You’ve heard of vitamin deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, and protein deficiencies, but what is an endocannabinoid system deficiency? If you have an endocannabinoid system deficiency, should you be concerned? What are the symptoms? To answer these questions, first, you should know what the endocannabinoid system is and what it does.
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is composed of compounds called cannabinoids that are produced by the body (“endo”) and located on vital glands and organs. Cannabinoids and the system to which they belong exist to help maintain balance or homeostasis throughout your entire body. So when you think ECS, think “harmony” or “balance.”
The two most critical cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2, and they have an impact on everything from the cells in your immune system to your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Anandamide and arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) are the two main endocannabinoids that the body creates, and they attach to and activate the cannabinoid receptors. Here’s what these two endocannabinoids do:
Anandamide: a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that is sometimes referred to as the “bliss molecule.” It is made in areas of the brain that are involved in movement control, memory, motivation, and higher thought processes, as well as pain, fertility, and appetite. Anandamide also plays a role in stopping the spread of cancer cells.
Arachidonylglycerol: There is some evidence that this endocannabinoid plays a role in regulating food intake and energy metabolism. Arachidonylglycerol also is involved in regulating depression, anxiety, addictive behavior, inflammatory reactions, and pain.
In addition to the cannabinoids and receptors, the ECS also has several enzymes that regulate the system by stimulating the production of endocannabinoids. These enzymes have the ability to boost production if levels are low or trigger the destruction of cannabinoids if levels are too high.
Symptoms of endocannabinoid deficiency
If there is a shortage or deficiency of endocannabinoids (aka, an endocannabinoid deficiency), you may experience the following symptoms or conditions:
- Tiredness or fatigue, which may be accompanied by insomnia
- Achy muscles
- Bone loss, which may go unrecognized unless you have a bone density test or experience a fracture
- Forgetfulness and/or dementia-like symptoms
- Chronic pain
- Mood imbalances/anxiety/depression
- Slowed metabolism, which may result in weight gain
- High insulin sensitivity
- Fibromyalgia, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and/or other conditions associated with chronic inflammation
- Muscle spasms
What can cause an endocannabinoid system deficiency?
Your endocannabinoid system can experience a deficiency for several reasons. For example, you may have:
- An excess of enzymes that interfere with the activity of your endocannabinoids
- An insufficient number of synthesized endocannabinoids
- Too few receptors for your endocannabinoids to attach to
- An insufficient amount of signaling occurring between your endocannabinoids and their receptors
Now that we know many of the symptoms and their causes, let’s see how you can remedy an endocannabinoid system deficiency.
How to correct an endocannabinoid deficiency
To improve your endocannabinoid system and assist in getting it back to a healthy maintenance state, consider these suggestions:
- Eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables. Foods such as kale, mustard greens, chard, spinach, collards, watercress, and cabbage can help your body create more endocannabinoids in your body.
- Spice up your meals with herbs and spices that are rich in cannabinoids, such as basil, black pepper, oregano, rosemary, and sage
- Consider supplementing with plant cannabinoids other than those found in food and culinary herbs, such as magnolia bark, passion flower, Echinacea, saffron, curcumin, boswellia, bacopa, huperzine, and ashwagandha
[Editor's Note: Emerald Health has a line of endocannabinoid supplements to fill in the gaps when you may be deficient.]
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