By Gaetano Morello, ND
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body serves as a master conductor, sending chemical messages and triggering biological actions throughout the body that are critical to health and well-being. The ECS directly regulates the proper function of a wide range of body processes. Considering how important the ECS is to the body and specifically the brain, it’s not a surprise that a deficiency of endocannabinoid activity can negatively impact health.*
A landmark paper published by researcher Ethan B. Russo in 2003 brought forward the concept that clinical deficiency of the ECS can be an underlying factor in many illnesses. Russo coined the term “clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome” (CEDS), which means that there is a reduction or deficiency of endocannabinoid activity at the cellular level that increases risk of certain illnesses. Since that time, other researchers have confirmed this connection. In a 2014 literature review, researchers concluded, “…underlying endocannabinoid deficiencies indeed play a role in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and a growing list of other medical conditions.”
One factor that these conditions, and many others, have in common is inflammation. When the ECS is balanced and operating optimally, there is less inflammation and reduced risk of inflammatory illnesses.* Supporting the ECS with diet, lifestyle and dietary supplements becomes a key strategy in reducing risk of developing deficiency-related health issues.*
ECS deficiency can result from poor diet, lack of exercise, environmental factors, drug abuse, or genetics. Basically, anything that increases inflammation in the body can also decrease ECS activity. With this syndrome there is also a reduced ability to cope with stress. In addition, prolonged exposure to stress actually depletes the ECS and a vicious cycle can ensue. Obviously, a key way to reduce risk of CEDS is to find healthy ways to manage stress.*
A Mediterranean whole foods diet, as well as consistent exercise, will also help reduce risk of CEDS and the corresponding illnesses it can create. Certain nutrients and herbs can also help support a robust and active ECS, which will reduce the risk of CEDS.* These plant compounds work synergistically with diet and lifestyle to harmoniously balance the complex ECS.
*The statements made in this informational blog have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.