The food that you eat may be the single most important decision you make on a daily basis. Humans need food to make energy and to supply the body with the wide array of nutrients needed to perform basic functions. The more nutrients, the better things operate. When things go awry, there’s a good chance that nutrition is part of the equation. To keep your endocannabinoid system strong, it has a few needs. Here’s a breakdown of nutrients for a healthy ECS.
Does cannabis deplete nutrients?
The body’s internal environment changes all of the time. When you consume cannabis, compounds in the herb take the place of compounds mammals produce naturally, called endocannabinoids.
However, cannabis does not have the exact same effects as the body’s own creations. So, it’s understandable that the herb can have an impact on various functions.
One of the big criticisms of long-term cannabis use is that it can deplete the body of certain nutrients. Unfortunately, studies on this topic are few and far between.
Of research available, there isn’t much evidence to back these claims. But, it’s always important to know both the pros and cons of any substance, cannabis included.
Here are three nutrients that cannabis may influence.
A 1985 report compared the health status of adolescents who consumed cannabis, cannabis and alcohol, and non-consuming participants. None of the groups showed any significant sign of nutrient deficiencies, with the exception of zinc among cannabis-only consumers.
However, the study authors concluded that the nutritional differences between consumers and non-consumers were likely due to diet.
Food sources of zinc:
- Flax seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
There is some debate on whether or not heavy, routine cannabis use may contribute to magnesium deficiency. However, research on this subject is lacking. Regardless,
Regardless, some cannabis consumers report using magnesium to calm cannabis-induced panic attacks.
Magnesium is used in over 300 different bodily functions. Unfortunately, some estimates suggest that up to 68% of Americans are deficient in this essential mineral. Other experts suggest that number is more like 80%. This is a bad sign, as magnesium is responsible for maintaining a healthy nervous and muscular system.
Other experts suggest that number is more like 80%. This is a bad sign, as magnesium is responsible for maintaining a healthy nervous and muscular system.
Signs of magnesium deficiency includes anxiety, muscle weakness, and fatigue. If you find yourself a little jittery after some cannabis, perhaps some magnesium-rich foods may be of some use. However, the scientific evidence to support this claim is lacking.
Food sources of magnesium:
- Dark chocolate, cacao (70% or above)
- Sprouted nuts and seeds
- Dark, leafy greens
3. Folic acid
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is an essential vitamin. It is necessary to prevent DNA damage and helps create and maintain new cells. One
The study suggests that cannabis can have an impact on the transmission of folic acid from mother to fetus. However, the research needs to be further investigated determine whether or not this has an impact on human development.
Food sources of folic acid:
- Dried beans
Nutrients for endocannabinoid support
Cannabis has medical and psychoactive powers thanks to the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a large network of cell receptors throughout the body. The ECS is a homeostatic regulator, meaning that the system helps maintain optimum balance in the body.
Overall, the ECS plays a role in mood, memory, sleep, appetite, reproduction, metabolism, and immune function.
There are many reasons to care about the health of your ECS. Not only does it allow you to enjoy your cannabis, but it is vital to mental and physical well-being.
As mentioned in a previous article, endocannabinoids, the body’s own THC, are made from fatty acids. This means that getting enough healthy fats is vital for healthy endocannabinoid function. But there are some other key nutrients as well.
Research on cannabis and diet are sorely lacking, but researchers continue to unearth new findings on the ECS every year.
Based on the evidence available, here are a few nutrients for endocannabinoid function:
1. Vitamin E
Vitamin E itself does not engage endocannabinoid receptors. However, some research shows that a derivative of vitamin E, α-tocopheryl phosphate, seems to facilitate brain cell signaling through its impact on the ECS.
Similar to cannabis, vitamin E is a neuroprotective antioxidant. It protects the brain from damage from stress and environmental factors.
Food sources of vitamin E:
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
Curcumin is the primary active ingredient in the common Indian spice, Turmeric. Turmeric is quite popular for combatting inflammation, oxidative stress, and improved cognition.
Curcumin is not an essential nutrient, but research suggests that the compound may boost endocannabinoid levels.
Food sources of curcumin:
- Yellow curry powder
While not an essential nutrient, beta-caryophyllene can engage cannabinoid receptors.
Specifically, beta-caryophyllene acts as a cannabinoid by engaging the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). This receptor is found most abundantly on immune cells. Some studies suggest that this gives BCP potent anti-inflammatory and immune modulatory properties.
Food sources of beta-caryophyllene:
- Black peppercorn
For a healthy endocannabinoid system, you might need to get a little friendly with some bacteria. The human microbiome is a rapidly emerging field in medical research.
By some estimates, microbial cells on our bodies outnumber human cells by a factor of 10 to 1. Thanks to a nearly 3 pound mass of microbes in the intestinal, the gut has earned the nickname “the second brain”.
Recent evidence shows that the microorganisms in your gut may impact the ECS. Microorganisms play such an important role, some gut bugs even impact the expression of endocannabinoid receptors.
A 2007 study shows that one bacteria, lactobacillus acidophilus modulated the expression of cannabinoid receptors on intestinal cells.
The same bacteria also had an impact on opioid receptors, decreasing intestinal pain. Another study found that THC can alter the ratios of bacteria in the gut. These are clear signs that the microbiome and endocannabinoid system are closely connected. Only more research will further unveil the relationship between the two.
Food sources of probiotics:
- Dairy, coconut, soy, and almond yogurt
- Other fermented foods
Research on fermented foods and probiotic supplements is promising. But, another effective way to alter your gut microbiome is through diet.
As neurologist and medical researcher Dr. Ethan Russo writes,
It is increasingly appearant that proper dietary choices encompassing prebiotic vegetables and fermented foods may play important roles in future theraputics targeting the ECS.
A diet high in fiber from whole fruits and vegetables will provide ample food for bacteria and fungi. While all plant foods provide fiber, a few plants make especially good food for gut bacteria. These include,
- Juersulom artichoke
- Dandelion greens
Nutrition, probiotics, and endocannabinoid medicines are hot topics in medical research. Yet, not much is known about the interaction between these three areas.
However, as Russo mentioned, it is becoming clear that diet can have a drastic impact on the endocannabinoid system.
Based on the evidence thus far, a few basic themes present themselves:
- Eating a diet with adequate amounts of healthy fats balances the ECS and provides vitamin E
- Adding fermented foods to your diet may encourage a healthy microbiome
- Eating plenty of whole fruits and vegetables provides vital nutrients and ample food for the microbiome
Of course, before making any dietary changes, it is important to talk to your doctor. The ideas presented in this article are for informational purposes, and should not be used in place of medical advice.