CBD, cannabidiol, is a plant-based compound that can interact with the human’s (and other animal’s) endocannabinoid system. Cannabis plants contain more than a hundred different cannabinoids—the plant compounds that interact with human brain chemistry to affect our physiology and psychology. Many of these cannabinoids are being researched for their health benefits, but the two most studied, most plentiful, and most important are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). If you are interested in CBD you are not alone. It has been a hot-topic over the past five years and I don’t think it is going away. Most of you have heard that CBD can help with managing stress and helping you remain calm. So, let’s dig in and learn a little about CBD, how you can use it so manage your feelings of over-whelm, and the mind-gut connection.
Our nervous system can be split up into two parts
In the most basic essence, our nervous system can be split up into two parts: the parasympathetic and sympathetic. The parasympathetic portion is responsible for rest, digest and procreation. The sympathetic portion governs our fight or flight response. I like to refer to the parasympathetic as classical music and sympathetic as heavy metal. Most of my patients have heavy metal blasting and classical music turned way down. The balance of these two systems is called the autonomic tone. Our bodies are dynamic and constantly in flux, seeking homeostasis.
How do you know if your nervous system is out of balance?
Find a healthcare provider that will discuss all facets of your life and family history to determine the root cause of your dis-ease. In the setting of Covid-19 it is more important than ever to find and use tools to manage your stress, as stress can inhibit your immune system
How can we bring our nervous system back into balance?
When and how can we make the classical music get louder? When you rest, practice meditation, experience joy, have loving connections and eat non-toxic/non-inflammatory foods your body switches into a parasympathetic dominant state. Serotonin and GABA are the key players in this neurochemical soup. Disease states consistent with lower levels of these hormones are depression, anxiety and elevated inflammatory markers.
The Gut-Brain Connection
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Nope. The body doesn’t play by that rule. Your body doesn’t do compartmentalization. You are actually your mind, your body and your spirit. And, if the word spirit bothers you (I cringed when spirituality was mentioned in my medical school journey and now embrace it; we can all grow and change) consider your electromagnetic field (EMF). Whatever happens to part of you happens to all of you. So, back to Vegas. The vagus nerve travels from your brain all the way down to your bowels. This nerve, fondly called the wanderer, has two pathways: 1) from the brain to gut, 2) from the gut to the brain, afferent and efferent, respectively. So, there is a structural connection between your brain and your belly. What you think and feel affects the neurochemical soup in which you live.
Did you know that over half of your immune system lives in your gut?
Those immune cells have cannabinoid receptors. Thusly, turning up the classical and down the heavy metal will boost your innate immunity.
Neat. But what does this have to do with CBD and hemp? We are getting there.
The Endocannabinoid System
Your autonomic tone (the balance of the two types of music) is dictated by your Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is your body’s master conductor controlling your sleep-wake cycle, digestion, perception of pain, libido, ability to forget traumatic events, and thermoregulation. Because your body is an elegant system, you make your own (endogenous) cannabinoid to interact with the ECS: anadamide (named for Sanskrit word for bliss, anada). Anadamide works like a key to locks, or receptors (CB-1,2), in your body. The majority of these receptors are in the central nervous system (brain) and within the digestive track (gut).
CBD structurally looks like anadamide and can interact with the same receptors. CBD is a phytocannabinoid; phyto meaning plant. Anadamide is an endocannabinoid; endogenous meaning it came from self. Both help bring your body back into balance and set the stage for self-healing on the cellular level.
How CBD can play a role in bringing you back into balance.
Inflammation, on a cellular level, can leave patients with chronic pain, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, poor sleep and digestion. The Endocannabinoid System helps to regulate inflammation and imbalance. And, knowing what we do about CB receptors locations and density, ingesting CBD (pills, tea, edibles) may offer an indirect benefit for treatment of inflammation. When a patient consumes CBD orally it travels via the digestive tract and can interact directly with the ECS receptors and to the brain via vagus. Probiotics have even been shown to alter mood because they change the gut microbiome and therefore the neurochemical soup in which the patient lives.
CBD and simple self care can help manage your stress
Ingesting CBD may be a direct way to manage your own gut-brain connection. However, consuming any form of CBD in the setting of poor diet, negative self-talk, toxic relationships and zero physical movement is like peeing on a raging house fire: your effort is noticed but will do little to change the circumstances.
If you are considering traditional pharmaceuticals to alter your quality of life, know you have evidence-based, plant-based options. You don’t have to live in chronic pain or anxiety. You can turn down the heavy metal and ingesting CBD can help.
How do I get started on my CBD journey?
Starting a CBD journey can be daunting and confusing on where to start. Below are five steps you can take to help you begin your CBD journey.
- 1) Find a healthcare provider familiar with CBD.
- 2) Discuss what type of CBD would be best- tinctures, ingestible (soft gels, gummies), and topicals
- 3) Start your dosing low and slow – we suggest starting on a low dose (5-10mg) and sustain this dose for at lest 3-5 days. Increase or decrease your dosage if you are not seeing the results you desire.
- 4) Keep a medicine journal to track your experience – this will help you determine if your dosage is working and if you are noticing changes and/or seeing results. It can sometimes take a while for CBD to start working so a journal is a good way to track your results and then make adjustments.
- 5) Acknowledge diet, sleep and relationships are part of your bigger brain-gut health picture. CBD is not a cure all – if the rest of the systems that support your well being are not being nourished you may continue to feel out of balance and stressed. It works better when you are eating nourishing food, sleeping 8 hours a day, and have a support system. Simple daily self care activities can help you to achieve this.
About the Author
Dr. Hartridge is a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, who is licensed as a General Practitioner in New York and Georgia. She completed her Internship in a Family Medicine residency program at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in Patchogue, NY, studied Osteopathic Medicine and Public Health at Touro University, California and Environmental Education at Davidson College, North Carolina.
Additionally, Dr. Hartridge is trained as a Starch Certified Health Care Provider by Dr. John McDougall. Low Fat Plant Based food choices can help heal everything from diabetes to hypertension to autoimmune disorders and chronic pain.