listed accurately.

One study found that only about one-third of CBD products sold online were labeled correctly and that more than 20% of the CBD products contained THC as well.

Legal THC Levels in CBD

If a CBD product contains more than 0.3% THC, it is illegal under federal law.

If you live in a state that has cannabis dispensaries, it may be worth buying CBD products in person. The people who work at dispensaries are generally knowledgeable about the effects of CBD and can guide you to a product that does not contain the psychoactive ingredient THC.

If you must order your CBD online, chose an American-made product, which offers a bit of peace-of-mind about manufacturing and production. 

When selecting a CBD product, you’ll have to choose between:

  • Full-spectrum: Contain mostly CBD, but also all the other chemical compounds found in cannabis, including THC
  • Broad-spectrum: Contain some other cannabis compounds, but no THC
  • Isolates: Contain only CBD.

Do THC Levels in CBD Show up on Drug Tests?

If you need to be drug-tested for work or other reasons, the THC present in full-spectrum CBD can show on a drug test.

Talk to your doctor and be sure that you thoroughly understand the laws in your state, as well as policies from your employer when it comes to consuming even low levels of THC.

A Word From Verywell

Living with diabetes can be difficult, and it’s natural to want to seek out any treatment option that can make your life a bit more comfortable and healthy.

While CBD could potentially have promise for helping to control blood sugars and may even help prevent diabetes, the research is very preliminary. Doctors don’t fully understand the benefits or the drawbacks of CBD for most conditions, including diabetes. 

If you’re considering using CBD and are diabetic, you should have an open and honest conversation with your doctor. Your doctor should be able to help weigh the benefits and risks of CBD and guide you on how to find high-quality CBD if you choose to take it.

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Article Sources
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