Should I Take CBD With Or Without Food?


CBD and food: What is the situation?

Think about the last time you took CBD; was it with or without food? When juggling the typical nine-to-five, kids, and daily life, most of us opt to take CBD several times a day—when we wake up, with our lunch, and before bed. In all three of those situations, we are giving CBD a different set of biological variables to work with. In the morning, our stomach is empty; at lunch, we’ve most likely grabbed a quick bite to eat, while our final dose of CBD usually follows a more substantial dinner.

Until recently, we had to rely on anecdotal evidence and unsubstantiated claims to understand whether the scenarios outlined above made any difference to CBD’s impact on the body. Thankfully, new insights suggest an answer to the FAQ: “Should I take CBD with or without food?”.

Should you take CBD with food?

From what we know thus far—there is good reason to suggest taking CBD with food. To understand why CBD appears to have a higher rate of absorption with food, we need to explain two concepts—bioavailability and first-pass metabolism. The former is defined as “the proportion of a drug or other substance which enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect”. In lay terms, bioavailability is how much, and how fast, CBD enters the bloodstream.

Improving bioavailability is crucial—the lower the bioavailability, the more of a substance you would need to consume for comparable effects to a more bioavailable alternative. If we can improve the bioavailability of CBD by doing something as simple as taking it with food, then it is a small act that could have significant results.

That leads us nicely to the second important concept—first-pass metabolism. The reason orally administered CBD has relatively low bioavailability (slow rate of absorption, and not all of the compound reaches our bloodstream) is because it takes time for CBD to pass through digestive enzymes before entering the liver.

It is here that the compound is broken down into its core components by a family of enzymes called cytochrome P450 (CYP450). What starts as a simple CBD molecule actually becomes over 100 different metabolites. Unfortunately, many of those metabolites are processed and excreted before they can reach the bloodstream, lowering CBD’s overall bioavailability.

What the science says about taking CBD with food

According to new findings, consuming CBD with food could bypass the first-pass process, thus improving its overall bioavailability. Don’t just take our word for it though; let’s take a closer look at the research in question.

A study published by the University of Minnesota wanted to observe how CBD was affected by food in “adult patients with refractory epilepsy”. Eight patients who had all previously been prescribed CBD for seizures were given “a single dose of 99% pure CBD capsules” and instructed to take it “both fasting (no breakfast) and fed (high fat 840–860 calorie)”. To measure the amount of CBD in the bloodstream, plasma levels were recorded immediately after, and several days later.

Results showed that, when taken with fatty foods, the amount of CBD recorded in the body increased four-fold versus readings taken after fasted consumption. Although the sample size may be small, the findings are supported by what we know about the absorption rate of fats and oils.

A review by Harvard Medical School discussed the biofunctionality of fatty acids (long and medium-chain triglycerides). They found that conventional fats and oils act “as high energy, rapidly available fuel”. Their conclusion goes hand in hand with the results of the study from the University of Minnesota.

Fatty foods are more readily absorbed by the body, avoiding a portion of the breakdown experienced by first-pass metabolism. Fortunately for CBD users, the compound is naturally hydrophobic—binding easily with oils and repelling water. In doing so, it is thought that some of the CBD molecules bind with long-chain triglycerides and enter the body when the fats are absorbed, rather than falling victim to P450 enzymes.

Food for thought

All of this information gives us plenty to digest, so it's worth recapping:

In a small clinical trial, CBD was found to display improved bioavailability when consumed with or on a full stomach of fatty foods such as fish, avocado, nuts, red meat, and coconut oil. Improved bioavailability means more CBD reaches the target area, and at a faster rate. If you are someone who takes CBD first thing in the morning, or last thing at night without food, it may be worth considering a change in habit.

However, it's also worth considering that the sample size of the study conducted above was incredibly small, and while encouraging, the results haven’t been replicated on a larger scale. We always recommend that you talk with your doctor first before consuming CBD, or if you are planning any changes to your diet or eating habits.

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