6 “Feel Good” Foods & Habits That Support Your Endocannabinoid System
Think of your body like a car engine: each part, system, and structure works independently and yet they all depend on each other for the car to run smoothly.
The endocannabinoid system is like that: a variety of receptors, neurotransmitters, and proteins work together to regulate a variety of bodily functions. The car could still be working, but it might not be running optimally. You might feel okay most of the time, but with a few tweaks to make the system run better, you could be feeling a world of difference.
The endocannabinoid system is a relatively new discovery, but what we know is groundbreaking.
This complex system is involved in a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, including everything from pain to mood and memory. Supporting your endocannabinoid system can mean an overall improvement in health, and it’s as easy as adopting a few changes to your diet and habits.
From reducing stress to eating specific foods (including chocolate!), you can overhaul your endocannabinoid system and ensure you’re living your healthiest, best life yet.
1. Essential Fatty Acids
You probably already know to maintain a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support a number of bodily functions, but they can also help support your endocannabinoid system.
Omega-3 and 6 are polyunsaturated fats that the body can’t produce on its own, but that are crucial for a number of reasons like heart health, supporting mental health, bone health, and more. Endocannabinoids can be produced by the body from arachidonic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid. Consuming enough omega-6 fatty acids can help your body produce more endocannabinoids, which are useful for a variety of internal functions.
Just be sure not to overconsume omega-6 fatty acids, as this can lead to inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in cooking oils like sunflower oil and vegetable oil as well as corn, soy, nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids work to help balance the omega-6 so that the endocannabinoid system functions correctly.
Unfortunately, omega-3 fatty is much harder to consume enough of (especially if you’re following a plant-based diet), which could mean your endocannabinoid system isn’t working to the fullest. Try consuming more flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, and chia seeds, or add in omega-3 supplements to your daily routine if you’re worried you’re not getting enough.
Finally, an excuse to eat chocolate! Just make sure it's the real stuff, with no chemical additives.
Chocolate in moderation can be a great food to incorporate into your weekly diet to help support the endocannabinoid system.
Plus, it’s absolutely a “feel good” food since chocolate helps stimulate endorphins in the brain, making you feel happy and good all over. Cacao powder has compounds that are actually quite similar to endocannabinoids, so they can help prevent the breakdown of endocannabinoids in your system and keep your levels high.
Dark chocolate and raw cacao are the best sources of chocolate to support your endocannabinoid system, and dark chocolate has a host of other health benefits like being high in antioxidants and flavanols, which can help fight cardiovascular disease, and dark chocolate can also be an anti-inflammatory.
Try the Pana Chocolate Eighty variety for 80% cacao and an organic, raw treat that’s also vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free. Cherry Coco or Chocolate Pulse Sacred Meal is another great choice as it's prepared from raw organic cacao!
3. Herbal Tea
There’s no doubt that herbal tea is a “feel good” tonic; any number of herbal teas can treat everything from insomnia to an upset stomach.
Now, there’s evidence to show that herbal teas can also help support your endocannabinoid system and offer a variety of benefits. For example, beta-caryophyllene is found in oregano, cinnamon, clove, and black pepper and it can stimulate the CB2 receptor, which is used for anti-inflammatory treatments. Echinacea, a typical treatment for building up the immune system, also helps stimulate the CB2 receptor and there’s also turmeric that contains curcumin, which can help raise endocannabinoid levels.
If you’re not already ingesting probiotics, it might be time to start once you find out they can help support your endocannabinoid system. Probiotics don’t just help balance the bacteria in your gut, they can also affect the entire body including the functioning of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body.
The probiotics can affect both the cannabinoid receptor activity in the intestine but also the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, and can help lower or rise cannabinoid activity as needed.
Probiotics can be found in a wide range of plant-based sources, including pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, sourdough bread, fortified dairy alternatives, and more. Eating a range of probiotics in your diet can support your endocannabinoid system while also producing a number of other health benefits like balancing the digestive system, reducing inflammation, boosting heart health, skin health, and mental health.
Learn more in Probiotics: Health Benefits & 7 Powerful Food Sources.
There’s nothing like the rush of endorphins that come post workout, making exercise an absolute “feel good” habit that you should incorporate regularly into your routine.
After all, the benefits of exercise are countless, from boosting weight loss to relieving stress and anxiety. There’s not much that exercise can’t help and supporting the endocannabinoid system is no exception. In fact, anandamide, the most prevalent endocannabinoid that your body produces, is one of the causes of “runner’s high” and many other pleasant sensations you experience so exercising can help stimulate the endocannabinoid system.
Exercising also helps relieve stress, which is inhibitive to the endocannabinoid system, so regularly relieving stress can help maintain a healthy endocannabinoid system.
In this day and age where we’re all moving at the speed of light, taking the time to relax is more important than ever. Plus, there are so many ways to quickly and easily relax, we should be taking more advantage.
There are countless ways that you can find to bring your stress and anxiety levels down, while also taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life—you just have to find what works for you. From yoga to massages, meditation to reading, relaxation is an incredibly important and health boosting part of your day.
After all, studies show that high levels of stress can reduce the number of cannabinoids in the body, so it’s crucial that you find a healthy way to manage the strain. If exercise doesn’t quite do it for you, move on to another relaxing activity; the goal is to not stress about doing the activity that de-stresses you.
Learn more in How to Balance Mood & Reset Your Nervous System.
While there’s still much to learn about exactly how the endocannabinoid system functions and all the ways our habits and diets can affect it, there’s no doubt that it plays an important role in our everyday life and in a wide variety of bodily functions. Take this advice to heart.
You could be jeopardizing your endocannabinoid system without even realizing it, so these six “feel good” habits and foods can ensure your system is getting the support and stimulation it needs to ensure you feel your best today, and for many years to come.
Finally, there's a lot of talk these days about CBD oil and the impact that it can have for soothing physical pain and supporting emotional healing. Learn more in CBD & THC: What Are They & What Is The Difference?
Tolman Self Care.