3 Signs of Endocannabinoid Deficiency

3 Signs of Endocannabinoid Deficiency

What is endocannabinoid deficiency? What is endocannabinoid system deficiency? What is the endocannabinoid system? There are a lot of questions when it comes to the ECS – that’s short for endocannabinoid system. But not a lot of answers. 


That’s because the ECS wasn’t discovered until recently. In fact, it wasn't until the late 1980s that the ECS was discovered through a government-funded study at St. Louis University School of Medicine.


But like with any other biological systems, there are instances where it doesn’t work as generally as it would and result in issues such as endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. Research is continually shuffling through the complexities of the ECS – discovering how some issues result when our bodies don’t produce enough endocannabinoids for the ECS. Otherwise known as endocannabinoid system deficiency.


To understand the symptoms that potentially indicate endocannabinoid system deficiency and their causes, we need to know briefly what the endocannabinoid system is and what makes it unique to our physiology. 

An outline of a human body in blue shows the receptors in the endocannabinoid system

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system is a biological grid of connectors that appears in every significant bodily structure. It works toward maintaining homeostasis, which is the natural balance of our physical and mental abilities when responding to an internal or external physiological change.


The ECS consists of cannabinoid receptors, endogenous cannabinoids, and enzymes that allow the system to function correctly. The two types of receptors are called cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), which connects to our central nervous system, and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), which attaches alongside our peripheral nervous system. They’re also the most numerous neuroreceptors found in the human body.


These receptors react with two primary endocannabinoids that the body only creates when necessary – anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Both endogenous compounds can stimulate the cannabinoid receptors by binding to them and transmitting a signal that creates an effect best suited to correct the physiological imbalance.


After the endocannabinoids finish their duties, the ECS utilizes two types of metabolic enzymes – fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) – that break down the endogenous cannabinoids. Both metabolic compounds belong to the class of serine hydrolase enzymes that deteriorates substances by splitting particular bonds.


Because the ECS stretches through about every substantial aspect of the human body, endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome has the potential to have a wide range of effects. According to theory, this leads to the possibility of how cannabis and CBD products can help support overall management of everyday problems and inefficiencies.


But, endocannabinoid system deficiency is something that still requires research. While the ECS has been around for millions of years, its recent discovery has led to a wide variety of theories. Because research has indicated that the body can in some instances respond favorably to cannabinoids found in cannabis, this theory of endocannabinoid deficiency tries to explain a possible ECS regulatory capacity failure. 

A molecule chain depicting the chemical make up of a cannabinoid

What is Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

First proposed by Dr. Ethan Russo in 2001, the clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) theory implies that because of various factors, the body results in an endocannabinoid system deficiency. 


It’s a theory based on neurotransmitter deficiencies that can cause even more underlying problems. In a published study from 2004, Dr. Russo explores the concept of CECD and details how:


“Migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and related conditions display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency...”


This idea suggests that through a lack of proper endocannabinoid production, or an endocannabinoid deficiency, further issues may ensue. Because the ECS can be a critical part of numerous bodily functions, including sleep, mood, clarity, and much more, endocannabinoid deficiency can cause problems that result in lingering issues. 


His endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome research shows that any alterations that affect varying levels of endocannabinoids – either through the destruction and failure in production or the weakening and strengthening of cannabinoid receptors – can influence its regulatory capabilities for several functions.

A multi colored swirl of interwoven lines depicting a complex molecule on a field of aqua blue

What Causes Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

The endocannabinoid system is considered the largest network of neurotransmitters in your body, which is responsible for regulating several important functions. But when signals from the ECS begin to transmit at improper levels, it can result in endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome.


An endocannabinoid deficiency can occur in four unique ways:

1. Not enough cannabinoid receptors

There simply aren’t many connectors for the endocannabinoids to attach themselves. And without a connector, the signal cannot be transmitted to its designated area.

2. An overabundance of metabolic enzymes

Meaning your body is producing too many FAAH and MAGL enzymes that break down endocannabinoid compounds or they do so too soon before the endocannabinoid can bind to a receptor.

3. Synthesizing insufficient endocannabinoids

Your body isn’t correctly making AEA and 2-AG cannabinoid compounds; these deformed or incomplete molecules possibly can’t make it to the receptors or can’t attach and transmit successfully if they do arrive.

4. Not enough action between endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors

there isn’t adequate communication happening with the compounds and the connectors; this effect could be caused by anything from improper attachment to weak signaling. 

What are the Signs of Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

The signals transmitted by endocannabinoids can change in quantity, which means that the available cannabinoid receptors in the body would need to either increase or decrease too. And it's this fluctuation that can restrict how your body reaches homeostasis – leading to potential complications.


Here are the top four signs that may indicate an endocannabinoid deficiency:

1. Lack of sleep

Research shows that the endocannabinoid system can regulate several parts of the brain and body that are crucial to a good night’s rest through the activity of CB1 receptors. This stimulation of receptors can influence your natural sleep pattern.

An attractive woman sits up in bed and holds her head with her eyes closed

And with increased anandamide endocannabinoid into the brain, the amount of adenosine, another natural chemical that affects sleep and arousal, also becomes increased. With an imbalance or deficiency of endocannabinoids, the lack of CB1 activity could lead to sleep deprivation.

2. Poor diet

Foods with a lot of trans-fats and way too many calories aren’t good diet choices regardless. But pro-inflammatory foods, in particular, can cause adverse effects to the endocannabinoid system.

A table is laid out with a variety of junk food, including a glass of soft drink, chips, fries, candy, and a hamburger

There’s also a microbiome – genetic material containing an aggregate of symbiotic and pathogenic bacteria – within the gut that plays a role in regulating the ECS. 

3. Stress

You’ve heard about CBD and stress. But did you know stress could potentially be a factor in endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome? While stress responses are often useful to quickly react to threats and staying alive from danger, remaining in a heightened state of stress can lead to some harmful effects. During stressful situations, the body reduces its levels of the anandamide endocannabinoid.

A business man holds his head at the bridge of his nose in apparent pain

Your body also increases the level of the 2-AG endocannabinoid during this time to weaken pain perception and trigger memory to help flee from stressful situations and to evade other dangers. But being in this state for prolonged periods may indicate endocannabinoid system deficiency and your ECS producing too much or not enough of either endocannabinoid.

You and Your Endocannabinoid System: How to Maintain Regularity

One significant concept for boosting or balancing your endocannabinoid system is the use of phytocannabinoids – aka CBD and THC. However, using phytocannabinoids should not be seen as a one-size-fits-all solution – primarily since CBD-based products are not intended to cure, diagnose, or treat any illnesses.

A woman in a black and orange swimsuit, swim cap, and goggles swims beneath the water in a pool

But, with that being said, CBD can be a complimentary addition to any traditional healthy lifestyle. As well all look to improve our everyday lives, take a look at some ways to maintain overall wellness and avoid and deficiencies within your body: 

  • Exercising

Physical activity is essential for any form of a healthy lifestyle, but it considerably helps the ECS in contrast to sedentary behavior. An intense physical workout may not be the best approach for those looking to boost their everyday wellness, so you should start with low-impact aerobics. And for any minor soreness afterward, CBD topicals can help to soothe discomfort quickly.

  • Sleeping better/stressing less

Even though these are two primary attributes that can become affected by endocannabinoid deficiency and endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, you should still try to maintain a sort of balance by making an effort to get enough sleep and manage stress. And help is available through alternative options, like  CBD oil with melatonin and CBD bath bombs that promote relaxation.

  • Checking family history

An endocannabinoid deficiency isn’t necessarily hereditary, but a few tendencies could be genetic. If your family has a history of lingering concerns, there may be an underlying reason for an imbalance of endocannabinoids or an endocannabinoid system deficiency. Check for any harmful habits you may be unaware of sharing.  

An older gentleman in a white polo shirt, jogs with headphones while an attractive woman follows him in the background

Endocannabinoid Deficiency and You

Each of our bodies is different, yet we all carry an endocannabinoid system that is significant for maintaining homeostasis. But like with any biological network, it may not function as correctly as it should.


With the ECS, endocannabinoid deficiency can affect its regulatory capabilities. And in theory, the failure to regulate appropriately could be the substantial cause of some debilitating and lingering concerns.


But, there are alternative forms of support out there. Aside from maintaining a healthy outlook on everyday life and taking the necessary steps to supporting overall wellness, there are options out there. While CBD research is just beginning to scratch the surface of its true potential, the applications of CBD can be found far and wide. 

Do you think you’ve experienced endocannabinoid deficiency? Are you a CBD advocate or new to the CBD community? Come chat with us on social media and stay-up-to-date and in-the-know of all things cbdMD! Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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