Omegas: mackerel, salmon oil, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds
Beta-caryophyllenes (BCP): clove, oregano, celery, peppermint, cinnamon, basil, African black pepper, cannabis (whole plant extract)
Flavonoids: Apples, grapes, tomatoes, green tea, potatoes, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprout, squash, cucumbers lettuce, green beans, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, and spinach

By Stephen McCamman

While the adage, “If you’re old enough to know better, you’re too old to do it,” may hold true for such things as hitting the nightclubs on the Strip, the one exception to this rule is taking care of your health. As we age, the aches and pains seem to accrue as fast the prescription bottles in our medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, these days it seems like the only solution is more and more pills, which just seems to cause more and more problems.

Until now. Scientists have identified what may be the underlying cause of many intractable health issues: Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome (CEDS). CEDS is a deficiency of our body’s own marijuana, hormones called endocannabinoids. Healthy lifestyle choices, primarily diet, sleep and exercise, are necessary for our body to keep producing these hormones and this is important because they are responsible for ensuring our bodies operate at an optimal level.

As we slow down and the world keeps speeding up, the stress and pace of our American lifestyle and diet contribute to this deficiency. Migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are the first set of co-morbidity — meaning they appear together — ailments stemming from an endocannabinoid deficiency.

The usual indications of old age — arthritis, dementia, depression and even cancer — may also be a result of CEDS. The science is not settled on these other tyrants of the aging process but research and overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests that regulating the endocannabinoid system at the very least alleviates the symptoms of these serious diseases. In addition, compelling new research suggests that environmental toxins, such as pesticides and phthalates — a chemical compound found in almost everything under the sun, including water bottles, all of your bathroom products, and even in pharmaceutical pills — may disrupt your eCB system.

While medical cannabis and hemp-based CBD are a first line of attack against CED syndrome, financial, social or employment concerns may keep people from accessing these medicinal products. Not to worry, since CED syndrome is essentially a nutrient deficiency, dietary changes are a good start. Emerging research indicates that other plant and food sources also provide nutrients that can help alleviate the deficiency. Below are three simple changes you can make in your diet to get you on the highway to health.

GORGE ON OMEGAS

While a daily dose of Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA) is crucial for overall wellness, it’s also necessary for the production of our body’s endocannabinoids. It’s also important to balance EPA and DHA with the proper ratio of Omega 6, thus creating the perfect biochemical precursors necessary to produce, in effect, your body’s own marijuana.

The American diet already has an overabundance of an Omega 6, called linoleic acid, which is found in common household cooking oils and numerous processed foods (check your labels and throw out anything with linoleic acid in it). If you are eating a lot of fish, or using fish oil supplements as your Omega 3 source, be careful as these may have mercury in them.

A high dose of EPA/DHA is beneficial for brain function, reduction in inflammation, behavior and mood regulation, and cellular rejuvenation – all functions of an optimal eCB system. The scientific consensus is a recommended daily dose of 500 mg of EPA/DHA through diet and supplements. Other researchers recommend up to 2500 mg a day, which would require a supplement.

Hemp seeds, not surprisingly, are the best source of essential fatty acids as they contain a perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 (linoleic acid/LA) to Omega 3 (alpha-linoleic /LNA) and, in turn, are aptly called “nature’s most perfectly balanced oil.”

BEEF UP THE BETA

Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is an essential oil found in many plants and foods, including cannabis. In 2008, researchers publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science identified BCP as a dietary cannabinoid, the first non-cannabis compound to attach to the cannabinoid receptors in the gut. Studies on mice suggest that it may even turn out to be an authentic plant-based cannabinoid, acting on the same receptors in our body as medical cannabis.

BCP has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and local anesthetic activities, and contributes significantly to the medicinal benefits of cannabis. BCP is found in many common foods (see list on page 11) and is available wherever essential oils are sold. Specific dosing guidelines are not available, but including these BCP-rich foods in a well-rounded diet will ensure your body is getting the cannabinoids it needs.

FEAST ON FLAVONOIDS

Lastly, flavonoids, those compounds that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors, are natural Anandamide re-uptake inhibitors. In other words, they keep Anandamide more available to your endocannabinoid receptors and have numerous health benefits aside from this function, including anti-oxidation, anti-inflammation, and perhaps even anti-tumor properties, most likely via endocannabinoid regulation.

Kaempferol was identified as the most potent flavonoid and is available in teas, fruits and vegetables (see list on page 11). The USDA estimates that in the U.S. daily total flavonoid consumption by the average adult is approximately 250-275 milligrams, with about half of total consumption coming in the form of flavan-3-ols from black and green tea.

Remember, if food-based solutions aren’t working for your health issue, a quick trip to your local dispensary can jump start your endocannabinoid system. However, if you follow these dietary guidelines, along with other sensible health strategies such as exercising, hydrating and getting a good night’s sleep, you may be in the fortunate position of not only being old enough to know better, but also feeling young enough at heart to actually get out there and do it.

Stephen McCamman is writing a book on the Endocannabinoid System. He is also a director of www.calstatecaregivers.com, an online dispensary and information resource for medical cannabis patients. He can be reached at stephen@calstatecaregivers.com.