Increase Your Natural Endocannabinoids with Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle!
By Molly McCarthy
Endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, are lipid-based neurotransmitters that your body naturally creates. The two main endocannabinoids are anandamide (a.k.a. the “bliss molecule”) and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG).
Cannabinoids bind to receptors stationed throughout your endocannabinoid system in your brain, immune system, digestive system, and more. These are the same receptors that are activated by THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana.
The good news is that you can stimulate these cannabinoid receptors and support your endocannabinoid system naturally, without getting high! There are aspects of diet, exercise, and general lifestyle that naturally increase endocannabinoid levels.
Chocolate - Chocolate inhibits the breakdown of anandamide by the FAAH enzyme, just like CBD does! By inhibiting this breakdown, chocolate can help boost natural endocannabinoid levels. The fatty acids in cacao, called N-acylethanolamines, are similar to the endocannabinoid anandamide, which may explain this phenomenon.
Maca - Maca has gained popularity recently as a powerful adaptogen that can benefit the body and mind. As it turns out, this root interacts with the endocannabinoid system in much the same way that cacao does! Maca contains fatty acids called Macamides that inhibit the FAAH enzyme, therefore increasing the body’s levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide.
Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids - These are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS), found primarily in fatty fish and fish oil supplements, but also in foods like meat, eggs, and nuts. The body converts PUFAs into endocannabinoids, so increased intake of these fatty acids is associated with increased levels of the anandamide and 2-AG.
Extra virgin olive oil - EVOO has been shown to increase the binding of endocannabinoids to CB1 receptors.
Green tea - Green tea is high in catechins, which are natural antioxidants that target and stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most well known catechin and is abundant in green tea. Tip: the longer you steep your tea, the stronger the effects will be!
Probiotics - Probiotics can help heal the gut, in part by improving the cannabinoid receptors within the intestines! One specific strain of probiotic, lactobacillus acidophilus, actually increases the activity of CB2 receptors.
Herbs - Popular herbs like black pepper, turmeric, and echinacea support the endocannabinoid system and engage with cannabinoid receptors to help reduce inflammation and support the immune system.
Exercise - Exercise triggers the body to release anandamide, the “bliss” molecule. This is the phenomenon that is occurring when you feel a “runner’s high!” Exercise also enhances cannabinoid receptor sensitivity and activates the endocannabinoid system.