Natural endocannabinoids to Improve Mood and Wellness

Natural endocannabinoids to Improve Mood and Wellness
I recently had the opportunity to listen to Dr Robert Rountree in a Mind Body Green training course on functional nutrition. 
In this particular training Dr. Rountree discussed the endocannabinoid system. As a medical marijuana card holder myself, and health coach, I am always interested in the latest research into endocannabinoids and health. 

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short is distributed throughout the body and has receptors in almost all organs and tissues throughout the body. Dr Rountree has a medical practice in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana and has helped many of his patients manage chronic conditions by nourishing the ECS. While the research into the endocannabinoid system is still in its infancy, Dr Rountree has years of experience in this field. This topic is still emerging and somewhat controversial in many medical circles. 

The ECS is a system that controls homeostasis and is considered an adaptogenic system, meaning it works to keep the body in equilibrium. Activating the receptors for the ECS can help regulate mood, memory, pain, sensation, skin health, stress response, bone health, metabolism, weight, fertility, immunity, inflammation and much more, according to Dr Rountree. 

As stated above, the ECS is systemic, found in virtually every part of the body. One of the primary locations of the endocannabinoid receptors is the nervous system, where they impact neurotransmission, or communication between the cells. 

The ECS can down regulate or upregulate excitability, depending on what is needed, that is what makes it adaptogenic. When activated in the central nervous system these receptors can incite gene transcription, turning certain genes on or off, influencing the release of neurotransmitters like glutamate and GABA, these neurotransmitters influence memory formation and learning. They also promote neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons and regulate neuron excitability. They can also modulate trauma and inflammation responses by helping to prevent rumination and preventing the brain from responding to traumatic events. They can also modulate pain signals and the release of cortisol and other hormones related to stress and mood.  This means this system is involved in our ability to regulate our mood and manage our stress. 

In the peripheral nervous system, ECS receptors are found as part of the sympathetic nervous system. Here, they control our fight or flight response as well as regulate digestive, urinary and reproductive functions. As I always like to say, if we are always stressed, we cannot rest and digest. It turns out the ECS is part of the bodies process that decides which state we are in. 

The other primary location of the ECS receptors is the digestive tract where its main role is to regulate gut immunity. A GI tract plagued with inflammation can interfere with the growth of healthy microbes that regulate mood and inflammation.  Additionally, we now know that much of our serotonin is produced by the bacteria in the gut, so the ECS again seems to be related to our mind body connection and managing our health and mental health. The ECS also helps to regulate gut motility, or how fast we digest our food. Once again, demonstrating itself as the potential master of regulating our nervous system. When the ECS is out of balance we overeat, gain weight and have less energy. Some of the ECS receptors in the digestive system heal regulate appetite, metabolism and body weight. 

The gut and brain our intimately connected, so when our gut health is impaired, inflammation can be transmitted to the brain as well.

In addition to the GI Tract and Nervous system, a properly regulated ECS helps prevent osteoporosis, improve ovulation, blood vessels and lungs, Skin and even sleep. 

Dr Rountree also discussed the benefits and side effects of the different cannabis types and finally suggests that we nourish our ECS with diet and lifestyle. 

1. Fatty acids like arachidonic acid (AA) is a precursor to endogenous cannabinoids. He recommends adequate omega 3 fatty acids to maintain normal inflammatory responses in the body. He also recommends consuming fatty fish twice weekly, such as cod and wild salmon and supplementing with a quality fish oil supplement. 

2. Consuming Dietary Phyto cannabinoids:
- Dark Chocolate
- Black Truffle
- Black pepper
- Clove
- Oregano
- Lavender
- Rosemary
- Hemp products
-Diindolylmethane (Found in cruciferous veggies)
- Lactobacillus acidophilus- This beneficial bacterium is found in foods and dairy containing prebiotics. 

3. Reduce Stress to nourish the ECS - Mediation, mindful movement practices and breathwork can all help with this. Chronic stress impacts the ECS negatively, making it less effective in regulating the homeostasis of the body. 

As a stress researcher, I am encouraged by this research which explains many of the connections between the ECS and mood and helps us understand the mechanisms in which the endocannabinoid system uses to regulate the nervous system and processes like digestion, inflammation and mood. I plant to continue watching this evolving field and sharing what I learn about the ECS and wellness.