The Endocannabinoid System Part 2

We discussed in The Endocannabinoid System Part 1 that our bodies have built in mechanisms to keep us balanced and in good health. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is composed of receptors (locks), endocannabinoids (keys) and enzymes (builders and terminators). Our bodies produce a baseline level of endocannabinoids. More about that later. These receptors are distributed throughout our bodies, from our brain to our skin. When we are injured, stressed, or attacked by bacteria, viruses or cancer cells, the body produces endocannabinoids with the help enzymes. The endocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), then insert into receptors to produce biological effects. For example, they help minimize the effects of trauma, help us to handle mental and physiologic stress and contain or kill bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. Once AEA and 2-AG are done doing their job, they are broken down more enzymes. AEA and 2-AG look very similar to and behave like the many cannabinoids in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Cannabis occurs in two major forms: hemp and cannabis. Hemp contains tetrahydrocannabinol or THC (less than 0.3%). THC causes euphoria or the feeling of being “high“. Hemp contains large amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) which does not cause euphoria. While THC has some medicinal benefits, CBD has many more. THC and CBD also interact with our receptors. This why cannabis has so many health applications.

As stated earlier, all humans have a baseline production level of endocannabinoids or “endocannabinoid tone”. In 2004, Dr. Ethan Russo hypothesized that many diseases are due to an endocannabinoid deficiency. This could be due to genetics, trauma, diet or lifestyle. He named this condition Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome. Subsequent research confirmed his hypothesis. For example, a study was done with people suffering from migraine headaches. The study show that people with migraines have lower levels of endocannabinoids in their body than people who do not get headaches. Some other conditions that are thought to be due to a deficiency of endocannabinoids in our body are as follows:

*Autoimmune Disease (irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis)

*PMS, painful and/or heavy periods, endometriosis

*Neurodegenerative Disorders (Alzheimer’s , Parkinson’s, ALS)

*Mood Disorders (anxiety, depression, PTSD)

*Autism

*ADD/ADHD

*Seizures

*Cancer

*Chronic Pain

Thus, people with the above challenges have seen improvement by supplementing with cannabis or CBD. In addition to supplementing with cannabis, there are a few other things you can do to keep your ECS functioning optimally:

1) Consume at least 1000 mg daily of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil or an algae-derived product. Ninety-five percent of Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Your body needs them to make endocannabinoids. They also play a major role in the health of your brain, eyes, heart and help fight inflammation. If you have an autoimmune disease, you should consume 3000 mg daily.

2) Eat at least five servings of vegetables daily.

3) Sleep 7-9 hrs daily.

4) Exercise 150 minutes per week. Exercise makes your body produce more endocannabinoids. Think “runner’s high”.

5) Stress management; Chronic stress inhibits your ECS.

6) Limit alcohol and caffeine. Excess intake of either can inhibit your ECS.

Thus, with the right diet, lifestyle and supplementation with cannabis or CBD, you can reverse many diseases that conventional medicine struggles with. Wishing you optimal health!