Posted on May 25 2018
By Karly Ziegler
Most people don’t realize that the human body is full of receptors specifically designed to bond with cannabinoids – the compounds found in cannabis. That’s right – our bodies are designed to naturally work with cannabinoids, and in fact our bodies even produce cannabinoids naturally on their own! This is known as the “Endocannabinoid System,” and of course derives its name from the plant that lead to its discovery.
The Endocannabinoid System can be found throughout the human body: in the brain, organs, connective tissue, glands and immune cells. Currently we are aware of two different cannabinoid receptors – CB1 which correlates to the brain, and CB2 which has shown to correlate with the nervous system. This system and its processes are essential for achieving homeostasis, the ability to maintain a stable internal environment even when the external environment changes. For example, when you have a fever and your body reaches or exceeds 98.6 degrees, it sends a signal to your brain and skin sensors to regulate the temperature of your body. Your glands then react by producing sweat to bring your core temperature down and back into homeostasis.
Cannabis has been shown to promote homeostasis at every level of the endocannabinoid system, from sub-cellular to the organs themselves. This system is the bridge between brain and body due to its complex involvement with our immune system, nervous system, and all of the body’s organs. However, due to a typical American diet consisting of large amounts of processed and fatty foods, we are not only hurting our overall health, but also inhibiting the Endocannabinoid system, or ECS, from working at its full potential.
Poor nutrition, sleep deprivation and lack of exercise are all taxing on the ECS and could possibly hinder you from getting the most out of your Cannabis, or more specifically certain cannabinoids. It is most likely that your Endocannabinoid system needs to be cleansed and primed if you are not feeling the strong medicinal benefits of most cannabis products. Not sure how to do that? Read on!
How to Clean and Prime your Endocannabinoid System: Nutrition
Nutrition is the center of most conversations revolving around health, and your ECS is no different. When we clog up our ECS with fatty acids such as Omega-6’s we do not allow our brain to signal our bodies correctly or in a timely manner, often making us sluggish, sad and anxious. However, if you balance out the Omega-6’s with healthy Omega-3’s it could allow these functions to move more freely and could possibly cure wide spread depression and anxiety. Foods such as fish, eggs, walnuts and hemp seeds all have medicinal properties and high levels of Omega-3 which help to balance the body. In fact, hemp seeds are one of the healthiest “superfoods” you can eat.
Another side effect of high fatty acid diet is an irritated or infected Gut Microbiome, a collection of bacteria residing in the gastrointestinal tracts. This pocket of bacteria could be the cause of IBS, diabetes and pain brought on by Crohn’s disease. Seeing as the ECS is responsible for regulating your immune system and inflammation in your intestinal tract, these bowel issues could be the result of an underperforming Endocannabinoid system. The ingestion of probiotics in organic yogurts and cheeses has been shown to positively affect the Microbiome and the ECS. A specific probiotic, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, has shown to upgrade your CB2 receptors on intestinal cells which could produce a “painkiller” effect through the activation of the CB2 receptors.
To set your ECS up for success, increase the amount of Omega-3’s in your diet. This can be done by eating more fish (specifically salmon), eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Other sources of good fats are olive oil, red wine, ginger and turmeric.
How to Clean your Endocannabinoid System: Sleep
Sleep is one of the most vital necessities to reset the body and influence homeostasis. When we do not get enough restful sleep, our bodies will naturally release a chemical compound called 2-Arachidonoylglycero or 2-AG for short. This compound activates the same THC receptors that make food more appealing and rewarding. This pushes us to indulge in fatty, high card snacks and make less nutrition conscious food choices which we know can inhibit our ECS as well. Sleep deprivation can also lead to heart disease, mood disorders, diabetes and obesity.
The best way to replenish your sleep and get the most from your ECS is to drink a large glass of water with lemon about 2 hours before bed time and then fast until the morning. This will aid in flushing your system before bedtime. Be sure to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
How to Clean and Prime your Endocannabinoid System: Exercise
Research has shown that having a good exercise routine can not only upregulate the CB1 receptors, but also increase their sensitivity. This makes exercise not only a good tool for cleaning your ECS but also making it more sensitive and perceptive to your cannabis. This is also how exercise decreases anxiety and depression, by heightening the ECS which allows the cannabis to excel at its job.
Researchers are also beginning to think that the common “runners high” is not caused by the release of endorphins, as previously thought, but actually by the ECS. Although your ECS is responsible for that euphoric feeling, it can also work against you if your try to force yourself to exercise. Pushing your body to be active when your mind does not want to can result in your ECS system viewing it as a stressful task and could cause it to work against you. To make sure you are getting the most from your activity, find some sort of aerobic activity you enjoy. Dancing, hiking, swimming, or playing sports are all excellent ways to exercise your body without taxing your mind.
Chronic pain has been shown to tax the ECS and often deplete it of its necessary cannabinoids. Improving your diet, exercise routine and sleep patterns will not only improve your overall health, but also help your Cannabis work at its maximum potential. All in all, the more you care for your body, the more you take care of your Endocannabinoid system which can lead to improved health and greater healing from your medicinal cannabis products.