Cannabis is a lifesaver for most people with long-term illnesses. People with irritated digestive systems, global musculoskeletal pain, and the millions of people who say that headaches are just the beginning of their symptoms can all get some relief from cannabis.
Why is that, though?
To explain, we need to go back a bit. You probably already know that cannabinoids like CBD and THC interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our bodies make natural endocannabinoids that work with ECS receptors to keep all the other body systems healthy. But what happens if our bodies don’t produce enough endocannabinoids?
Even with all the ongoing research (1) about the endocannabinoid system, science does not know either, at least not in a sure way. But Ethan Russo, M.D.2 , the Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (2), thinks that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could cause irritable bowel syndrome fibromyalgia, migraine, and other hard-to-treat syndromes.
The ECS is a part of every major body system, which is why a problem with it could lead to many different conditions that cannabis can treat.
WHAT IS CLINICAL ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY (CED)?
The concept of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) suggests that certain health issues are caused by a drop in endocannabinoid levels, similar to how neurotransmitter deficiencies cause other ailments, such as serotonin deficiencies in depression. In other words, it suggests that CED is caused by insufficient endocannabinoids in the ECS.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE CLINICAL ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY (CECD)?
Signs of ECS Dysfunction
CECD is difficult to pinpoint. Defining its symptoms is like pinning down gelatin. However, here are some commonly reported signs of an endocannabinoid deficiency:
- Fibromyalgia, IBS, and/or migraines
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Anxiety, depression, and/or difficulty regulating mood
- Inconsistent or insufficient sleep.
- Dietary-related health problems
- Stress-related health problems
WHAT CAUSES ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY?
What causes endocannabinoid system deficiency is unknown. Some believe it is most likely a combination of factors, including:
- Diet and nutrition
- Alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Other health issues
HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
Long-term stress makes it harder for endocannabinoid receptors to repair and grow. And having too much of the stress hormone cortisol makes it hard for CB1 receptors to work right. However, you can do many things to naturally relieve stress, improve your health, improve your endocannabinoid system, and improve how well cannabinoids work in your body.
What are some ways to relieve stress?
Daily physical activities help relieve stress if done freely and for fun. Researchers have found that forcing yourself to exercise is seen by the ECS as stress, which could hurt you if it leads to long-term stress. Low-key socializing can also help reduce stress and improve the ECS works. Rat studies showed that socially isolated rats produced fewer cannabinoids than rats who participated in social play grooming activities. Other ways to deal with stress include:
- Meditation (try CBD and mindfulness for an additional boost of calm)
- Or even playing at random
Physical activities offer numerous benefits and advantages when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle. There is a direct connection between having a high endocannabinoid level and working out, chiefly to make more of the natural cannabinoid anandamide.
Anandamide is a fatty acid-type neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors and induces feelings of delight or happiness; hence its name is derived from a Sanskrit word for “joy.”
Breathing exercises, Yoga, or other exercises can promote health and enhance endocannabinoids. However, even simple workouts are specifically designed to boost the effects of cannabis and kickstart the ECS.
Increase your Omega-3 fatty acid intake.
Omega-3s are necessary for forming CB1 receptors, which attach to our central nervous system. These cannabinoid receptors also take in the phytocannabinoid THC and the endogenous cannabinoid 2-ag. Hemp plants have the most omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds have the best omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids ratio, the same ratio as in the human body. Omega-3s are found in high amounts in some seeds and fish oil.
But there are also other ways that food can directly affect the endocannabinoid system.
What Are Some Foods That Raise Endocannabinoid Production?
Some supplements can help with everyday health. But are there foods that could help? How do foods make the endocannabinoid system work better?
Omega-3-rich foods include:
Hemp, chia, walnuts, and flax seeds. Anchovies, sardines, and Omega-3-enriched eggs are also high in these fatty acids. Broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers, and spinach, which are all high in vitamin C, can also help keep your ECS in good shape. Ascorbic acid is a type of vitamin C, and it allows CBD gets into the body faster. The body can’t make vitamin C on its own, so it’s essential to get it from outside sources.
Certain teas, such as turmeric tea, echinacea tea, and Camellia sinensis, have good properties that can help increase endocannabinoid levels, activate CB2 receptors, and stop endocannabinoids from breaking down.
Lemon balm, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, hops, black pepper, and other spices all have the terpene beta-caryophyllene, which helps stimulate the CB2 receptors in our peripheral nervous system.
A type of cocoa solid contains compounds similar to endocannabinoids on a molecular level. Cacao compounds can increase endocannabinoid levels by inhibiting their metabolic breakdown. These cannabinoid-like compounds are most abundant in raw cacao and dark chocolate.
Slow down on Alcohol.
Most likely, drinking alcohol in moderation won’t change how the endocannabinoid system works enough to cause worry. But binge drinking and drinking a lot of alcohol can make it much harder for cannabinoid receptors to process endocannabinoids in the right way.
To maintain endocannabinoid function – and optimum health – choose to drink responsibly and discretion or avoid alcohol entirely.
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced in Cannabis sativa, as opposed to endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by our bodies. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most common phytocannabinoids.
CBD doesn’t get you high, and it usually binds to CB2 receptors. This is why CBD is good for supporting the immune system, but it can’t make you feel euphoric or “high.” Nevertheless, research on CBD shows that it has a wide range of health and wellness benefits.
CBD products made from industrial hemp don’t have much or any THC in them. Federal law also says it is legal to buy, sell, and use them anywhere in the United States.
CBD comes in many forms, like isolates, tinctures, vape oils, topicals, and gummies. Each has its own benefits depending on how you use it, and combining them regularly may result in adequate endocannabinoid system stability.
All options are regular exercise, a healthy diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, less alcohol, CBD products, and stress reduction. Some, if not all, of these strategies may work best for you to increase endocannabinoid productivity and receptor strength.
But as helpful as these tips are, it’s best not to do too much of them. Neither is meant to be a “cure-all” for improving the ECS to heal or prevent a serious health problem. When your endocannabinoid receptors are overloaded, they can have the opposite effect.
Overall, taking the proper steps to strengthen your ECS is something we can all do and should do every day.
DO ENDOCANNABINOIDS REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Endocannabinoids have a lot of importance. But also, the research is still in its early stages, and the fact that we have seen some things in a couple of studies does not mean it will work for any other purpose beyond the confines of a lab.
There are, however, ongoing studies for a reason. There are consequences, and it could lead to new ways to treat diseases previously thought untreatable.
1 L’Heureux, Mega. (2019, February 5). The Latest Medical Cannabis Research: Dr. Ethan Russo Discusses Neurological Research, Dosing, and More. Cannabis Science and Technology.