Any time you swallow a pill, it has to travel through your digestive tract and get absorbed through the lining of your stomach or small intestine before it can reach your bloodstream and have the intended effect. Because nutrients from food you eat get absorbed in a similar way, what you eat may impact how your body processes certain medications — which is why some drug labels advise patients to take medication with or without food or to avoid specific foods.
Last year, the FDA-approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol), an oral drug that contains CBD, a non-intoxicating component of cannabis (marijuana). Although the drug’s approval came after studies found that it was effective for people with severe epilepsy, little was known at the time about whether food might impact it. However, because CBD is a fat-soluble compound some experts suspected that one’s diet could drastically alter the rate of absorption. Now a small study from the University of Minnesota confirms that what you eat when you take oral CBD really matters.
In the study, which was published in the journal Epilepsia, eight patients were asked to take their CBD dose either on an empty stomach (after fasting overnight for at least 10 hours) or within 30 minutes of eating a high-fat breakfast burrito. Participants had their blood tested before taking their medication and at several intervals (from 30 minutes to 72 hours) afterward. The researchers learned that those who had eaten the high-fat breakfast before taking their medication had blood levels of CBD that were at least four times higher (and up to 14 times higher) compared to the levels in those who had taken the medication after fasting.
Fat-soluble compounds, including CBD, need to be taken along with some fat in order to be properly absorbed, but this study suggests that consuming too much fat can also be problematic. It’s also worth noting that any excess amount of fat-soluble compounds that you consume get stored in your body’s fat reserves, so there can be a buildup over time.
Although this study was very small, it demonstrates “the clinical importance of advising patients to take CBD consistently with food for uniform exposure,” the authors wrote, adding that, “it might be useful to prescribe CBD twice a day to minimize fluctuations due to the difference when administered with meals of varying fat content.”
What you eat may not matter if you’re using topical CBD, such as for arthritis pain, because topical compounds don’t get processed through your digestive tract.