What Negatively Affects the ECS?
Before we discuss remedying Endocannabinoid Deficiency – let's talk about what can cause it.
The easiest way to look at what negatively impacts the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is to break down a high-pressure week – the kind leading up to a big test, presentation, event. Common characteristics include all-nighters, take out (poor diet), high-stress levels, and little time for basic self-care. Common post-week characteristics include exhaustion and higher susceptibility to airborne illness.
We regularly discuss this kind of week as the type that “weakens the immune system” but remember – the ECS plays an integral role in regulating the immune system via CB2 receptors – so by default, weakening the immune system is weakening the ECS.
Have you ever looked in the mirror the morning after not getting enough sleep, and wondered if you're always that puffy? Inflammation is an immune response, regulated by the ECS – and despite negative connotations, it's actually a really important measure the body takes to protect itself from outside influences.
As insanely smart as the human body is, it's also not, by which I mean it doesn't necessarily differentiate its response to emotional stress from its response to pathogen stress (bacteria, virus). Both result in acute inflammation, characteristically occurring on an as needed basis to isolate what the body recognizes as a threat.
The body typically recovers from the kind of acute inflammation often experienced after a high-stress period through simple practices: rest, nourishing foods, laughter – all of which, similarly, can positively influence the ECS.
Chronic inflammation (the root of most western disease) occurs over an extended period of time, as a result of the body being unable to overcome what it identifies as a 'threat'. Said threat CAN most certainly be pathogen related - the Medical Medium books speak to this and, Lyme Disease.
However, as a marker of autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system mistakes the body itself as the threat and attacks healthy tissue without cause. In overly simplistic terms, the not so smart body is protecting itself from a pathogen that doesn't exist because it can't differentiate perceived threats.
This has been a really hard post to write because to find a way to relate-ably discuss what tips the ECS between being mildly deficient (acute stress) and clinically deficient has required a lot of self-examination as to why I'm clinical. There are a few things I want to bring into this discussion for you to consider (not backed by current Cannabis research) without getting too deep.
A short explanation for Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency could be trauma, who's negative connotation I want to address. While I agree that the mainstream conversation and stigma surrounding trauma and mental health NEEDS to change, I DO want to point out the similarities between how the human brain deals with trauma (hides it away to protect human) and how society deals with it (hide it away to protect humanity). Let's be gentle on ourselves as we work to #normalizementalhealth, as a society we were only mirroring ourselves. The first step to correcting a problem is recognizing the problem exists.
It's important to understand how the human in us handles trauma (YOU are not your mind. Google Eckhart Tolle). Typically the mind takes both explicit (factual) and implicit (feeling) information in, evaluates it, stores the part of the input that is important enough as a memory, and/or gets rid of the input it doesn't need. In a traumatic situation, fight or flight mode overloads the senses as a warning sign, interrupting this pattern of digesting information. This results in the input obtained during the interaction being stored in fragments throughout the brain and body without ever being properly processed.
In fewer words, the engagement of fight or flight mode in a traumatic situation interrupts the body's ability to decipher the input as useless and get rid of it. I'm personally labeling traumatic situations as useless because they are generally inflicted, therefore whatever becomes embedded in someone else's opinions or actions, not your own thoughts.
Trauma is NOTHING to be ashamed of, nor does it need to be a badge you wear – though full permission to flaunt the fuck out of what you've been through. If you believe yourself clinically deficient (in your brain or your body or both/it's connected I promise) and find that any of this applies, I love you. Not because you are validating my intuition (thanks!) but because you're a warrior and should know that through to your bones. Trauma does, however, need to be addressed in order to be healed.
With that in mind, two things to consider:
Adverse Childhood Experiences
From 1995 – 1997, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente conducted a survey amongst the latter's HMO participants, observing the occurrence of childhood trauma and the effects of it had on one's health as an adult. Through data obtained from 17,000 patients, researchers found a direct correlation between compounded types of trauma and chronic disease as an adult. The ACE test measures 10 different types of trauma, 1 point for each type experienced. A score of 4 or higher exponentially increases a person's susceptibility to chronic disease, depression, and violence. For what it's worth, 63% of the mid-to-upper middle class, primarily white participant's had experienced at least one form of trauma. Of the ~10,710 participants with at least one traumatic experience, 74% (~7,925) had experienced multiple types of trauma. These statistics serve as a baseline-best for US citizens – the likelihood of adverse childhood experiences increases as the demographic group diversifies.
Ancestral Trauma as Cause for Genetic Predisposition
YES, outside influences affect the state of the ECS for better or worse, but it doesn't change the fact that most chronic conditions are scientifically accepted as being inherited. I was the first of my family properly diagnosed with #IBD, but in hindsight, it's been suggested that my maternal grandmother lived with my disease. Since my diagnosis, my nine-year-old niece and sixteen-year-old nephew (cousins, not siblings) have both been seen by GI specialists with similar outcomes. I share the same maternal grandmother of them both, but not paternal. Genetics don't mess around and you can practice all the positive ways to influence your ECS and potentially still fall short and if that's what you're experiencing it's so not your fault.
Science has proven that trauma has the ability to embed itself so deeply in a host that it can alter DNA to the point that the trauma is passed on to future generations. The basics of Ancestral Healing teaches that these inherited traumas manifest in a living person's everyday emotional, physical, or spiritual well-being, causing reactions the living relative can't find personal cause for. Ancestral Healing Work looks to uncover the trauma in a lineage and heal it so that no future generation has to deal with it again.
I am, by no means, knowledgable enough to share any information on healing trauma. Below are a few of the resources I found useful as I explored the ideas mentioned above. My (limited) knowledge of Ancestral Healing Work is provided freely by Amber Magnolia Hill and the guests that speak on the topic on her podcast, Mythic Medicine (linked below). It should be noted that the ACE test excludes many types of trauma.
Traumatic Stress Effects on Brain
Ancestral Trauma + DNA mutation
Conversations on Ancestral Trauma and Work