Endocannabinoid deficiency symptoms include arthritis, fibromyalgia, IBS, and many other “idiopathic” conditions
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) is an idea first put forth in the early 2000s by Dr. Ethan Russo which attributes the prevalence of many common “no known cause” disorders to a measurable deficiency in the function or expression of the endocannabinoid system. Russo and his team of researchers, for decades, have studied the prevalence and pathology of many common disorders like fibromyalgia, IBS, and Crohn’s disease. Specifically, they’ve studied the relationship between such conditions, along with the diets and lifestyles with which the conditions are associated.
It is essentially understood that the ultimate purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to promote and maintain homeostasis. CB1 receptors are more numerous than all the other receptors in our brains combined; how can such an expansive system be ignored by modern medicine?
Interestingly, the rates of diseases like autism, Alzheimer’s, obesity, depression/anxiety, fibromyalgia, IBS/IBD, and literally hundreds of other conditions have skyrocketed since the early 20th century: exactly when cannabis prohibition went into full effect. More alarmingly, there are literally millions of medical doctors who are not aware of the existence of the endocannabinoid system, let alone its importance; medical schools don’t teach it.
Conservative estimates suggest that 80% of all of the protein ever consumed by human beings over the last 10,000 years came from hemp seeds. The use of hemp seed for animal feed and the general prevalence of hemp/cannabis in our historical lifestyle suggest that we evolved to have an endocannabinoid system because of our special relationship with hemp crops.
It is reasonable to suggest that the cold-turkey removal of hemp and cannabinoids from our biological supply chain could have had widespread health effects that we are only now beginning to comprehend. The endocannabinoid system regulates hundreds of processes in our body in a very vital and necessary way, and without the proper regulation by the endocannabinoid system, many other systems can develop disorders as a result.
If the medical community is looking for a cause outside of the endocannabinoid system, they will (continue to) have a difficult time finding an answer.
CBD for endocannabinoid deficiency symptoms
Most of the conditions that indicate therapy with CBD and full spectrum cannabis products share at least one characteristic with each other, and many share innumerable similarities. The most common similarity among conditions treatable with CBD is a lack of a known cause. In addition, a lowered pain tolerance, increased presence of free radicals/oxidative stress (cellular “overheating”), chronic inflammation, and autoimmunity are common. These 5 symptoms are extremely prevalent across conditions which are purported to be caused by endocannabinoid deficiency.
The endocannabinoid system is mainly inhibitory; endocannabinoids bind with cannabinoid receptors, and have the net effect of reducing the cellular consumption of energy.
Furthermore, most CB2 receptors in the immune system, and all of the CB1 receptors in the CNS are retrograde signallers. This means they complete the reverse portion of a feedback loop in a chemical signalling pathway, allowing cells to effectively share “2-way communication”.
Retrograde (reverse) signalling is important because it allows for the existence of circuits in the brain; circuits produce either positive or negative feedback, in the form of increasing or decreasing the release of neurotransmitters, inflammatory cytokines, hormones, or any other substance that has an effect on behavior or cell function.
Increasing or decreasing the right process at the right time is homeostasis. When the endocannabinoid system is unable to facilitate this due to a lack of endocannabinoids or their receptors, imbalances occur: this is endocannabinoid deficiency. The administration of phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids) like CBD into the system recalibrates the ECS and promotes its evolutionarily “correct” function.
Fibromyalgia and clinical endocannabinoid deficiency
A straightforward example of what clinical endocannabinoid deficiency looks like is the peripheral nerves (sensory nerves) of people with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is characterized by hypersensitivity of the pain-sensing nerves of the muscle and soft tissue throughout the body.
Doctors have long ridiculed patients claiming to have fibromyalgia, and many cases are treated as psychosomatic. This happens for two reasons:
- Nerve cells in fibromyalgia function perfectly; the problem is the degree to which they function.
- Doctors are not taught about the endocannabinoid system, so they don’t consider it as a possible cause of any condition, much less a condition with no visible abnormality.
Ironically, the abnormality differentiating fibromyalgia from typical nerve function is rooted within the endocannabinoid system; that’s why doctors can’t find it.
Specifically, people with fibromyalgia have extremely limited endocannabinoid activity in their sensory nerves. Limited ECS activity means no system or mechanism in place to effectively regulate the activity of the nerve cells to the evolutionarily determined normal or “correct” level.
With no negative regulation, the nerves fully carry out their function: to send pain signals to the brain. In fibromyalgia, every input to nerves produces the maximum output possible because the endocannabinoid system is the mechanism that usually determines the response strength of nerves – and all cells – to their respective stimuli.
CBD for clinical endocannabinoid deficiency
CBD is highly effective for many conditions correlated with endocannabinoid deficiency or dysfunction. By inhibiting endocannabinoid receptors, CBD forces the endocannabinoid system to compensate and produce a greater number of receptors. This improves endocannabinoid signalling efficiency and it fortifies the consistent inhibition of cellular activity that represents – and is required for – the normal range of homeostasis for a given cell.
In fibromyalgia, the CBD-induced increase of cannabinoid receptors on peripheral sensory nerves increases the negative regulation of those nerve cells, lowering their threshold of activation back into the “correct” range and reducing the frequency with which they send pain signals to the brain.
CBD for depression
Similar to the lack of inhibition of pain nerves that causes fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety are caused largely by lack of inhibition of the fear/anxiety center of the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that suppresses activity and excitability within the fear center of the brain, known as the amygdala.
Similar to its effect in fibromyalgia, CBD causes an upregulation in cannabinoid receptor expression in the amygdalas of people with depression. This increase leads to improved ECS signalling and increased serotonin production in this critical area of the brain. Moreover, CBD acts directly on the serotonin receptor system as an agonist, a molecule which activates the receptor and produces the same effect as serotonin.
CBD for inflammation
Another common symptom of endocannabinoid deficiency is inflammation. Inflammation is a helpful and necessary biological process. It lets us know when something is physically wrong with our body and creates an environment in which the immune system can heal an injury or eliminate an infection. But inflammation takes its toll on our own healthy tissue too. CBD makes it so that the immune system is more likely to have a “repair” response to injury or infection than an “attack” response.
Furthermore, CBD inhibits the sensitivity of the white blood cells responsible for recruiting inflammatory modulators to a site of injury or disease. In so doing, it greatly reduces the harmful potential that an inflammatory response can have on healthy tissue that gets caught in the crossfire without preventing the necessary actions of the immune system.
CBD and its reputation as a natural remedy for so many different conditions that are untouchable by traditional western medicine has sparked a wave of research into the endocannabinoid system of mammals that is undoubtedly what mediates the healing effects of CBD. The ECS exists to maintain our health by maintaining the metabolic rate and overall activity level of hundreds of different body systems; this collectively referred to as homeostasis.
Aside from a few unique cases like the serotonin system, CBD confers its therapeutic effects through the endocannabinoid system. And the latest research seems to suggest that CBD acts almost like bumpers on a bowling alley, keeping the activity of the ECS within a normal functional range so that it can effectively maintain the functional range of the system under its control.