As a CBD company, it only makes sense that we talk about the endocannabinoid system (ES). After all, it’s because of this incredible system that taking CBD has the impact it does on overall health.
But what about feeding the endocannabinoid system itself? Does what we eat impact how it functions? Are diet and the endocannabinoid system inextricably linked, so much so that we should be paying far more attention to it than we probably are?
These are important questions, one science has attempted to answer. What we know so far tells us a lot about how what we eat is impacting our bodies and how we feel, both long and short term.
The Endocannabinoid System
Just in case you need a refresher, the endocannabinoid system was discovered in the late 1980s, and scientists are still learning about its role in your overall health, but what we know so far is pretty cool.
Simply put, it’s a system found all throughout your body and its goal is to bring about homeostasis, or balance, when things are out of sync. It does this by targeting areas which may not be performing as they should be and encouraging a change to get things back on track.
Sounds simple enough, sure, but it’s actually really complex and fascinating! We won’t get deeper into the specifics, but you can check out more here at this post.
What you probably want to know though is that scientists have determined that it plays an important role in a wide range of functions, including:
- pain sensation
- reproduction and fertility
Diet and the Endocannabinoid System
Ok, so the ES is important, but what is the connection between diet and the endocannabinoid system?
You may have noticed above that the ES plays a role in regulating the functions which are also impacted by diet – appetite, sleep, even mood. In the case of diet, and how what we eats impacts the ES, it comes down to the roles played by the 2 main cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 – “Give Me the Good Stuff”
The CB1 receptor loves sugar. That’s a basic way of putting it. It encourages you to eat more sugar by telling your brain that those sweet flavors are pleasing and make you happy. Ok, so far that doesn’t sound too bad, but what if you’re eating too much sugar?
Too much sugar and too many refined carbohydrates in the diet cause inflammation in your body. Over time, that inflammation overload can lead to several health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and cancer.
CB2 – “The Good Stuff is Bad Stuff”
Ok, here’s the good news.
CB2 receptors tend to send the opposite message from CB1s. If CB1 receptors are saying “bring on the sugar, CB2 receptors are being the responsible parent. CB1 receptors promote appetite and food consumption, whereas CB2 receptors tend to inhibit food intake. Again, there’s that magical balance.
Compounds from vegetables and spices enhance the activity of CB2 receptors, and making sure you have lots of them in your diet may provide adaptive metabolic advantages and counteract inflammation!
But that’s not all…
Oh My, Omegas
Another major component of the link between diet and the endocannabinoid system is essential fatty acids. Your body doesn’t have the enzymes to make them, so you have to get them from your diet.
If you don’t get enough, you can develop a deficiency and become sick. That’s why they’re called essential.
Ok, but how are they connected to the ES you ask? In the brain, polyunsaturated fatty acids are precursors of endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are molecules that form a central component of the ES and help restore homeostasis.
There are two major types of polyunsaturated fatty acids:
- Omega-3s (ALA, EPA, DHA)
- Omega-6s (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid)
You need both of these omega fatty acids in your diet. A healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is generally between 1-to-1 to 5-to-1. The thing is, research suggests that people who follow a typical Western diet consume far more omega-6s – as high a ratio as between 15-to-1 and almost 17-to-1!
Unhealthy inflammation is a common underlying cause for all systemic imbalances in the body. These imbalances can cause all kinds of disease, from neurological to cardiovascular.
When your omega fatty acids are in the right range, and you’re getting enough omega-3s, chemical reactions convert omega-3 fatty acids into cannabinoids that can help fight inflammation and inhibit the development of many health conditions caused by it.
Improving Your Diet and the Endocannabinoid System
So, what does all this tell us?
To keep our ES in check, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help promote the synthesis of omega-3 endocannabinoids, motivating the activation of CB2 receptors which tell your body to lay off the sugar and carbs, and enhance your overall health.
To do this, limit your omega-6s and boost your omega-3s.
- Processed seed and vegetable oils (and processed foods that contain them) like sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and cottonseed oil
- Processed snacks, fast foods, cakes, fatty meats, and cured meats.
- Fatty fish (these are good sources of omega-6s)
- Nuts and seeds, such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts
- Healthier oils – olive oil and coconut oil
By paying a little bit more attention to what you’re eating, you can directly impact how well your ES functions. And that’s something we can all benefit from!