The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” Even 2400 years ago, nutrition was viewed as an important constituent in supporting, healing and maintaining a healthy body, and as we know, this statement still holds true today.
In the context of cannabis, you might wonder if nutrition also plays a significant role in the functioning of the endocannabinoid system. In fact, it does indeed!
For those of you new to cannabis-related science, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is possibly one of the greatest discoveries, if not, THE greatest discovery when it comes to the human body. The ECS is our master regulator and it’s responsible for regulating and establishing internal balance among all our internal processes, including but not limited to: sleep, mood, appetite, memory, fertility, reproduction, the cardiovascular system, and much more. In order for all of our internal functions to run smoothly and establish internal balance, we need to create our own internal cannabinoids.
"For those in a chronic disease state, there is a high probability that their bodies are deficient in their own internal cannabinoids because their endocannabinoid system is dysfunctional."
Now, you may have heard of cannabinoids before. The term is often used to describe the compounds found in the cannabis plant, including the most abundant and well-known molecules CBD and THC. What’s more fascinating is that our bodies create our own internal cannabinoids that mimic the CBD and THC cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
For those of us in a good state of health, there is an excellent chance that our endocannabinoid system is functioning optimally, and therefore producing our own internal CBD and THC. Our endocannabinoid system will produce these internal cannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids (endo - meaning “within” and genous – meaning “producing”). These endogenous cannabinoids are produced as needed, in response to acute injury or illness, to reestablish internal balance amongst all of our body systems, processes and functions.
However, for those in a chronic disease state, there is a high probability that their bodies are deficient in their own internal cannabinoids because their endocannabinoid system is dysfunctional. In turn, their endocannabinoid system either does not produce - or is producing very little of - their own internal cannabinoids.
"Nutrition plays an important role in jump-starting, supporting, and maintaining a healthy endocannabinoid system."
As a result, people in states of chronic disease cannot achieve internal balance, which leaves them incapable of responding effectively to traditional therapies. These patients will experience little-to-no symptom relief, leaving many feeling hopeless, helpless, and at their wit’s end.
This is why when we supplement an ailing body with the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, we see significant results such as improved symptoms, improved health, and reclaimed quality of life. The cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant work hand-in-hand with our endocannabinoid system. BUT, we can take this even a step further with nutrition.
Nutrition plays an important role in jump-starting, supporting, and maintaining a healthy endocannabinoid system. Incorporating certain foods, spices, herbs and teas will not only help you achieve a better state of health, but can also provide greater success when a diet that supports the endocannabinoid system is combined with the nourishment from the cannabinoids of the cannabis plant.
So, what foods are we talking about here? For starters, our endocannabinoid system loves the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. The omegas have the ability to enhance the activity of our endocannabinoid system, but like everything else we should be doing in life, it does require a balance.
Over-consuming foods high in omega-6 fatty acids can actually promote inflammation and down regulate the endocannabinoid system, which is counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish. Ideally, we want to consume foods that already have the balance we’re looking for between our omegas.
"The endocannabinoid system loves tea."
The foods that achieve this balance include: hemp oil, hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, sardines or anchovies and eggs that are pastured raised or enriched with omega-3. If you haven’t already incorporated some of these foods into your diet, it’s worth making the effort.
Food group number two (at least it’s a food group in my world) and my most favorite, CHOCOLATE! You’re welcome chocolate lovers! Cacao powder, from which chocolate is made, contains three compounds that are similarly structured to our own internal cannabinoids. These compounds found in cacao can inhibit the breakdown of our own internal CBD and THC, resulting in higher levels of our own internal cannabinoids.
It’s important to note, though, that the compounds found in chocolate can vary widely across the spectrum of chocolate. The highest concentrations of cannabinoids can be found in dark chocolate and raw cacao. So, if you are a lover of dark chocolate like myself, find something that is 70% or higher to get the greatest benefit, or sprinkle some raw cacao nibs into your yogurt or smoothie and jumpstart that endocannabinoid system.
For food group number three, just remember that “variety is the spice of life.” Fortunately, the endocannabinoid system loves both variety and spice. The endocannabinoid system is quite fond of black pepper, cloves, hops, lemon balm, oregano and cinnamon.
All of these all contain a terpene called beta-caryophyllene, which is the most common terpene found in the cannabis plant, and has the most potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and immunomodulatory properties. So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, amp up the endocannabinoid system and the flavor profile of your meal or baked goods with one of these spices.
Last but not least, tea! The endocannabinoid system loves tea. Whether it’s a hot cup of tea while curled up on the couch during winter, or a nice, cold, refreshing glass of sun tea during the summer, the endocannabinoid system welcomes it year-round.
Tea contains a flavonoid called kaempferol, which inhibits the production of the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of our own internal THC, also called anandamide, our molecule of happiness and “bliss.” Tea leaves also contain catechins, micronutrients that have shown to have a moderate affinity for some of our endocannabinoid receptors, and can have pharmacological effects such as anti-inflammation, as well as neuro and cardioprotective properties, and can increase synergy within the endocannabinoid system.
Nothing like a two-for-one deal to make your day!
Like I said from the start, that Hippocrates knew what he was talking about! Nutrition plays a vital role in jumpstarting, supporting, and maintaining a strong endocannabinoid system. My challenge to you is to incorporate as many of these foods, spices, herbs and teas into your diet to support your internal master regulator!