What Is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
As science discovers more about the endocannabinoid system and role it has to play within the body, many are beginning to suspect its imbalance could be the underlying reason for many of the conditions and ailments we are struggling to understand – that a lack of cannabinoids in the body, like those found in cannabis, could be causing illness. This has come to be known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency.
To put it very simply, the endocannabinoid system is the network of receptors within the body that interact with the cannabinoids in cannabis (like THC and CBD), as well as the endocannabinoids our bodies produce (like anandamide). Although science is still trying to understand it (as it is a fairly new discovery), it is thought that the endocannabinoid system, and the cannabinoids that react with it, are a major system of the body, much like the central nervous system.
This isn’t to say that everyone needs to smoke weed, and without it, we will all get ill; the body is pretty good at producing its own endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids are used throughout the body to regulate functions and cause homeostasis (a healthy and stable condition within the body). For example, cannabinoids reacting with the endocannabinoid system have been found to reduce inflammation and pain.
CLINICAL ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY: THE ROOT OF MANY PROBLEMS
So, what happens when your body fails to produce enough endocannabinoids? Well, that is a question many scientists are scrambling to answer. The research that has been done suggests an underactive endocannabinoid system could be causing us many problems, including migraines, IBS, and even fibromyalgia. The implication being that cannabis, or, at least, the cannabinoids within it, could be used to help bring the system back into balance and alleviate symptoms – as cannabis is the only known natural source of cannabinoids.
Despite plaguing humans for as long as we can remember, the science behind migraines is still not fully understood. We know where they tend to emerge within the brain, and that large levels of serotonin are usually present, but the complex triggers still elude us. Research has pointed out that this area of the brain is massively influenced by endocannabinoid activity, and that anandamide has been found to play a huge role in both serotonin and pain regulation.
In fact, a very recent review of medical literature found that the great majority of experiments into the field achieved a positive reduction in symptoms when the cannabinoids of cannabis were applied, suggesting they bring the system back into equilibrium.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is another ailment that has been linked to endocannabinoid deficiency. It is a condition characterised by bloating, abdominal cramps and diarrhea – most commonly affecting men in their 20’s and 30’s. Although it is another condition whose causes are not fully understood, it too has been found to have links with serotonin, with those suffering from IBS-D having high serotonin levels during episodes, while those with IBS-C to have low levels during episodes.
The activation of cannabinoid receptors within the gut, either through the body’s natural endocannabinoids, or the cannabinoids found within cannabis, causes inflammation and hypersensitivity of the gut to be reduced. As such, many IBS sufferers report that when they use cannabis, the symptoms of the condition tend to disappear. However, in some cases, it is also reported to trigger an episode, so much more research is needed into the individual differences of the condition, and how the system is being manipulated by cannabinoids.
Fibromyalgia is a neuropsychiatric disorder that causes pain. Once again, it is another condition linked with serotonin, although this time, only low serotonin levels.
Due to the main symptom of this condition being pain, it is often treated with cannabis in places where it is legal to do so – causing a great improvement in quality of life. It is a finding backed up by research. It just so happens that while it is being prescribed as an initial way of dealing with the pain, it could actually be helping with the underlying causes. Once again, more exploration into the matter is needed.
THE MISSING LINK: A LACK OF ENDOCANNABINOIDS?
Apart from serotonin being implicated in all of these conditions, research has found a significant crossover with the actual conditions themselves, with 63% of fibromyalgia sufferers also reporting frequent migraines, and 22% of primary migraine sufferers to have fibromyalgia. Many IBS sufferers also report encountering migraines on a regular basis, and up to 70% of people with fibromyalgia are thought to suffer from IBS.
It all suggests an underlying link, and if the endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoids that interact with it cause homeostasis, it would make sense that these conditions occur when equilibrium is disrupted.
Of course, as the field of enquiry is still quite fresh in relative terms, endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome is not a condition fully established, and is only a theory – albeit one with a growing body of evidence backing it up. There are also many other conditions thought to be affected by this, and it is going to take a long time to link it all together – each condition itself is extremely complex. However, findings are promising, and as understanding grows, we uncover all kinds of new potential ways to treat these conditions and help bring balance back to the body. Isn’t cannabis marvelous!
Written by: Josh
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