The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is one of the most important physiological systems supporting homeostasis, affecting your mood, sleep, memory, appetite, digestive system, pain sensation, and immunity. While taking cannabinoids alone will nourish the ECS, there are many dietary pathways that can be followed, in conjunction, to provide greater overall effects and balance in the body and mind. In addition to using high-quality and effective CBD products, whether it be a topical, chocolate, tincture, or capsules you can follow these helpful practices and steps to enhance the overall efficacy of taking CBD.
Dietary Factors to Upregulate the Endocannabinoid System
1) Eat more prebiotics and probiotics. Your gut is your second brain and it is crucial to address gut health as it is a key factor in overall wellness. You can throw all the cannabinoids you want at your ECS, but if you haven’t addressed your gut health, inflammation, poor immune system functioning, and brain fog might still plague you. Eating probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and miso daily can greatly help to restore balance in your gut. Eating prebiotics are also important, as these foods help the probiotics to flourish in the gut. This includes foods like asparagus, bananas, jerusalem artichokes, apples, oats, barley and food from the allium family, like garlic, leeks, and onions.
2) Cut out sugar and other inflammatory foods. Overconsumption of sugar is an epidemic in modern life, that often leads to excess weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, kidney problems, and even cancer. It can also increase the risk of depression, increases the signs of aging in the skin, causes acne, cellular aging, and it drains your energy and accelerates cognitive decline. For more info on how sugar has become so ubiquitous in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the plethora of negative effects it has, check out the documentary “That Sugar Film”.
3) Eat more good fats, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in various food sources and crucial for healthy brain development, heart and metabolic health. Food sources that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include sunflower seeds, sesame seed, and pumpkin seeds, flax and flaxseed oil, chia seed, and fatty sustainably sourced fish like mackerel and salmon. Avoid highly processed foods, fried foods, and foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
4) Eat more Medium Chain Triglycerides. MCTs or medium chain triglycerides are a type of dietary fat most commonly found in coconut and palm oils. (Be sure to choose sustainably grown and harvested coconut and palm oils, as both can be highly environmentally destructive commodity crops.) A kind of ‘natural fuel’ for the body and brain, coconut-derived MCT oil is a great source of healthy fats that can help improve sports performance, cognitive ability, weight management, gut and heart health.
Additionally, CBD is lipophilic, which means it combines with lipids and fat. With this in mind, the bioavailability of a CBD edible can be increased by consuming it with lipids, such as MCT oil or cacao butter. Combining CBD with these natural dietary fats and lipids makes the mixture even more lipophilic (fat-loving), driving absorption to the chylomicron-lymphatic absorption path, which increases the overall bioavailability versus absorption via the hepatic (liver) portal route (system for absorbing hydrophilic [water-loving] substances from the gut to the liver). In one study, consuming a standard breakfast one hour before consuming CBD capsules increased bioavailability. This study demonstrates how combining CBD with lipid and fat rich foods helps increase the effectiveness of CBD through oral ingestion.
5) Enjoy some caffeine. Good news, right? Caffeine, in moderation, can promote the uptake of cannabinoids in the ECS, so enjoy your morning cup of coffee along with your CBD for increased effects. Better yet, take your CBD in a cup of matcha green tea, which is rich in the amino acid, L-Theanine, shown to improve mental focus and cognitive performance, while also improving sleep and relaxation. Try out this CBD Matcha Reishi Nut Butter Cups recipe that’s become a Vital Leaf team favorite for a supercharged treat.
6) Increase your intake of superfoods. Superfoods are nutrient-rich foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. While some of the more common superfoods include things like blueberries, cacao, yogurt, fish, eggs, nuts, and olive oil, there are a plethora of both rare and widely available superfoods out there to choose from. Specifically, matcha, turmeric, and cacao have been shown to have synergistic effects with cannabinoids. You can read more about the benefits of cacao and cannabinoids in our article, CBD Chocolate and its Effect on the Brain.
7) Explore more adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens are a special class of tonic herbs that, similarly to cannabinoids, help to create homeostasis in the body. Put them together for the most impactful effects. Rhodiola, Magnolia Bark, Ashwagandha, Maca, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Reishi, Cordyceps, Licorice Root, and Panax Ginseng are all examples of adaptogenic herbs that have been used for hundreds of years to help the body cope with stressors and maintain balance.
8) Avoid GMOs. Genetically modified plants typically require the application of glyphosates, a highly toxic class of herbicides widely used in industrial agricultural practices. Glyphosates can accumulate in the gut, killing the good bacteria and contributing to inflammation. This inflammation in the gut releases cytokines, proteins secreted by the immune system, which an overproduction of can lead to cancer and other neurodegenerative diseases.
While all of these tips and recommendations can certainly help to improve your overall health and wellness, and thus improve the effectiveness of CBD and other cannabinoid-infused products in your body, we must not forget the good old basic healthy lifestyle factors. Don’t discount the importance of getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise, having great oral hygiene, and practicing things like meditation, dancing or movement, having a daily gratitude practice, and spending time with the ones you love.
All of these items in combination will surely help bring more vitality to the years to come.