The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a vital role in supporting human health. Consisting of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes, this system helps to regulate a wide range of bodily processes, from sleep and mood to appetite, memory, and more. Strengthening the ECS can help people optimize a wide range of brain and body functions, all of which contribute to maintaining a state of homeostasis within the body.
Maintaining a state of homeostasis, or internal stability, can be a challenge. Injuries, stress, chronic medical conditions, sleep disruptions, and many other external forces can all disrupt the body’s state of homeostasis, so keeping the ECS in good shape is vital. Read on to find out about ten ways to strengthen the endocannabinoid system so that it’s ready to tackle anything modern life has to throw at it.
Try CBD Supplements
Cannabidiol (CBD) acts indirectly on the ECS by reducing the reuptake of naturally produced endogenous cannabinoids. Though it’s produced by cannabis plants, CBD is a non-psychoactive substance that acts as an excellent endocannabinoid system supplement. The best part is, hemp-derived CBD products are widely available online and over-the-counter these days, and unlike the THC found in marijuana, these CBD products are completely legal.
Increase Cold Exposure
Cold exposure may increase endocannabinoid levels in the body and brain and significantly increase the density of the receptors and enzymes required to use it. Some people like to take cold showers, while others go out for walks on cold winter days or stick their faces into ice-cold water. Cold exposure therapy can be painful, but it may provide lasting results that make it worth the discomfort. Just make sure to take precautions against hypothermia and frostbite, and don’t go overboard when it comes to exposure duration.
Drink Some Coffee
If the idea of heading outside in the middle of winter for a dip in a freezing cold stream sounds less than appealing, that’s understandable. However, few people would object to drinking a hot cup of coffee each day to improve ECS function, and that’s just what it does. Regular consumption of caffeine enhances the activity of CB1 receptors by reducing certain kinds of stress.
It’s worth noting here that while caffeine does have some health benefits, it’s also addictive and can cause sleep disruptions. For most people, the benefits outweigh the risks. Just make sure not to drink coffee late in the day and consume it in moderation.
Eat a Colorful Diet
Flavonoids are the plant compounds responsible for creating color in fruits and veggies. Certain flavonoids also have health benefits, including inhibiting the production of the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which breaks down the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide. Try to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors and, if possible, eat them raw to take full advantage of the ECS-regulating and other health benefits of flavonoids.
Drink More Tea
Green tea is very rich in catechins that target and bind to the central nervous system’s cannabinoid receptors. These antioxidant compounds also have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, which means they can also improve physical and mental health while simultaneously keeping the ECS balanced and able to maintain a state of homeostasis within the body.
The gut microbiome plays a vital role in maintaining not just digestive health but also a positive mood and optimal overall wellness. One species of probiotic bacteria, lactobacillus acidophilus, also increases the activity of CB2 receptors, helping to keep the ECS S in ideal shape. Some people prefer to take daily probiotic supplements, while others maintain gut health by eating tons of probiotic-containing foods such as yogurt.
Chronic stress can cause a lot of problems, and one of them is the downregulation of CB1 receptors. Constantly high cortisol levels can also reduce endocannabinoid activity in the brain. There are plenty of ways to reduce stress, from massage and meditation to neurofeedback and EMDR therapy, so don’t get discouraged. Keep trying new techniques until one of them works.
Get More Exercise
Exercise upregulates CB1 receptors and enhances sensitivity, which makes it a great way to deal with stress. Some studies also indicate that moderate- to high-intensity exercise can increase levels of anandamide in the brain that may be responsible for the “runner’s high” many athletes experience when they exercise.
There’s one caveat to this suggestion. Forced exercise can register with the ECS as a different type of stress, which can decrease CB1 signaling. Try to find ways to fit in more physical activity that feel like a joy rather than a chore and focus on the physical and psychological benefits of exercise instead of getting hung up on its more competitive aspects.
Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of healthy fat that is not produced in the body, which means they can only be obtained through food or supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids facilitate the normal electrical functioning of the brain and nervous system in part by upregulating CB1 and CB2 receptors. When it comes to food sources, the best way to get enough omega-3s is to eat more cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and herring, though it’s also fine to take fish or krill oil supplements.
Switch to Dark Chocolate
Most people know that dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, but what they might not realize is that it also contains anandamide, an endocannabinoid that is also produced naturally in the brain. It also contains other compounds that slow the breakdown of this vital endocannabinoid, which increases the amount of anandamide that’s available to the ECS. Plus, it’s absolutely delicious.
Take a Multi-Faceted Approach
Want to do everything possible to maintain optimal ECS function? The best approach isn’t to pick just one method for improving ECS function but to choose a variety of applicable lifestyle and dietary changes that could help. Taking CBD supplements is a great place to start, but don’t forget to incorporate other healthy habits like eating tons of fruits and veggies and getting enough exercise into daily routines.