So far we have covered the basics about what the endocannabinoid (ECS) system is and how it works. Scientific research is uncovering more and more about the complexities of the ECS and how it fits into the big picture of human health and wellbeing, and there is still much to be understood about how hemp and cannabis impact our bodies. Aside from the natural therapeutic benefits of hemp and cannabis, there are also many ways you can support your endocannabinoid system with healthy lifestyle choices.
So let’s get started!
CBD, The ECS & Other Bodily Systems
The endocannabinoid system works with many other bodily systems to keep our bodies balanced. It interacts robustly with other systems like the endorphin system, the immune system, serotonin system, and the vanilloid system. In modulating these other systems, the ECS regulates inflammation, pain, bone health, the formation of new nerve cells, fat and sugar processing, mood, energy, brain health, and hormone balance.
CBD is currently being investigated for its anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, antioxidant, antiemetic (nausea and vomiting), anti-proliferative (anti-cancer), and antiepileptic properties among others. While medical research on CBD is still in its relative infancy, we do know that many of these therapeutic benefits are in part due to CBD’s ability to interact with non-cannabinoid systems.
Treating seizure disorders is one of the most medically promising and proven uses of CBD, and in 2018 the FDA approved the first cannabis-derived pharmaceutical (called Epidiolex) for treating childhood epilepsy. While the exact mechanism of action is still being investigated, it is thought that CBD acts as an inhibitor to the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoid anandamide, providing neuroprotective effects.
Increasing the brain’s levels of anandamide is also thought to be the mechanism through which CBD provides its antipsychotic effects, and this application is undergoing current clinical trials as a treatment for schizophrenia.
Anxiety is one of the most-often cited reasons for using CBD. It is believed that its calming powers are a result of CBD’s interaction with the serotonin system, where CBD activates the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor and causes a relaxing effect. This receptor also impacts a range of biological and neurological processes, including addiction, pain perception, nausea and vomiting-all of which are currently being investigated.
By inhibiting the destruction of the anti-inflammatory neurotransmitter called adenosine, CBD offers potent anti-inflammatory benefits and is often used by patients with chronic pain or athletes looking to cut down recovery time. CBD also binds to the TRPV-1 receptors that are part of the vanilloid system, which are known to mediate pain perception, inflammation and body temperature.
Along with being an anti-inflammatory, CBD is also a potent antioxidant, and together these effects offer neuroprotective properties that could be useful in treating movement disorders like Huntington’s and multiple sclerosis, along with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Ways To Support Your ECS
Aside from enjoying the benefits that CBD might offer you, there are many ways to support your body’s ECS and the natural state of balance your body is striving for. Research shows that taking care of your body through diet, exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices all support the optimal functioning of your ECS.
Your body creates endocannabinoids with the help of fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for this, and research in animals has shown a connection between diets low in omega-3s and mood changes caused by poor endocannabinoid regulation. Hemp seeds are a quality source of omega-3, but fish like salmon and sardines produce a form of omega-3s that is easier for your body to use. Nuts and eggs are also good sources of omega-3.
New research has found that omega-3 fatty acids might also provide anti-inflammatory benefits in much the same way as our endocannabinoids and the cannabinoids in hemp and cannabis do.
A great way to approach supporting your ECS, in general, is through diet. A diet that emphasizes greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds (or a G-BOMB diet) is not only good for your ECS but your body as a whole because these foods are the most nutrient-dense and health-promoting foods on the planet.
Another way to support your ECS is through lifestyle: massage, acupuncture, exercise, and weight control can all upregulate (or enhance) your endocannabinoid system. The effects of stress can deplete the ECS as well, and so active stress management through yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can be beneficial in maintaining a vital system. Moderate- to high-intensity exercise also increases endocannabinoid levels (particularly anandamide) in the body, supporting previous research that has shown exercise has anti-depressant like effects.