What is the endocannabinoid system and what does it do?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system which most people have not even heard of given that it was only identified in the early 1990s by researchers exploring THC.
We all have this system regardless of whether or not we use any cannabis compounds in any form. It is made up of 3 core components; Endocannabinoids, Receptors and Enzymes.
So far, science knows that our ECS plays a key role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including:
- appetite and metabolism
- reproduction and fertility
Experts are agreed that the main purpose of this important system is to retore balance in the body and maintain homeostasis.
What is endocannabinoid deficiency?
So we know that the ECS is involved in the majority of functions in our bodies and that many chronic conditions are associated with these functions. Well the theory of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) explains that health conditions including IBS, Migraines, Fibromyalgia are due to a deficiency in endocannabinoid levels. You could liken this to the way neurotransmitter deficiencies are the cause of other illnesses – for example serotonin deficiency is behind depression.
The theory was first discussed by Dr Russo in the early 2000’s and he has since published several well cited papers on CED. After significant evidence had been gathered Dr Russo’s 2016 Paper, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered found significantly different levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide in migraine sufferers and similar results were seen in those suffering from fibromyalgia. Another condition that Russo and other experts believe falls into the CED group is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the studies found decreased ECS function in those suffering from PTSD. Russo’s 2016 paper states “If endocannabinoid function were decreased, it follows that a lowered pain threshold would be operative, along with derangements of digestion, mood, and sleep among the almost universal physiological systems subserved by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).” This is supported by clinical data that shows cannabinoid treatment and lifestyle changes aimed at supporting ECS health (known as tone), led to improved sleep, decreased pain, and many other benefits, again linking ECS dysfunction to these conditions.
Whilst we do not have all of the answers as to why someone may have an endocannabinoid deficiency, the paper posits that they may be the result of disease, injury, or due to genetics.
This particular study focuses on IBS, migraine and fibromyalgia as the key three conditions linked to endocannabinoid deficiency. They are all conditions with an unknown cause, considered to be chronic and they all involve increased pain sensations in the affected area. However the paper also states other disorders which may fall under the CED rubric including; PTSD, glaucoma, cystic fibrosis, types of neuropathy, phantom limb pain, neonatal failure to thrive, infantile colic, menstrual pain, repetitive miscarriages, hyperemesis gravidarum, bipolar disease, and many others. Many of these diseases are little understood and remain treatment resistant.
How can you boost your ECS?
If you suffer from any of these conditions, or have signs of a deficiency ( i.e issues with functions associated with the ECS and homeostasis such as sleep, mood, metabolism etc) then you may be wondering how you can improve the tone of your ECS, well here are a few ideas
Exercise – exercise helps your endocannabinoid production however depending on your conditions you may not want to go too hard and risk a flare up. Gentle exercise, movement and stretching is key.
Diet & Gut Health – Avoid inflammatory foods and focus on a diet that supports a health gut microbiome. Include pre and probiotic foods.
Reduce stress and increase sleep – a stressed, tired body is not balanced and this throws off your ECS, so where possible introduce strategies and make lifestyle choices that allow more rest and lower stress levels.
Introduce a cannabinoid routine – One of the simplest ways to boost your ECS function is to introduce cannabinoids via supplementation (TT range of oils). CBD, CBG and CBC can all help support your ECS and set yo up for success with the other lifestyle changes that can help.
While there is still much to understand about this relatively newly discovered bodily system, we are thankful to Dr Russo for his research that is showing a clear relationship between endocannabinoid deficiency and a number of serious health conditions. It seems that research into this area and medical knowledge has been slow (most likely due to the stigma surrounding all things cannabis) but if you are suffering with related health issues then incorporating some of these lifestyle changes seem like a positive step to try.
For any questions about adding cannabinoids to your routine, get in touch at email@example.com