How to Nurture Your Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is the essential molecular system responsible for maintaining homeostasis in all vertebrate species. As of now, the ECS is responsible for functions including relaxation, eating, sleeping, forgetting, and protecting. As research continues the list of systems affected will increase.
The ECS can be broken down into three parts:
1) Endocannabinoids- Anandamide and 2-AG are tiny binding molecules, within our bodies, that activate cannabinoid receptors. Research suggests that low levels of these molecules are associated with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, interact with cannabinoid receptors and can be used to temporarily replenish anandamide or 2-AG deficiency.
2) Metabolic Enzymes- FAAH and MAGL are metabolic enzymes. FAAH breaks down anandamide and MAGL breaks down 2-AG. Ideally, these enzymes go to work after the endocannabinoids have been used and everything is balanced. However, when FAAH and MAGL are elevated those precious endocannabinoids are destroyed prematurely and unwanted symptoms persist.
3) Cannabinoid Receptors- CB1 and CB2 receptors are found on the surface of the cells in the nervous system and the immune system. Cannabinoid receptors communicate to the inside of the cell about conditions happening throughout the body. This initiates the proper cellular response.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how the ECS operates. We can use food, exercise, and various herbs to nurture all three parts.
Elevate anadamide by inhibiting FAAH
Like THC, anandamide inhibits the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate. High levels of glutamate are responsible for chronic pain. Anandamide also plays a big role in our overall mood. Low levels of anandamide have been linked to depression and anxiety. Because we know that the FAAH enzyme breaks down anandamide, we look for FAAH inhibitors to stop that process. In addition to CBD found in cannabis, kaempferol is a FAAH inhibitor that naturally occurs in apples and blackberries. Eat a diet rich in these fruits and inhibit your FAAH production which increases your anandamide levels! Chocolate is another food that can help boost anandamide. It contains a compound known as ethylenediamine which inhibits FAAH production. Keep these three foods in mind the next time you head into the supermarket. This is an indirect yet successful way to boost that “feel good” endocannabinoid!
Omega- 3 & Omega- 6 Fatty Acids
Both Omega- 3 and Omega- 6 fatty acids are essential for the proper function of our Endocannabinoid System. Omega- 3 increases the expression of cannabinoid receptors while Omega- 6 supports endocannabinoid production. In addition, these essential fatty acids will promote skin, hair, reproductive, and heart health.
Sources of Omega- 3- fish, shellfish, algae, flax, hemp, walnuts, eggs
Sources of Omega- 6- poultry, eggs, whole grains, hemp, seed oils
Probiotics are good bacteria that are native to our gut. They are a crucial part of digestion and disease prevention. Over time, exposure to environmental toxins, overuse of antibiotics, and chemicals in our food affect the natural production of these vital microbes and our health begin a downward spiral. This directly impacts the health of our Endocannabinoid System and creates imbalances. Prebiotics are vegetables that feed the probiotics and encourage digestive health. By adding both probiotics and prebiotics into your daily regiment you promote ECS health and overall wellness.
Probiotic Food Sources- yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods
Prebiotic Food Sources- onion, garlic, leeks, sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes, burdock root
Have you ever experienced runner’s high or noticed that a brief work out makes you feel invigorated? This is due to a neurobiological response. Scientific studies show that anandamide levels are elevated shortly after rigorous exercise. This is a fast and free way to naturally encourage homeostasis and improve your mood.
While cannabis plays an intricate role in supporting the bodies Endocannabinoid function, specific foods and lifestyle choices can also enhance its actions. As we begin to look further into complementary and alternative ways to heal, it is critical to understand how our body systems work and how the fuel we use has a huge impact on the performance of those systems.