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Endocannabinoid-Enhancing Foods and Activities

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Endocannabinoid-Enhancing Foods and Activities
Authored by: Genester Wilson-King, MD FACOG & Sarah Russo

Endocannabinoid-Reinforcing Foods

Various practices can be used in addition to cannabinoid therapeutics or without it to enhance the endocannabinoid system. For example, voluntary and enjoyable exercises like running, yoga, and other types of physical fitness can help to boost endocannabinoid tone. Activities such as mediation, massage, acupuncture, and breathing exercises can also help to increase the function of the ECS. [1]

Another way to achieve endocannabinoid balance is to eat foods that support ECS function. Endocannabinoids are produced from arachidonic acid, which is an Omega-6 fatty acid. Having enough fatty arachidonic acid is essential for endocannabinoid production. But having too much can downregulate cannabinoid receptors and cause inflammation. This is why it is important to ingest a balanced ratio (1:1) of Omega-3 to Omega-6. The typical U.S. diet is too heavily weighted towards Omega-6 fatty acids. [2]

Some good sources of omega 3 to encourage balance are:

  • Hemp seeds & oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds & oil
  • Sardines and anchovies
  • Eggs (pasture-fed or omega 3 enriched only)

Chocolate is a highly sought-after food for good reason. Cacao (Theobroma cacao), the plant that chocolate is made from, contains compounds that are structurally very similar to endocannabinoids. These compounds can prevent the breakdown of your body’s own cannabinoids, resulting in higher endocannabinoid levels overall. [3] Reap its benefits by getting chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. You can also add cacao nibs to smoothies or anything else you like. 

Some tools to pave the way to better endocannabinoid function may already be in your kitchen. Certain herbs and spices have the ability to work on an endocannabinoid tone. Beta-caryophyllene is a predominant terpene found in black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, clove, and other plants. It is a CB2 agonist, which is a characteristic that can be beneficial for decreasing inflammation. [4]

Some botanical allies besides cannabis also work on the ECS. An active compound curcumin, found in turmeric root, has been found to raise endocannabinoid levels. Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) has been found to slow down the breakdown of the ECS. Echinacea, well known for its immune-boosting capabilities, is able to do this work via CB2 receptor activity. [5]

A well-rounded diet that consists of real, whole food, and clean water in general, can help to maintain a healthy endocannabinoid tone. Probiotics and fermented food can help improve the function of the ECS within the gut. [5] In general, one should eat organic whenever possible as certain pesticides are known to disrupt the ECS.  Phthalates are frequently added to plastic containers and water bottles which can block endocannabinoid receptors and the hormonal system. And keep alcoholic drinks to a minimum. Moderate to high quantities of alcohol also impair endocannabinoid signaling. [1]

 Endocannabinoid-Boosting Activities

Do you need another reason to motivate yourself to exercise?  Well, here it is.  Physical fitness and other stress-reducing activities are very important in the enhancement of the endocannabinoid system.  Dr. Dustin Sulak, a well-respected cannabis expert says, “incorporating exercise into your daily routine will keep your ECS well-tuned, but only if you enjoy it!”  And he is correct.  He further states that “animal studies teach us that if you force yourself to exercise, your ECS will interpret the activity as stress, but freely choosing and enjoying the same activity will increase endocannabinoid levels.”  Animal studies in rats have also found that social play and grooming behavior increased the function of the ECS, while rats in social isolation produced less cannabinoid receptors. [2]

Examples of endocannabinoid enhancing activities include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Voluntary and enjoyable exercise
  • Tai Chi 
  • Breathing exercises
  • Social interaction [2]  

The endocannabinoid system is an essential player in the wellness of every person. Because everybody is unique, finding ways to create homeostasis will be a different journey for everyone. Ongoing advancements in science and the natural health will continue to provide exciting therapeutic potential via the endocannabinoid system and the medicines and activities that support it. 

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Dr. Genester Wilson King HeadshotGenester Wilson-King, MD FACOG is a Board-Certified Obstetrician and gynecologist with over 25 years of clinical experience providing compassionate and research-driven care to patients. After years of working as a full-service OB/GYN, she founded Victory Rejuvenation Center (VRC), a private holistic and preventive medicine practice that provides life-transforming management modalities and customized medicines to patients. She is the Medical Advisor to Treadwell Farms.

As the Medical Director of VRC, Dr. Wilson-King provides services that help her patients age gracefully and achieve holistic well-being. She focuses on plant-based medicine, integrated health, nutrition, supplements, cannabis education, and hormone balance. 

Dr. Wilson-King is Co-Vice President of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians (SCC). The SCC is an educational and scientific society of physicians and other professionals dedicated to the promotion, protection and support of cannabis for medical use.  Dr. Wilson-King co-authored the Best Practices Guidelines for Cannabis Use in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, and Cannabis Use in Women – Special Considerations (in progress).  She is also on the Board of the Doctors For Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), the first and only national physicians’ association dedicated to the legalization and regulation of cannabis for adults. Advancing the DFCR’s commitment to addressing the disproportionate criminalization of cannabis use among communities of color and the nation’s poor, she regularly provides expert opinions for legal cases involving cannabis.

Dr. Wilson-King is a nationally recognized advocate, clinician, and educator for cannabis and hormone and wellness therapies.  She presents on cannabis use in obstetrics and gynecology, hormone therapy for PMS, various stages of menopause, and for applications in nutrition.
 

Sarah Russo HeadshotSarah Russo is a longtime plant enthusiast and globetrotter. She got her degree in environmental studies and social justice, with a focus on plant medicine from the Evergreen State College. She is a freelance writer, consultant, and project manager with over 13 years of experience in the cannabis and herbal medicine space. Her main objectives are fighting for the right to use plants, implementing social justice approaches in the cannabis industry, as well as encouraging sustainable agricultural practices. She is currently based on an island in the Mediterranean. Sarah is a content creator for Treadwell Farms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. McPartland et al. Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System: A Systematic Review of Potential Clinical Interventions that Upregulate the Endocannabinoid System. PLoS One., 2014.
  2. Sulak, Dustin. (2018). Endocannabinoid Diet & Activities. Healer. Accessed on 4/16/2020.
  3. Di Tamaso, E., et al. Brain cannabinoids in chocolate. Nature, 1996.
  4. Gertsch J., et al. Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA., 2008.
  5. Russo, Ethan. Beyond Cannabis: Plants and the Endocannabinoid System. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 2016.

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