In Part II of our recap at the IACM 6th Conference on Cannabinoids in Medicine and 5th European Workshop on Cannabinoid Research, Naturopathic Doctor Michelle Sexton informs us on the invaluable relationship between person and plant.
Program: Part II
The eCBss and the Chemical Reactions that Sustain Life
Maybe you saw the article recently in Time magazine, from the American Journal of Epidemiology, reporting that Cannabis users (3x weekly) are 33% less obese than their naïve counterparts?
Yet, we are warned that Cannabis use is unlikely to be an effective diet aid since everyone knows you get the munchies! Oh, this was probably just a ‘confounding effect’, as if to assume people smoke instead of eat.
Actually, this is yet another example of the paradoxical effect of Cannabis.
If you are nauseous and anorexic, this botanical may correct your desire for food and weight upward.
If you are overweight, your appetite and metabolism will be adjusted downward accordingly (I have clinical experience with this).
This is not a one-size-fits-all botanical medicine: remember the term adaptogen!
It is not necessary to pharmacologically antagonize the receptor, as with Rimonabant (a diet drug targeting the CB1 receptor) so you can bottle a single agent pill for profit.
CB1 receptor isn’t just for the brain anymore, it’s in your fat cells (the brain is just a huge chunk of fat, you know)!
With those who are overweight, there is an increase in a hormone called leptin, which has effects on reproduction, bone mass, the circulatory system and satiety.
Leptin normally inhibits appetite by its’ action in the hypothalamus, a brain structure involved in feedback loops of a number of hormones.
The more fat you have, the more leptin you have, but an excess of anything causes tolerance, or on a molecular level, desensitization of the receptor (this happens with insulin and its receptor in diabetes).
So what does leptin have to do with the eCBss?
Leptin counteracts the effects of the endocannabinoid AEA or anandamide, the Sanskrit word for bliss.
One reason it is so blissfull is that it slows down the time that ‘things’ stay in the gut (being helpful with irritable bowel disorders).
Interestingly, AEA levels are higher in people with higher body mass index (BMI) scores – another case of an over-active eCBss.
Being obese has a way of reducing anxiety (more bliss).
Visceral fat is an insulating layer around all of our abdominal organs that proliferates with weight gain.
It turns out that the second most abundant cannabinoid in Cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and a third, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV ), have a way of trimming this layer, but not the layer just under the skin (subcutaneous fat).
This visceral fat is actually an organ in itself, a primary contributor to systemic inflammation in the body, resulting in atherosclerosis.
And did you know you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have liver disease? Being overweight chronically has the same effect on the liver… it’s called steatosis.
This can progress to liver fibrosis, a precursor to liver cancer. But once again, the eCBss can come to our aid!
The lesser known CB2 receptor expression goes up in fat cells, and when this receptor is antagonized, or it’s function is dampened, fibrosis goes down, at least in overweight mice!
Cannabidiol (CBD) and THCV may be acting at the nuclear level to actually reduce the amount of CB2 receptor, another way to ‘antagonize’ the system – just reduce the electrical charge powering it.
I saw decrease in CB2 receptor in immune cells of Cannabis users in my own research (and the subjects had normal BMI), however, Cannabis use may be detrimental to the liver in those with Hepatitis C, but there are other botanical medicines that are very effective.
So if you want to be among the fit, stop ingesting anything with fructose in it and eat a low saturated fat diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids (which also tone the eCBss).
Engage in weight-training exercise, get adequate sleep, don’t stress out, and by all means don’t abstain from Cannabis.
Cannabinoids are a promising strategy for opposing the health consequences of visceral obesity and the associated metabolic derangement.
Think of Cannabis as a tonic herb, and used judiciously it may just bring your eCBss back into balance!
If you want to remember this system in a nutshell: “ eat, sleep, relax, forget” (Vincenzo Di Marzo).
Dr. Michelle Sexton is a Naturopathic Doctor based in Washington and is doing groundbreaking cannabinoid research through her lab, Phytalytics.org