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Can We Tone the Endocannabinoid System?
Some experts theorize that when the endocannabinoid system falls out of balance, a variety of symptoms may develop. They also suggest toning, or modulating, the endocannabinoid system may restore balance and thus relieve some symptoms. There are several ways to tone and modulate the endocannabinoid system. Let’s start by answering two questions: What is the endocannabinoid system?, and what is its role?
History of the Endocannabinoid System
In 2001, Dr. Ethan Russo introduced Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome (CEDS). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome is a group of symptoms and syndromes that develop people do not have a properly toned endocannabinoid system.
What is Your Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabind syndrome (ES) is a biochemical communication syndrome in every human. A balanced endocannabiond system is essential to a well-functioning body.
The ES is complex and dynamic. It’s comprised of several components including:
- Natural Endocannabinoids
- Endocannabinoid Receptors (CB1, CB2, TRPV, Orphan Receptors)
- Metabolic Enzymes
In his research, Dr. Russo specifically references migraines and irritable bowel syndrome. Research supports the concept of the CECS. Patients with migraine headache disorder have shown low levels of endocannabinoids in their cerebral spinal fluid. In patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, imaging studies have shown endocannabinoid hypo-function.
Based on this theory, restoring balance that he endocannabinoid system may help relief symptoms. And we have anecdotal evidence that supports this. Many patients with migraine headache disorder who begin cannabis, report a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their headaches, when they add CBD products to their health routine.
But cannabis isn’t the ONLY way to address and modulate our endocannabinoid system. There are actually numerous ways we can balance and tone our endocannabinoid system, and we’ve actually have already been doing it for thousands of years.
Things that Balance the Endocannabinoid System
History includes a long line of treatments that directly affect the endocannabinoid system, like for example, acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used in healthcare for thousands of years, and practitioners often saw results. However, no one really understood why acupuncture was effective.
It was only in 2007, when a study from China explained endocannabinoid system activation and acupuncture both induce similar effects. In fact, the study concluded that the endocannabinoid system mediates many of acupuncture’s therapeutic effects, including pain relief.
Omega 3’s & Omega 6’s
The body uses Omega 3 fatty acids to make endocannabinoids. Logic dictates that if you don’t have an adequate intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, then you body may fail to produce adequate amounts of natural endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are essential to a healthy functioning endocannabinoid system.
Unfortunately, many diets are deficient in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Many types of fish, flax seeds, and chia seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids, while corn, soybeans, and nuts and seeds are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Many patients prefer taking a supplement like cod liver oil.
Probiotics & Prebiotics
Probiotics and prebiotics also affect the endocannabinoid system by altering receptor expression, or the number of CB receptors in your body. Eating foods like kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt, or taking a supplement, may help balance and tone the endocannabinoid system. Most patients could benefit from a high-quality probiotic supplement and healthy amounts of prebiotic fiber.
Additionally, the brain and digestive system are suspected of being directly connected via the endocannabinoid system. If that’s the case, a healthy endocannabinoid system is essential to digestive health.
Herbs like echinacea have long been used to help improve the immune system. This is thought to occur because echinacea also modulate the endocannabinoid system. Many plant ligands also interact directly with the endocannabinoid system.
Other herbs like cloves, cinnamon and oregano have also been used to stimulate the endocannabinoid system. These herbs contain high amounts of a terpene called beta-caryophyllene. beta-caryophyllene acts directly on the endocannabinoid system, so some researchers argue that it should be classified as a dietary cannabinoid instead of a terpene.
Research suggests some types of massage, including osteorthapedic manipulation and myofacial release may directly affect natural levels of endocannabinods. Massage exerts cannabimimetic effects. That means massage can cause similar physical and psychological effects as using cannabis. These effects may explain why massage can have significant effects on health.
Meditation, Prayer, & Exercise
Dr. Russo points out in a 2014 paper patients have long reported activities such as prayer, meditation, and yoga also exhibit cannabimimetic effects, or similar effects to using cannabis. Animal models have shows exercise affects the endocannabinoid system in a variety of ways. Human studies have shows that exercise can significantly increase levels of endocannabinoids.
This is one of the pivotal roles of cannabis. Cannabis contains over a hundred phytocannabinoids. The most popular and well researched are THC and CBD, however there are over one hundred other minor cannabinoids. Each minor cananbinoid can trigger a different physiological effect, and those effects can vary depending on the presence of other cannabinoids.
Patients report that consuming phytocannabinods may help relieve a variety of symptoms resulting from various disorders. Patients report benefits from THC products as well as CBD products.
Cannabis is a remarkable tool that can help modulate and balance the endocannabinoid system, but its not the only way. To truly achieve wellness patients should consider a variety of ways to boost their endocannabinoid system.
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