Why Your Body Might Be Hardwired For CBD

There’s not a part of your body the endocannabinoid system (also known as the ECS) isn’t involved in. From your sleep, appetite and mood, to your memory and pain control, the ECS – which was only discovered in the 1990s – is linked to them all.

“When people ask what the endocannabinoid system does, I say it’s more a case of what doesn’t it do?” says Iain McGregor, professor of psychopharmacology. “It’s ubiquitous in the body and basically involved in just about every physiological or biological process that we can think of. And thereby, it’s also involved in just about every disease, every condition that we can think of as well.”

Put very simply, the ECS system involves the distribution of substances made in the body called endocannabinoids. “These are signalling molecules that maintain balance within the body and we make two of them – anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG),” says Professor McGregor, covering it more technically. 

These endocannabinoids enter cells through receptors on the cell’s surface, and there are also two types of these: CB1 receptors, which mostly appear in the brain, and CB2 receptors, which appear all over the body. 

When the endocannabinoids bind with these receptors they trigger activity in the cell which might include reducing pain, lowering inflammation or decreasing anxiety depending on what receptor they hit and where it’s located. Once they’ve done their job, the endocannabinoids are broken down by enzymes and excreted out of the body.

The balancing act / An answer to your ills

When this system is in balance, so are you. Pain is controlled, anxiety is handled and inflammation is lessened, but if for some reason the system becomes out of balance, problems occur. And this is where things get really interesting.

You see, some experts believe that each of us has a base level of endocannabinoids that we produce in our system. This measure, known as endocannabinoid tone, might be determined by genetics and/or affected by lifestyle – but if it’s low, or too high, it can have repercussions on our health. 

High levels of cannabinoids are often found in people with weight problems, for example, while lower levels are now being linked to problems with pain and oversensitivity. “Many health concerns are linked to deficiencies in the neurotransmitter system,” says neurologist Dr Ernest Russo.

“Alzheimer’s, for example, is linked to low levels of the memory neurotransmitter acetylcholine, while depression is, in part, linked to disrupted levels of serotonin. I think a deficiency in endocannabinoids is also associated with a number of health concerns.” 

Specifically, Dr Russo suspects the problem, named Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED), is behind many cases of migraine, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. “It’s still a theory right now, but we are collecting more evidence backing it up. For example, in 2004, researchers in Italy collected spinal fluid from people with migraine and found it contained lower levels of cannabinoids than that of non-migrainers,” he told us.

Maintaining the flow

Balancing the ECS could therefore be the answer to a number of niggling health concerns. “But a number of things can go wrong in the endocannabinoid system to create deficiency,” says Dr Russo. “You might not produce enough endocannabinoids, you might not have enough certain receptors to receive their messages or you may have overactive forms of the enzymes that break down cannabinoids too fast. Reversing CED could involve changing all or any of these.”

But how do you do that? “I wish I could tell you there was one food you could eat that would increase your cannabinoid levels, or one thing to do that would make your receptors more active – but we’re not there with the research yet,” says Dr Russo. “We do have ideas of some things that might play a role, though,” he notes.

Here’s what you can do:

Try CBD oil 

One of the most interesting things is CBD oil. CBD – or cannabidiol oil – is made from plants in the cannabis family, In the last couple of years it’s shown positive effects on a myriad of seemingly unrelated health conditions and its role in balancing the ECS system is believed to be one reason why. 

“There are at least 65 different pharmacological actions of CBD, but one of them is that it inhibits the enzyme FAAH, which metabolises anandamide, and through that action it appears to increase levels of endocannabinoids in the brain and the body,” says Professor McGregor, who’s based at the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at The University of Sydney.. 

Unlike other countries where you can just buy CBD for any reason on the high street, here in Australia, it must be prescribed for a specific problem, but if you’re suffering one of the conditions that CBD is thought to help, like anxiety, migraines, IBS, fibromyalgia or epilepsy, it might be worth chatting to your GP or cannabis access clinic about giving it a try.

Nourish your gut

One of the other most important things is to look after the health of your gut, says Dr Russo. “We know that the gut plays a crucial role in ECS health, so increase your intake of probiotic foods like natural yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi and also increase prebiotic fibres that the bacteria feed upon.”

Load up on fats

Getting the right fats in your diet also matters. Our body makes endocannabinoids from omega- 3 fats found in foods like oily fish, nuts and seeds so a healthy intake of these will help ensure you have the building blocks to make supplies. Supplementing with omega-3 oils has clearly been shown to increase levels of both anandamide and 2-AG. 

On top of this, DHA, one of the main components of omega-3 fats, seems to help balance activity in the ECS receptors. Soy, green tea, curcumin (found in turmeric) and black pepper also all contain compounds that favourably affect the ECS system.

Go organic

It might also help to eat organic and avoid plastics when you can. Research from Canada’s Simon Fraser University revealed that a common ingredient found in pesticides seems to negatively affect ECS function, while ingredients called phthalates found in plastics have been shown to bind to CB1 receptors stopping cannabinoids people do produce getting in.

Get a move on

Not surprisingly, considering its known mood-lifting effects, exercise also seems to boost ECS health. A US study found that just 30 minutes of running raised levels of anandamide. 

Keep your cool

As with so much in health, limiting stress plays a role – stress activates enzymes that breakdown the cannabinoids you do produce faster. If you are stressed out, try yoga, deep breathing or meditation, all of which have been shown to counteract the effects of stress on the ECS – or just sing. “A UK study measuring anandamide levels in people found that they were raised after singing,” says Professor McGregor. “A friend of mine working on the study raised hers by 42 per cent.”

We’ve still got a lot to learn about the role of the ECS and exactly how to modulate it, but let’s face it, what we do know already looks good enough to make it worth a try.

The post Why Your Body Might Be Hardwired For CBD appeared first on Women's Health.

Source @womenshealth.com.au: Read more at : womenalive.org

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