Prominent research physician Dr. Ethan Russo’s recent research paper was Published by Liebert. In this extensive literature review, he explains Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) a term he coined in 2004.
CED is characterized by symptoms when there is not enough endocannabinoid system signaling. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the largest neurotransmitter system in the body.
Dr Russo hypothesizes that all humans have an underlying endocannabinoid tone reflecting their levels of endocannabinoids. If levels of these endocannabinoids are deficient, it manifests in diseases marked by chronic pain, dysfunctional immune systems, fatigue, and mood imbalances.
His review takes a look at the concept of CED supported by a decade of supportive objective evidence of such a condition. There have been contradictory findings due to the interrelationship between the two most important endocannabinoids, AEA (anandamide) and 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol) known so far.
Anandamide is considered the tonic signaling agent and 2-AG acts as a signal activator. Conflicting levels of these two endocannabinoids can frequently occur.
While CED is harmful, an excess of endocannabinoids is also harmful, and can cause obesity, metabolic syndrome and liver fibrosis. Till recently there has been little objective evidence of CED except in migraine patients. This was confirmed by assessing endocannabinoid levels in their serum or spinal fluid.
Hopefully, screening techniques will be developed in the near future to confirm other ailments related to CED.
The balance of endocannabinoids seems to be a very important yet unexplored field holding solutions to many conditions such as post-traumatic stress and chronic pain.
There are various possible strategies to treat CED conditions but the intricate balance of the ECS can’t be taken for granted. For instance a direct approach with a CB1 agonist, a substance that initiates a physiological response, must consider the ECS as having the tendency to maintain a constant environment regardless of external conditions.
A small dose of a weak partial agonist, for instance THC, might be considered to jump-start ECS by being a gentle prod rather than a forceful shove. THC alone is not well tolerated by most patients and the whole cannabis extract would be preferable. The buffering components such as CBD and cannabis terpenoids are certainly preferable.
What leads to endocannabinoid deficiencies?
Our Western lifestyle of unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, too little sleep, and too much bad stress, leads to endocannabinoid deficiency.
There are several reasons why we can have a deficiency in ECS signaling. The first reason might be that our body doesn’t synthesize enough endocannabinoids. Or secondly, we might not have enough cannabinoid receptors. Or there might be too many enzymes present, breaking down endocannabinoids in our body. Even if we have enough endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors there might not be enough signaling.
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How can Endocannabinoid Deficiency be rectified?
There is more than one way to rectify the deficiency in ECS signaling. One could eat more food that boosts endocannabinoids levels in the body and brain. Another way is to get rid of medications or foods that decrease endocannabinoid signaling. Then one could also eat phytocannabinoids, cannabinoids from plants. For instance, cannabis is the most abundant source of phytocannabinoids, providing 130 types of cannabinoids. Other sources are flaxseed, black pepper (one can’t have too much of that though) and Echinacea (North American coneflower).
Instead of having to eat the whole cannabis plant, all the goodness can be obtained from a reputable source as a supplement.