I want to start this post by acknowledging that almost every enjoyable thing in this world can be seen as “unhealthy” in the right light, and there’s no sense depriving yourself of enjoyable experiences. I’m not here to soapbox about treating your body like a temple and getting completely neurotic about what you’re consuming. With that being said, it’s important to be aware that there are some substances, habits, and activities that really take a toll on the endocannabinoid system, and to factor that knowledge into making informed decisions about your overall health and wellbeing.
A lot of these are already known to be potentially harmful, so it’ll probably come as no shock that their negative effects trickle down to or sometimes even derive from interactions with the endocannabinoid system. So what’s on the no-go list for endocannabinoid health? Let’s take a gander…
Alcohol can be a fun addition to a night out, but regular consumption is linked to a reduced expression of endocannabinoid receptors, desensitizing the system over time. For optimal endocannabinoid function, try not to consume more than 1-2 nights per week.
Although the study was only completed in isolated cells, a high glucose diet was found to decrease CB1 receptor expression. However, it didn’t seem to have a significantly negative impact on receptor functioning, so don’t despair if you’re a fan of desserts! Just try to consume with moderation in mind.
Some vegetable oils can be quite heart-healthy, namely canola, olive, camelina, and avocado. But some of the cheapest and most common in commercial use – soybean oil, peanut oil, palm oil, especially – contain an extraordinarily high omega 6:3 ratio. As we explored in part 3, diets high in omega 6 fatty acids and deficient in omega 3s can essentially turn off the endocannabinoid system and ramp up inflammation. Try to stick to an oil with a reasonable omega 6:3 ratio and always avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
While there are too many pesticides to count and it’s impossible to understand the effects of them all, many have been found to disrupt our endocannabinoid systems. Make sure to wash your fruits and veggies well before use!
We all know that chronic stress sucks. One of the reasons it feels so bad is that it wreaks havoc on our ECS, reducing CB1 and CB2 receptor expression. In a cruel twist of fate this leaves us more prone to stress, which leads to further impairment in ECS functioning, and the cycle continues. I know it’s cliche at this point, but it’s super valuable to take some “you-time” to enjoy things you love, and to practice stress-reduction practices like mindfulness, regular meditation, yoga, and exercise!
While it’s one of the best OTC medications for pain, long term ibuprofen use doesn’t come without its risks, ranging from ulcers to gastrointestinal bleeding, rebound headaches, and even stroke and kidney failure. These negative effects can extend to the endocannabinoid system, with ibuprofen decreasing CB1 receptor expression.
Also known as BPA, this chemical has a well-deserved reputation for interfering with our bodies’ natural processes. On top of disrupting neuroendocrine signalling (especially sex hormones), BPA decreased expression of the CB2 receptor. Make sure to look for a BPA-free label on any plastic water bottles or food storage products you use and to altogether avoid drinking from, or heating food in plastic containers without such a label.
Cannabis is enjoyable, has no risk of fatal overdose, and appears to be one of the safest drugs we have available. But a drug is a drug, and it’s harmful to pretend that THC dependence isn’t a very real and harmful phenomenon. THC dependence can cause significant life problems, including impaired ability to function, issues with interpersonal relationships, cognitive deficits, and mental health issues. What’s worse, long-term THC dependence significantly downregulates CB1 receptor expression, which can take months or even years to normalize! This is especially harmful in young brains that haven’t had time to fully develop. As with all things, try to practice moderation when consuming high-THC cannabis; at the very least, try to take a one or two day break every week.
I know, I know – the words sleep deprivation maybe evoke some image of deliberate torture. But the reality is that almost all of us, in the face of deadlines or odd-hour work shifts, have subjected ourselves to chronic sleep deprivation. Ironically, short-term sleep deprivation actually increases ECS function, leading to the intense hunger and occasional euphoria that this state can induce. But in a similar fashion to chronic stress, sleep deprivation causes things to go a bit wonky, and can quickly deplete your endocannabinoid system.
That wraps up the major culprits that negatively impact the health of our endocannabinoid system, and in turn wraps up this entire blog series! I hope it’s been informative, educational, and fun to follow along with. Now, armed with this knowledge, you can enjoy your cannabis products with a recognition of just how amazingly complex and important the system that they’re interacting with is.
As always, if there are any topics you’d like to see covered next, send an email over to [email protected] and we’ll get to it as soon as we can.
Here’s to you and your extraordinary endocannabinoid system!
About the author
Lana Tong is an aspiring Endocannabinoid Psychopharmacologist and Squirrel Behavioral Therapist based in Victoria, British Columbia. She’s passionate about cannabis as a medicine, entheogen, food, fiber crop, and so much more. Lana hopes to one day swim in a pool filled with organic CBD-infused coconut oil – we all have dreams, right?