How to support your Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

One of the most eye opening learnings when I started my journey in cannabis for wellness was the fact that humans have an Endocannabinoid System (ECS). I was mind boggled by the fact that a major system was only now surfacing into the wellness realm. Eventually I realized the reason for this is because the ECS was only discovered in the 1990’s through cannabis research so information only started to trickle down in the last few years. As a Holistic Nutritionist and Yin yoga teacher, I work super closely with the nervous system, and this knowledge has help me work to another level with my clients.

The ECS is made of up cell receptors found throughout our bodies and they have a wide variety of functions. These cell receptors are like the control centre of our bodies and allow for day-to-day bodily functions such as sleep, appetite, digestion, mood, memory, pain, temperature regulation, immunity and more. It is basically the balancing bridge between our bodies and minds. So naturally, when there is a disruption in the ECS, any one of these functions can fall out of balance!

 

Here are 5 ways to support your ECS on the daily:

 

  1. Exercise.
    Physical activity may release the endocannabinoid called anandamide, often referred to as “the bliss molecule”. There is some evidence that suggests it’s involvement in us experiencing the “runner’s high” which contributes to a blissed out feeling post-exercise. So exercise is a great way to boost your body’s natural capacity to produce endocannabinoids.

  2. Healthy fats.
    Endocannabinoids are made from fat so the more healthy fats you consume, the healthier the entire ECS system becomes as a whole. There is research that suggests omega-3 fatty acids can enhance the abilities of anandamide to help you increase your mood and provide pain relief. So make sure you eat lots of good quality eggs, fish, algae, flax, hemp, nuts and seeds.

  1. Proper sleep.
    Chances are, you probably already have heard of the various reasons that sleep impacts our overall health. This is particularly true in supporting our ECS because it influences the body’s internal clock also known as the circadian rhythm. Study’s suggest our 2-AG levels spike (another endocannabinoid we produce), which contributes to increased appetite. When we don’t get enough sleep 2-AG spikes higher than normal and stays elevated for longer. On a personal level, this makes total sense because when I don’t get enough sleep I’m constantly craving something and I know this has to do with cortisol but it was really interesting to know that the ECS may play a role in this too.

  2. Choose Herbs & Spices.
    Herbs and spices have numerous health factors including acting as anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and immune boosting agents. They can even act as prebiotics and contribute to a healthy micro biome. Choose herbs and spices or plant medicine rather than over the counter meds or synthetic products to support the immune system. Some of these herbs include black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, onions and garlic.

  3. Stress Management.
    When we are stressed, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional, our bodies do not discriminate because stress is stress is stress. It only know’s your are in “fight or flight” and when in this mode, digestion and immunity functions decrease. In flight or flight, you are likely not absorbing nutrients optimally and your body is vulnerable to getting bacterial and viruses. So however you choose to deal with stress, whether it’s meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, massage, light exercise, being in nature, going to a therapist - go do that!

Margaret Sung