What Causes Seizures?

By Dr. David E. Presti On June 25, 2019

A variety of different things may happen as a result of a seizure, depending upon the region of the brain that is affected. There may be sudden changes in sensory perception, such as visual disturbances or the smell of an unusual odor. There may be rapid and inexplicable emotional or cognitive changes. There are often involuntary muscle movements, and sometimes even complete loss of control over the movement of one’s body. Obviously, this could lead to serious consequences if someone has a seizure while, for example, driving a car. Amnesia, or memory loss, frequently accompanies the experience of a seizure. Severe seizures can produce a loss of consciousness and even death. Too much excitation is not a good thing.

Sometimes seizures are associated with particular identifiable causes. A tumor – an abnormal growth of cells in the brain – may disrupt neural circuitry, producing unbalanced excitation. New onset of seizures in an adult is always reason to check for the existence of a brain tumor. Brain infections and high fevers may trigger seizures. Traumatic physical injury to the head, such as from a car or bicycle accident, may disrupt the neural connectivity in such a way that seizures are a result. Drugs that increase brain neuronal excitability have the potential to produce seizures. Some drugs that produce the opposite effect of stimulants, inhibiting neural activity in the brain, can also increase the risk for seizures if these drugs are used regularly and then abruptly stopped. Examples of such drugs are alcohol and other sedative-hypnotics.

Most seizures, however, have not been associated with any identified causes. These are called idiopathic seizures. Idiopathic is a word widely used in medicine. It means that the condition arises from an obscure or unknown cause. The roots are from the Greek idios, meaning personal, private, separate, and pathos, meaning suffering.

Idiopathic seizures may appear spontaneously at any point in life, although they most often first appear in childhood. There are genetic and developmental components to idiopathic seizures, although these remain still largely uncharacterized. Certain configurations of neural connectivity arising during the wiring of the brain early in life can apparently increase the risk of occurrence of unbalanced runaway neural excitation, and thus of seizure.

Susceptible persons may develop idiopathic seizures without any precipitating factors. However, these seizures may be triggered in a variety of identified ways. Intense sensory stimuli, especially of a strongly rhythmic nature – such as brightly flashing strobe lights or other flashing visual displays – can set up powerful rhythmic neural activity in sensory regions of the brain that may lead to the explosive runaway activity of a seizure. Other possible triggering factors include sleep deprivation, stress, physical trauma to the head, stimulant drug use, and withdrawal from sedative-hypnotic drugs.

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David E. Presti is a neurobiologist, psychologist, and cognitive scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1991. He holds doctorates in molecular biology and biophysics from the California Institute of Technology and in clinical psychology from the University of Oregon.


This article was reprinted by Project CBD with permission. It may not be reproduced in any form without approval from the source.

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What Does Mold on a Cannabis Plant Look Like?

There’s nothing worse than going through the months of time and labor to grow your own cannabis only to discover mold on it. But identifying mold on your cannabis can be harder than you think. It can usually be spotted by a trained eye, and it’s important to know the different kinds out there.

Just as you learn to identify mold on a piece of fruit, as a cannabis grower, it’s crucial to be able to identify it on your plants or cured end product and to remove it before it becomes a problem. It’s important to protect your own health and the health of those who might be consuming your product, to ensure that cannabis is safely enjoyed and celebrated.

Common Types of Mold

Here are some types of mold that you’ll most likely come across if you’ve spent a bit of time growing cannabis.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew, or PM (image above), resembles a light dusting on your leaves or buds. It can pop up rapidly and will spread throughout your garden quickly if nothing is done. PM loves to develop on plants that are feeling a bit unhealthy and it will thrive without quality airflow in your garden.

To an untrained eye, PM might appear to look like young trichomes. If you suspect PM, use a magnifying glass to examine your buds–you’ll see a stark difference between the white mold and the beautiful trichomes surrounding it. If you see it, it’s best to discard the buds and leaves right away, both because you won’t want to ingest that mold and to prevent it from spreading further.

Grey Mold (Botrytis)

grey Mold or botrytis on cannabis buds
Grey Mold (botrytis) on cannabis buds. (Aaron Rogosin for Outer Elements Photography)

Grey mold will develop inside your buds and grow out if there is too much moisture trapped inside the growing colas. Telltale signs of mold in your buds is dying leaves on the outside or a cola that has gone limp. If you spot these symptoms, waste no time investigating the problem by pulling aside buds and peeking inside the cola.

If you see mold, chop off the cola and remove it from your garden. Because it is caused by moisture buildup, it doesn’t necessarily spread like PM, so you may be able to save the rest of the plant. But be sure to inspect the rest of the plant for it.

Mold will commonly occur in outdoor gardens after a heavy rainfall, especially toward the end of the season when buds are large and dense.

To spot mold in your cured product, keep an eye out while you break apart buds. You should be able to clearly identify it on the inside of buds; discard when you find it.

How Mold Occurs and How to Prevent It

Molds are fungi that develop in warm, damp, and humid conditions. They develop from spores, which travel through the air, unseen to the naked eye. Mold is actually important in the ecosystem because it breaks down dead plant material, but you don’t want it on your buds.

Mold can develop on cannabis because of issues with:

  • Humidity
  • Airflow
  • Temperature
  • Plant health

Any one or combination of these factors can create an environment suitable for mold to develop on your buds.

Indoor Prevention

The best way to prevent mold growth is to ensure a consistent climate in your grow room. Using fans, dehumidifiers, temperature control systems, and ventilation, you can keep the humidity down, the airflow up, and the temperature consistent. This will create a stable environment and increase the overall health of your plants.

Other ways to reduce the chances of mold in your garden include:

  • Pruning your plants
  • Spacing your plants properly
  • Watering/feeding your plants appropriately

Pruning and spacing will increase airflow through your canopy, which helps reduce humidity. If you overwater your plants, this will increase the humidity level, as plants will be unable to absorb water, making it evaporate into the air and stay in the room. Under or over feeding your plants nutrients will weaken their immune systems and make them more prone to attack from molds.

Outdoor Prevention

When growing outdoor, you’re more limited in how to protect your garden from mold without the ability to control the climate. Appropriate spacing, pruning, and feeding are essential to protecting your crop.

When plants are in their final homes–either final containers or in the ground–stake, cage, or trellis the plants accordingly as they develop, to keep branches spaced equally, allowing air to flow freely and evenly throughout the canopy. Additionally, pruning the bottoms and insides of your plants is especially important outdoors, to allow air to flow underneath the canopy.

If growing out in the open, after heavy rains, some gardeners choose to shake their plants to get standing water off them. It is also common to check for broken branches and remove any dead foliage that may be saturated with moisture, which is an ideal habitat for mold development.

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Illinois Just Legalized Cannabis. Here’s What Happens Next

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made history today by signing a bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis in the Land of Lincoln. Pritzker might as well fire a starting gun.

The race is now on to get about 55 Illinois adult-use stores open, serve potentially millions of customers, and dismantle the decades-old drug war machine. Aspiring retailers have just weeks to apply for licenses. Illinois state agencies must immediately start creating programs to license them. People currently facing low-level marijuana charges can petition to have cases dropped effective immediately.

To give you an idea of how far we’ve come: California’s 1996 medical marijuana law, the nation’s first, could fit on a postcard. The bill signed into law by Pritzker today ran to more than 600 pages.

We read the entire 610-page bill so you don’t have to. Here’s what happens next in a legalized Illinois.

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Stores Open Jan. 1, 2020

  • The first wave of retail sales will occur at existing medical cannabis dispensaries that obtain a license allowing them to expand into adult-use sales. As many as 55 dispensaries could have adult-use licenses by Jan. 1.
  • Only adults 21 and older with valid ID may purchase.
  • Taxes will run about 25% at the register (including 7% cultivation, 10% state sales, 3.75% county sales, and 3% city sales).
  • Products on sale will initially be sourced through the state’s medical cannabis system and its producers.
  • Illinois’ 67,000 qualified patients will have cannabis reserved for them, as well.

Personal Rights Kick in Jan. 1, 2020, Too

  • Illinois residents age 21 and over can possess up to 30 grams of flower (that’s about one ounce), 5 grams of hash, and edibles with up to 500 mg of cannabis’ main active ingredient, THC. For out-of-state visitors the limits are a little more strict. You’re limited to 15 grams of flower.
  • Adults 21 and older with valid ID can legally buy cannabis, drive it home, and enjoy it. You can’t smoke it in public, or in a car, or in your condo if your condo association prohibits it. This will probably be on the agenda of a lot of condo associations at next month’s meeting.
  • Home growing is limited to medical cannabis patients only. Recreational cannabis gardening can get you a fine of up to $200 for up to five plants.
  • Underage possession comes with consequences. If you’re under 21, you’re looking at up to a $200 fine and a misdemeanor for possessing cannabis. Non-licensed marijuana sales are still a felony. Driving while intoxicated remains illegal. Bosses can keep drug testing people and fire anyone they reasonably suspect of being stoned on the job. If you furnish cannabis to someone under 21, you’re looking at a minimum $500 fine, and if someone gets hurt, a felony. Interstate traffickers still risk a Class X felony, $200,000 in fines, and more prison time than some rapists or murderers.

Criminal Justice Savings Start Immediately

  • Illinois police made 32,773 marijuana arrests in 2016, 42% of all drug offense arrests. Those arrest numbers should collapse.
  • If you were arrested in the past year for under 30 grams of marijuana you can petition the court to have that arrest expunged. We’ll have more details on that soon.
  • If you’re in jail, prison, or on probation or parole for a minor cannabis crime you can also petition for an expungement. The state has to notify you that you’re eligible. Some folks will get out of jail or get off probation.
  • In 2020, state police must begin annual automatic expungements of old records. An estimated 770,000 records could be expunged eventually.
  • Parents can’t be deemed negligent for cannabis use alone.
  • Pediatric medical cannabis patients can take their epilepsy meds at public schools.

 

Illinois marijuana legalization will make medical dispensaries much busier when they are approved to sell adult use cannabis. (Courtesy of Mission Illinois)
Illinois medical dispensaries will get much busier when they are approved to sell adult use cannabis. (Courtesy of Mission Illinois)

The Adult-Use Market Rapidly Ramps Up

  • Jan. 1, 2020 is just seven months away–the blink of an eye in bureaucratic timeframes. At maximum capacity, by the year 2025, Illinois might have 500 stores, 30 big farms, 150 craft farms, hundreds of infusers, and more.
  • Adult-use licensing runs on the rails laid down by the state’s medical cannabis system. In July, the state is expected to spend $17 million powering up the Cannabis Business Development Fund. State officials also must craft and release an application for the state’s 55 medical cannabis dispensaries to serve the first adult use customers.
  • Fees, taxes, licensing, and mandatory donations run into several hundred thousand dollars for dispensaries that want to sell adult use. Double that amount to pay for the personnel to navigate the bureaucracies.
  • Still, incumbent licensees that pay to play get first crack at serving Illinois’ roughly one million regular cannabis consumers.

“The existing license holders should have the opportunity to do quite well,” said Illinois dispensary operator Kris Krane, a Chicago-based national cannabis regulations expert and president of 4Front Ventures. “I’m not really hearing any complaints about how much they’re going to have to spend to participate in the adult use market.”

Unprecedented Equity Provisions

Opening a licensed cannabis store in the US is not like opening up a lemonade stand. Cannabis remains a federally illegal Schedule I controlled substance. Opening a store is a major commercial real estate undertaking that requires substantial capital–in the millions, not thousands–and a sharp legal team. Selling cannabis is but one skill of hundreds that any team needs.

Consequently, the folks who sold illegal marijuana–and got busted for it–are often among the most disadvantaged when it comes to obtaining a license to sell legally.

HB 1438, the bill signed into law today, blunts the discriminatory effects of heavy regulation and fees with a slew of grants, carve outs, community college courses, business incubators, sponsorships, and diversity bonus points for licenses applicants. Illinois will pay for it out of the deep pockets of incumbent players.

  • The first adult use cannabis sellers must surrender 3% of annual profits (up to $100,000) to equity regulators, and incubate disadvantaged entrepreneurs with physical space or loans of $200,000.
  • License applicants get bonus points for being veterans, diverse, Illinois residents, environmentally minded, union organized, and community organizers. Paging, Barack Obama.
  • One quarter of all cannabis tax revenue–less regulatory costs–is earmarked for a new state program dubbed Restore, Reinvest, Renew (R3), good for tens of millions of dollars in grants to community groups to decrease gun violence and concentrated poverty.

Adjustments and Annual Reporting

Lastly, the new Illinois law should prove to be more flexible than most, due to the fact that it was created through the state legislature and not via a statewide ballot initiative. By 2021, state agencies must make public reports on the program’s status and progress toward its goals. There are mechanisms built into the law that allow lawmakers and regulators to fairly easily increase or decrease taxes, fees, and license allocations.

In many ways, Illinois has set the template for the legalization bills coming to future states in the Midwest and East Coast.

“This makes it a lot easier for Rhode Island and Connecticut and New York and New Jersey,” said Krane. “You needed one state to get this done to give a little push to some of these other states. I think we’re going to start seeing a wave of these states over the next couple of years now.”

Illinois Legalization Implementation Timeline

June 25, 2019

State officials release application for Early Approval Adult Use Licenses

Cities start thinking about local votes to ban

Dispensaries and farms have 60 days to apply to sell or grow adult use cannabis

Emergency rulemaking begins at Dept of Agriculture and others

Illinois State Police must identify cases eligible for expungement and notify defendants

Illinois State Police must begin automatically expunging small-time marijuana arrest records older than one year, if no charges were filed

Summer ’19

State loans itself $17M to start Cannabis Business Development Fund

Dispensaries submit applications for Early Approval Adult Use Licenses

Medical cannabis farms submit applications for Early Approval Adult Use Cultivation Center license

Departments have 60 days to approve a complete application for a store or farm

DUI Task Force created

Fall ’19

Cultivation taxes kick in 7% in September

Adult Use Dispensing Organization License Application out by Oct. 1

Early Approval farms start selling to Early Approval stores on Dec. 1

Dispensary staff must complete Responsible Vendor Program by Dec. 1

ISP must approve or deny expungement petitions within 60 days of receipt

Courts must expunge records within 60 days of order

Permanent rulemaking deadline for Dept of Agriculture, others

Jan. 1 2020

Adult Use sales start at up to 55 dispensaries and/or their secondary site

Personal rights kick in for possession, consumption, transportation, etc.

“Purchaser” taxes begin 10% state (+15% for hash)

Counties and cities can begin imposing taxes in small increments, capped at 3.75% county, 3% city

Infused license application and Transporter application released

Potential local votes on taxes, bans

Adult Use Dispensing Organization License Application window closes

Q1 2020

Up to 75 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization licenses issued by May 1 (47 in Chicago area)

Community College Program application available by Feb. 1

Infuser license application deadline is March 15

Q2 2020

Potential local votes on taxes, bans

Dept of Agriculture begins assessing medical cannabis supply levels quarterly

Growers must begin using a licensed Transporter

Q3 2020

Up to 40 Craft Cultivation licenses issued

Community College Program applications due by July 1

Up to 40 Infused licenses issued by July 1

Transporting licenses issued by July 1

Up to eight Community College Program licenses Issued by September

DUI Task Force recommendations due

Jan. 1 2021

Early Adult Use licenses start expiring

60 more Craft Farm licenses could be approved

Community College Courses could start

Annual program reporting requirements begin

Program adjustments to fees and license allocations can begin

March 31, 2021

Social Equity Inclusion Plans must be completed

Disparity and availability study must be commissioned

Q3 2021

Equity report due by September 30

60 more Infused licensees could be approved by December 2021

60 more Craft Farm licenses could be approved by December 2021

Up to 110 more Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization licenses issued

DUI Task Force dissolves

2022

More Craft Growers could be approved (max 150)

Automatic expungements by ISP

Early Adult Use Dispensing Organization licenses expire March 31

Number of shops, farms, infusers, as well as fees can be modified by Department

2023

Automatic expungements by ISP (Records from 2000 to 2013)

Fees modifiable directly by department, instead of legislature

Assessment of costs of raw materials for infusers

2024

Annual reporting on overall program efficacy plus consumer access, and diversity reporting

2025

Automatic expungements by ISP (records prior to 2000)

Annual reporting on overall program efficacy plus consumer access, and diversity reporting

Number of stores could reach maximum 500 in state

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Is the Cannabinoid CBN an Effective Sleep Aid?

While working at a cannabis dispensary, I discovered the power of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), and how cannabinoids in cannabis–like THC and CBD–can interact with it to deliver a variety of stunning medical results. I’d also learned that the cannabinoid cannabinol (CBN) had a reputation for being a great aid to insomnia fighters.

At the time, cannabis laboratory Steep Hill reported, “The consumption of 2.5mg to 5mg of CBN has the same level of sedation as a mild pharmaceutical sedative, with a relaxed body sensation similar to 5mg to 10mg of diazepam.” They’re a widely respected company and this quote is all over the canna-net, so I bit.

I turned to a CBN product (a 1:1 CBD/CBN tincture, to be precise), which happily did seem to deliver comparable results to the pharmaceutical insomnia medications I’d been taking. Knowing that THC degrades and turns into CBN when exposed to elements like heat, air and light over time, I wondered if I could devise a more cost-effective way to make CBN medicines from regular ol’ THC flower.

I figured if I left buds sitting in a dish by the sunny window, it might result in higher CBN content–thereby, a handy DIY sleep medication. After doing so for awhile, I hadn’t noticed any differences in effect (just crunchiness), and so started digging to see if this was actually a feasible way to raise CBN levels.

But as I started digging into my DIY method, my objective (and methods–more on that below) quickly became questionable.

Things Get Murky on CBN and Sleep

It turns out, though there are numerous products in the cannabis industry that aim to promote sleep via CBN the link between the two lacks scientific foundation. In fact, only one (well-cited) study has signified that this effect is in play, but the study is highly problematic.

The results point to sedation only when CBN was used in combination with THC.

In addition to questionable methods, the results point to sedation only when CBN was used in combination with THC–a finding that could be attributed to the phenomenon known as the entourage effect, wherein cannabinoids work synergistically with one another, as well as with other components of cannabis (like terpenes and flavonoids), to create a stronger effect.

So Where Did the Supposed Connection Come From?

According to Dr. Ethan Russo, Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, this might be due to people feeling tired after smoking old and/or improperly stored buds. He said that the sedating effects of aged cannabis are often misattributed to CBN because of the previously described degradation process that creates the cannabinoid. However, he says the sedative effects of old cannabis are more likely due to other components of the plant that change as cured cannabis ages.

He shared that old cannabis tends to be sedating due to a loss of monoterpenoids and a retention of sesquiterpenoids, which have a soporific (or drowsy) effect. He added that the addition of another cannabinoid, CBN in this case, to a cannabis sleep regimen may increase the aforementioned entourage effect–but that CBN hasn’t been shown to be sedative on its own, and he contends that it is not more sedating than other cannabinoids.

Then Why Does CBN Seem to Work for Some?

So, how come CBN products seem to work for so many rough sleepers? It’s possible that CBN is working that entourage effect, being the perfect addition their nighttime cannabis routine. Or, the product-in-question may have also had additional ingredients that worked effectively (like sesquiterpenoids).

As is often the case in cannabis, there’s a lot of research left to be done on this topic, but I did get my answer. Dr. Russo says, “Setting out cannabis in the sun is a good way to waste the monoterpenoid fraction and leave sedating sesquiterpenoids and CBN behind.” (However, he thinks this is likely to take a significant amount of time, and does not recommend my method.)

We reached out to Steep Hill for comment on that quote comparing CBN to diazepam. They didn’t reply, but did change their CBN text to read, “Initially, it was reported that CBN was a promising adjunct in the treatment of insomnia, but with the advent of a few small trials, sedative qualities have not been observed. Further study is required.”

Cannabis Is Still a Fierce Sleep Aid

For now, Dr. Russo informs us that the best known way to use cannabis for sleep is to combine THC with other sedating components, like the terpenes myrcene and linalool. He told us that cannabis isn’t such a successful sleep aid because it’s wildly sedating, but because it treats underlying conditions that are keeping people awake.

He emphasized the importance of treating what, precisely, is keeping the person from sleep. For instance, if you’re incredibly tired, but your mind is racing a jillion miles an hour–you probably want a good dose of CBD for anxiety in your nighttime routine.

So, reflect on the things that keep you up (he said pain and spasms are two more big ones), and do some research and experimenting to find the best approach to treating what ails, allowing your bod to get the rest it needs.

And as for CBN, time will tell as to if this cannabinoid has any particular super powers–but the jury is still out on whether sedation is one of them.

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Does Endocannabinoid Deficiency Play a Role in These Common Illnesses?

For many suffering from chronic illness, cannabis is a godsend. From those dealing with the wrath of inflamed digestive systems, to the ones combating global musculoskeletal pain, and the millions who report that the agony in their heads is just the beginning of their symptoms–cannabis can help these fighters with their load of physical woes.

The ECS is present in every major bodily system, which is how its dysfunction can theoretically cause such a variety of conditions–and how cannabis manages to treat them.

But why? To explain, we need to back up a bit. You probably know that cannabinoids (like the popular CBD and THC) interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), and that our bodies produce natural endocannabinoids that work with the ECS receptors to maintain health in all the other bodily systems. But do you know what happens when we don’t produce enough of these endocannabinoids?

Neither does science; not really, anyways. But Ethan Russo M.D., Director of Research and Development of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute has theorized that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be the cause behind irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine, and other treatment-resistant syndromes. The ECS is present in every major bodily system, which is how its dysfunction can theoretically cause such a variety of conditions–and how cannabis manages to treat them.

These conditions, along with others that fall into this realm, are generally thought to be incurable and chronic, usually lasting for the rest of the sufferer’s life. I spoke with Dr. Russo about this matter, and he offered hope for chronic illness fighters, saying that since these conditions are generally acquired (rather than congenital, from birth), it seems to suggest an ECS disturbance is behind the illness. So hopefully it can be reversed in some fashion.

What Is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

The theory of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) explains that these health conditions are due to a deficiency in endocannabinoid levels, akin to the way neurotransmitter deficiencies are behind other illnesses–like serotonin deficiency in depression. In other words, the theory posits that the cause of these syndromes is an insufficient amount of endocannabinoids functioning in the ECS.

The theory was first posed by Dr. Russo in 2001. Since then, he’s published several more well-cited papers on the topic.

“The vast majority of physicians just have no background in the ECS. It’s just not being taught.”

Dr. Ethan Russo

Dr. Russo’s 2016 paper, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered, revisited this issue after substantial evidence for the theory was recorded. Firstly, statistically significant differences of the endocannabinoid anandamide were recorded in the cerebrospinal fluid of migraine sufferers. (Similar results have also been found in fibromyalgia fighters.) Decreased ECS function was found in another condition thought to fall into the CED rubric, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And clinical data has shown that cannabinoid treatment and lifestyle changes aimed to promote the health of the ECS produced evidence for decreased pain, improved sleep, and other benefits in fighters–yet more evidence linking ECS dysfunction to these conditions.

From the paper: “If endocannabinoid function were decreased, it follows that a lowered pain threshold would be operative, along with derangements of digestion, mood, and sleep among the almost universal physiological systems subserved by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).”

The CED theory also posits that such deficiencies could be present due to genetic reasons or be the result of a disease or injury.

The study primarily focuses on IBS, migraine, and fibromyalgia–all of which involve increased pain sensations in the affected areas–but disorders that may fall under the CED rubric include: PTSD, glaucoma, cystic fibrosis, types of neuropathy, phantom limb pain, neonatal failure to thrive, infantile colic, menstrual pain, repetitive miscarriages, hyperemesis gravidarum, bipolar disease, and many others. Many of these diseases are little understood and remain treatment resistant.

How to Improve ECS “Tone”

Unfortunately, there’s no magic-pill solution here, but there are methods to improve your ECS “tone,” which is the term used to describe the functioning of this little-understood system. Dr. Russo had some advice on the matter–and it’s all about taking good care of yourself to help ensure that the ECS doesn’t get out of balance. Here’s some tips gleaned from his wisdom:

  • Heal your gut: There is increasing evidence that the gut microbiome, and the levels of bacteria within it, are a major regulator of the ECS. People should avoid unnecessary antibiotics, as these damage the natural microbiome balance in the gut. Also try pro- and prebiotics to get that biome in shape.
  • Eat right: Pro-inflammatory foods, such as fried foods with trans-fats, or too many calories in general are bad for the ECS. It’s also important to cultivate consciousness about what you’re eating–how you were taught might not be best what’s best for your body now.
  • Exercise: Sedentary behavior is harmful to the ECS, and exercise is essential to improving tone. However, many fighters of chronic illness will experience a flare in symptoms if they push it, so a low-impact aerobic program is recommended for many.
  • Look at family health: ECS dysfunction isn’t genetic like eye color, but there are genetic tendencies, so be extra careful if there are others in your family who are fighters of chronic illness. Also be mindful about unhealthy habits you may share.
  • Sleep well and stress less: The ECS loves balance, and a body that’s stressed out and unrested is great at throwing all kinds of systems out-of-whack. So get those eight hours and get real about managing stress.

Dr. Russo says that there’s no “cure” for these conditions, but following these guidelines offers the opportunity for a major intervention in symptoms–which can look a whole lot like a cure.

Looking Forward

As for what’s next, Dr. Russo is working on getting studies funded and running to provide further information on this topic, especially in relation to ECS and the gut’s microbiome. He’s also working on a diagnostic test for fibromyalgia sufferers–something that would be life-changing for those searching for a diagnosis, or who need to prove that they really have it.

And for now, he says that there needs to be more awareness about the ECS.

“The vast majority of physicians just have no background in the ECS,” he said. “Despite it being discovered almost 30 years ago, there’s been very little uptake of it in med school curricula–it’s just not being taught, and whether that’s an unfortunate association with the word ‘cannabis’ is unclear. But clearly we have a knowledge deficit in regard to it, and until we rectify that we won’t have the ability to treat our patients more effectively.”

So the next time you’re at the doctor, whether you suffer from a chronic illness, or not–think about asking your doctor what you can do to improve the health of your endocannabinoid system, just to see if they know what it is. (And maybe put some pressure on them to find out.)

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