Are you endocannabinoid deficient?
The ECS is a system that consists of many parts and if any of these parts are out of whack you can suffer from an ECS deficiency.
The parts include:
- endocannabinoids - this is what your body makes on demand and consists primarily of 2-AG and AEA. There are others but these are the most known.
- Receptors - CB1 and CB2 receptors are on the surface of cells and are found all over the body in varying degree
- Enzymes - MAGL and FAAH are the primary enzymes whose role it is to break down cells and eliminate them
There are several ways in the components of the ECS that can break down and cause a deficiency. You may have plenty of endocannabinoids but not enough receptors. You may have too many receptors. You may have too many enzymes that are breaking down the endocannabinoids and receptors too fast.
What does all of this mean?
There are several chronic conditions that point back to a deficiency of the ECS. The term CECD which means Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency was coined by Dr Ethan Russo. You can be born with it or you can acquire it later in life. If you are born with it, it may be due to Mom having a deficiency, no breastfeeding (or short lived breastfeeding) - 2-AG is found in breastmilk. There is research showing epilepsy may be a result of a deficiency of endocannabinoids during pregnancy. All of this is important, but not the focus of this blog.
Acquired CECD can be due to a:
- diet poor in Omega 3 fatty acids and too high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Research is showing that obesity and overweight patients with diabetes could potentially decrease endocannabinoids resulting in deficiency.
- Lack of exercise can result in deficiency. Testing has shown increased levels of enzymes that help break down anandamide which helps maintain ECS balance. Exercise also boosts levels of CB1 receptors in the brain helping with spatial memory and pain perception.
- We all need Vitamin D and most Americans don’t have enough. You can get Vitamin D from the sun or UV light from tanning beds. The cells that contain the pigment that protects your skin from damage are called melanin. Endocannabinoids are prominent in melanin. So even though we have been told to avoid too much sun or tanning bed exposure, if we don’t get enough, we are actually at risk of developing skin cancer. You have to get your vitamin D checked by your provider and try to get it up to the higher end of normal.
- Sleep!!! It’s so important! If you have a chronic problem that interferes with sleep or maybe you just skimp on sleep your ECS will be affected. Poor sleep means increased levels of 2-AG and anandamide. Not enough sleep will increase hunger and weight gain.
- Circadian Rhythm - this is the natural rhythm that is your internal clock that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles. Research is ongoing to determine if the endocannabinoids regulate the clock or if the clock regulates the endocannabinoids.
- Nicotine- smoking results in inflammation in the brain, lungs and body. A deficiency of endocannabinoids combined with smoking, may trigger lung cancer.
- Alcohol - this can result in deficiency of endocannabinoids. When you drink the anandamide in the brain gets blocked and CB1 receptors are decreased in number.
- Stress- acute and chronic can wreak havoc on the ECS and is a topic for another day.
- Medications and chemotherapy can affect this system as well
Medical conditions associated with endocannabinoid deficiency:
Fibromyalgia, endometriosis, cancer, anxiety, PTSD, migraines, IBS & schizophrenia to name a few. As we age we are at a higher risk of cancer, Alzheimer's and movement disorders like Parkinson’s. Using cannabinoids may be a way to reduce these conditions and improve the other conditions like fibromyalgia, etc.
Does any of this information spark an interest in the health of your ECS and how to improve this very important system? Does going to the dispensary seem overwhelming? If so, please reach out to me for a coaching call and let's work on it!