By: Ky Keenan
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an incredible and somewhat “new” biological system that is found throughout the human body: the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands and immune cells.
This “second immune system”, as it is sometimes called, helps regulate and balance key bodily functions such as energy levels, appetite, pain, memory and learning, immune response, and blood pressure. Sounds like a pretty important system to keep healthy, right?
The ECS has been described as a bridge between the brain and the body due to its complex involvement with the immune system, nervous system, and all of the body’s organs. It is the biological system responsible for achieving a stable internal environment even when the outside environment changes.
In other words - in the high stress, fast-paced lifestyle many of us live - the ECS is critical for returning our nervous system to cool after a high anxiety event. Or, if your body has a fever or an injury, your ECS is responsible for getting that back into homeostasis.
Spring Cleaning Your Endocannabinoid System
Ayurveda - the nature-inspired, holistic medicine system of India - guides us to cleanse our bodies and minds each Spring and Fall. Here in New England, some of the first herbs to pop up are the dandelion and chicory root which are known to be natural liver detoxifiers. Green leafy vegetables, herbs, strawberries, beets, and spicy, bitter foods like arugula are some of the first arrivals to the garden. Eating a healthy, colorful selection of these seasonal foods is the best way to cleanse away the winter season which is typically heavy on fats and proteins.
Amplify your cleanse and give your endocannabinoid system a nice spring cleaning with these 4 simple steps:
- Eat Seasonal Foods - Focus on whole, plant-based, seasonal foods especially leafy greens, beets, wild foods, and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil (known for its anti-inflammatory effects), avocadoes, hemp seeds, and nuts (all high in omega 3, and low in omega 6). Add anandamide-rich raw cacao to your diet, known to increase levels of endocannabinoids. Avoid inflammatory foods such as processed seed oils (canola, peanut, corn oil, sunflower, safflower, etc), conventionally raised animal meats and farmed fish, dairy, sugar alcohols, alcohol, pesticides and plastics. These foods are high in omega 6 fats and toxins and add inflammation to the body which tax the ECS.
- Prioritize Essential Needs - Sleep, environment, and stress management are equally as important as diet. Be sure to aim for 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Create routines to reduce stress and keep yourself on track. Avoid toxic chemicals in both your work and home environments whenever possible.
- Drink Herbal Tea - Add in a cleansing herbal tea, like chicory, dandelion, green tea or nettle, three times a day. You can purchase these herbs at a natural foods store, a local new age shop or you can order them online. Or if you prefer, search the grocery store for a detox tea that includes these herbs. Be sure to look for an organic version without added sweetener. Is it important to leave the tea slightly bitter. If you can, skip coffee for a few days and let your endocrine system have a break from any strong stimulants such as caffeine.
- Add Cleansing Activities - Enjoyable workouts and activities can help to boost endocannabinoids in the body. Adding any of these to your day will help support the function of your endocannabinoid system: meditation, breathing exercises, massage, acupuncture, yoga, an enjoyable social activity, or just a simple walk in nature. Choose whatever works best for you!
Remember… your endocannabinoid system can play a vital role in helping you to regulate stress and maintain physical and emotional balance. Working some of these healthy practices into your daily routine can ensure you’ll kick off your Spring on a high note!