What Is Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

Published Mon, August 08, 22

The human body is much more complex than we once gave it credit for. Built out of a series of interdependent systems that must coexist in perfect harmony to thrive, the body uses thousands of different receptors and signaling substances to take care of the countless vital tasks involved in keeping you alive every day.

Recognizing similarities between the behavior of plant-derived cannabinoids and certain signaling substances your body makes itself, scientists have identified an endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body of every human being and in many animals as well. It’s possible to become deficient in the body-produced signaling compounds scientists are now calling endocannabinoids, but it’s also theoretically possible to treat these deficiencies with plant-derived phytocannabinoids. Learn what endocannabinoid deficiency is and what you can do about it in this guide.

Does your body produce cannabinoids?

Yes, it could be said that your body produces its own cannabinoids. It’s a matter of semantics in the end, but it’s a fact that there are substances produced by the human body that are nearly identical to substances previously thought only to naturally occur in cannabis. Chief among them is anandamide, the so-called “bliss molecule.”

What are endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are substances your body produces that so closely mirror the chemical composition of plant-derived cannabinoids that some scientists consider the two categories of compounds to be essentially indistinguishable. Your body needs endocannabinoids to thrive, and it appears to be possible to become deficient in these essential signaling compounds.

What do endocannabinoids do?

Endocannabinoids help your body stay in balance. They keep inflammation from getting out of control, stabilize your mood, and even have an impact on your metabolism.

If endocannabinoid levels drop,  your whole system can become out of whack. Even if you already have healthy endocannabinoid levels, taking phytocannabinoids can provide a useful boost.

Can your body become deficient in endocannabinoids?

Yes, your body can become deficient in endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG. Reasons for endocannabinoid deficiency vary, but when you become deficient in these essential substances, you leave yourself more open to illness and disease.

What causes ECS deficiency?

A variety of factors including stress, injury, or immune damage can all cause you to develop a deficiency in your endocannabinoid system, also called ECS deficiency or clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). Scientists are currently looking into the potential reasons behind why certain individuals might be more likely to develop deficiencies in critical endocannabinoids.

What are the symptoms of endocannabinoid deficiency?

Researchers now believe that many common conditions can be linked back to endocannabinoid deficiency. Some of the most widespread symptoms believed to be linked with ECS deficiency include:

  • Migraines
  • Inflammatory gut conditions
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Treatment-resistant depression (TRD)
  • Other treatment-resistant conditions

If you are deficient in endocannabinoids, you might feel more fatigued and experience pain and inflammation throughout your body. It’s possible ECS deficiency could be linked to diabetes and obesity, making it even more important to ensure your endocannabinoid system is operating properly.

How do you treat endocannabinoid deficiency?

The best way to treat endocannabinoid deficiency or any other type of deficiency is to identify and remove the underlying cause. Your body should naturally be able to supply itself with enough endocannabinoids, so any measures you take aside from fixing the root cause should be seen as stopgap solutions at best.

With that said, many people suffering from the symptoms of endocannabinoid deficiency have found relief by using plant-derived cannabinoids. They discovered that phytocannabinoids could fill the gaps as their bodies regained their original endocannabinoid-producing potential.

— Does THC help with endocannabinoid deficiency?

THC is structurally similar to anandamide, so using THC can temporarily make up for anandamide deficiency. However, THC has a tendency to bombard the endocannabinoid system with far more stimulation than it would receive from even healthy anandamide levels. Since THC can also have certain other undesirable effects, it should only be used in microdoses when addressing endocannabinoid deficiency.

— Does CBD help with endocannabinoid deficiency?

Based on limited academic research, CBD appears to be a far better choice for treating endocannabinoid deficiency than THC. This cannabinoid has been researched for its potential ability to directly raise natural anandamide levels, which is far more desirable than replacing anandamide with THC. CBD also doesn’t cause intoxication and has no addictive potential.

— Do other cannabinoids help with endocannabinoid deficiency?

It’s possible that cannabinoids other than THC and CBD may also be useful in treating endocannabinoid deficiency. The endocannabinoid system is massively complex, after all, to match the complexity of the spectrum of cannabinoids found in cannabis. As a result, it’s best to use full-spectrum hemp products that contain a wide variety of cannabinoids when treating endocannabinoid deficiency.

How do you keep endocannabinoid deficiency from coming back?

If you’re concerned about endocannabinoid deficiency recurring, continuing to use plant-derived cannabinoids isn’t the ideal answer. In a perfect world, you’d unravel the underlying reason for your endocannabinoid deficiency and solve it, eliminating the need to supplement with phytocannabinoids.

The reality is, however, that the endocannabinoid system can be difficult to permanently bring into balance. Many people who suffer from ECS deficiency continue to use cannabinoids on a daily basis — though some of them only use microdoses.

Best cannabinoid products for treating ECS deficiency

If you plan to treat endocannabinoid deficiency with plant-derived cannabinoids, keep in mind that less is more. To experience other benefits of cannabinoids, you might want to use a large dose, but in the case of ECS deficiency, you’re just trying to subtly balance a delicate system that has gone off its rails.

Start with small doses of cannabinoids, and increase the amount you use as needed. If your only purpose in using phytocannabinoids is balancing your endocannabinoid system, you might end up satisfied with daily doses of plant-derived cannabinoids under 10mg. Microdose tablets are ideal for administering small doses of cannabinoids, and so are tinctures.

Benefits of a cannabinoid-boosted life

There’s a growing consensus in the scientific community that inflammation is the root cause behind many more conditions than was previously realized. As substances that are believed to offer immense anti-inflammatory potential, cannabinoids have an obvious place within today’s modern natural health pantheon.

Aside from THC, no other cannabinoids appear to significantly disrupt the endocannabinoid system. Non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD even seem to synergize with your ECS, potentially justifying supplementing with cannabinoids even if you aren’t suffering from endocannabinoid deficiency.

The bottom line: Endocannabinoid deficiency could harm your health

Like most systems in nature, human beings and cannabis overlap. Whether it’s inside the wrinkles of a human brain or the calyxes of a cannabis bud, you find similar substances, and this overlap could be the key to solving many pernicious health issues.

Though we didn’t know what they were missing until recently, it’s possible that human beings have been deficient in cannabinoids since the dawn of history. Perhaps the cannabis plant is nature’s way of rectifying the imbalances of the human body and mind. It can’t be mere coincidence, after all, that endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids are so structurally similar.

Endocannabinoid deficiency FAQ

Let’s close with answers to some commonly asked endocannabinoid deficiency questions:

1. How can I get endocannabinoids naturally?

The best way to boost your body’s levels of endocannabinoids is to use phytocannabinoids. THC replaces anandamide at critical receptors in your brain, and CBD appears to stimulate your brain to naturally produce more anandamide. Cannabinoids derived from plants can serve as both substitutes for endocannabinoids and stimulate endocannabinoid production.

2. How do you know if you have endocannabinoid deficiency?

Endocannabinoid deficiency is a relatively difficult condition to diagnose. Some common symptoms of being deficient in endocannabinoids, however, include migraines, increased sensitivity to pain, poor sleep, and digestive disturbances. Disturbed mood can also be a sign of endocannabinoid deficiency. 

3. How do I reset my endocannabinoid system?

Your endocannabinoid system doesn’t have a button you can push to reset it to factory settings. If you’re concerned that cannabinoid use has disrupted your endocannabinoid system, though, the best idea is to stop using potential culprits like THC.

4. How can I improve my endocannabinoid system?

Improving your overall health will also improve the health of your endocannabinoid system. It also appears that using CBD and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids might improve your overall endocannabinoid system health.

5. How does CBD affect the endocannabinoid system?

CBD appears to have an overall mild and boosting effect on the endocannabinoid system. This cannabinoid won’t disrupt the functioning of your ECS, and it might actually help it work better.

6. Why do humans have cannabinoid receptors?

It’s unknown exactly why human beings have cannabinoid receptors, but these cannabis-attenuated neuroreceptors are also shared among all mammals. Some researchers have suggested that cannabis use among early humans may have resulted in the development of the endocannabinoid system, but it’s just as likely that the ECS developed independently of phytocannabinoids and similarities between THC and anandamide are purely coincidental. In either case, we should simply be grateful we have cannabinoid receptors since they’re absolutely essential to our health.

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