The human Endocannabinoid System (ECS) has been evolving for more than 600 million years and is a necessary component of good health since it influences and modulates almost every organ system in the body. In fact, Ethan Russo, M.D. (Board certified Neurologist, former Senior Medical Advisor GW Pharmaceuticals) says, “The ECS is an essential regulator of bodily functions. There is hardly any physiological process that is not affected by it to some degree,” and that homeostasis is able to exist because the ECS “regulates regulation”. The ECS monitors and adjusts every process in the body including immunity, temperature, anxiety level, breathing and inflammatory response. The ECS must be nearly perfectly tuned and balanced to keep us healthy.
Two of the endocannabinoids, anandamide, and 2-AG, participate in a wonderfully choreographed dance with the receptors and enzymes of the ECS to achieve this balance every second of our lives. Disruption of this balance is what seems to be the catalyst for many diseases and pathologies. With this notion in mind, researchers are beginning to realize that the ECS behaves as a novel signaling system at the cellular level that could be studied using similar methods to those used to study the other organ systems.
In our article in February 2020, we discussed how CBD performs its intricate interplay with these receptors and enzymes to promote, inhibit and modulate biological functions throughout the body to assist in these homeostatic effects. But CBD alone is not enough. Recent research is being conducted by forward-thinking scientists and medical professionals who are interested in exploring and defining what constitutes a healthy ECS as well as looking at what are the ramifications of a “compromised ECS”. They are beginning to find some predictable results.
For instance, research indicates many of the common enemies of overall good health; processed foods, toxins, everyday stress and even the unwanted side effects of prescription drugs are the same culprits that lead to sub-optimal ECS function. These insults make it difficult for the ECS to perform its primary duty of regulating regulation via several of its complicated feedback loops, the net effect of which is that we see resultant diseases and annoyances to healthy living such as insomnia, pain, inflammation and anxiety. What can be done to combat the negative consequences of ECS dysfunction? Dr. Rachel Knox, in her 2019 TED Talk, discussed several behaviors all of us can engage in to maintain a healthy ECS, namely, a healthy diet of mostly natural foods rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids; sufficient sleep and exercise; and maintaining healthy relationships and a positive attitude.
When counseling a patient who is using CBD for any of the complaints mentioned above, suggesting these fundamentally healthy practices makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t dispense a statin medication to a patient without also reminding them to eat healthy and get adequate exercise, would you?