Chronic pain conditions like Fibromyalgia still baffle doctors and therapists. Once considered a psychological condition that people just imagined they had due to intense stress, doctors now acknowledge there is something more to this silent destroyer that potentially involves the all-important nervous system, and the elusive Endocannabinoid system.
The Role of Cannabinoids for Fibromyalgia.
Current research suggests that cannabinoids may help ease symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Experts hypothesize that one of the causes of Fibromyalgia is the deficiency of endocannabinoids – endogenous cells in the endocannabinoid system that bind and activate receptors to carry out their localized action.
Endocannabinoid receptors are located all over the body, predominately in the brain and the immune system. Receptors have also been discovered in the reproductive system, and the digestive system.
When a cell deficiency occurs, the receptors may not be able to carry out their dutiful role in the body. What happens? Well, when these receptors are not activated by cells, they do not perform their localized action when the body calls on them.
ECS receptors are responsible for triggering off neurotransmitters to perform their role in the body. One such vital neurotransmitter is serotonin. Serotonin is mainly noted for mood regulation. However, serotonin plays a role in other bodily processes, including pain relief, by regulating the pain response. If you have a chronic pain condition, the levels of serotonin are constantly being depleted.
This is where cannabinoids come in. Cannabinoids mimic the actions of endocannabinoids. In fact, that is how scientists discovered this system in the first place. They were trying to understand how cannabis worked in the body, and discovered this unique system that governs so many actions in the rest of the body.
THC mimics anandamide – the endocannabinoid that binds and unlocks CB1 receptors in the brain to trigger off neurotransmitters. Due to its psychoactive properties, people are sceptical to use it.
This is where CBD may be the best choice. Although it does not have the same capabilities of THC, if there is a small amount of THC present (less than 2% for medicinal cannabis), CBD can still be of assistance without evoking the psychoactive ‘high’.
CBD can boost levels of endocannabinoids in the body. It also participates in the activation of receptors to help reduce headaches and pain, ease anxiety, and promote the release of serotonin and dopamine. Some people that take a daily dose of CBD oil find they are more creative, and can concentrate for longer periods.
CBD oil and other cannabinoids have the unique ability to potentially treat the cause, not just the symptoms of chronic pain. This is pretty exciting for those that have conditions like Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis and other pain conditions, even Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease.
I was diagnosed with FMS at the age of 16, and was prescribed Amitriptyline. Amitriptyline is a pretty common medication for FMS. At one point, I was on 50 mg a day! It came to the point that I struggled to get out of bed, I was emotionally withdrawn, and I struggled to concentrate.
I thought I would try taking cannabinoids. Over time, I gradually reduced my dose of Amitriptyline, and now I don’t have to take it at all. That is not to say I don’t experience symptoms of FMS, I just find I can cope better, and thrive in what I do, without that residue sedative feeling Amitriptyline leaves behind the next day.
This is not to say you should stop taking your medications; however, this has been my positive experience.
Cannabinoids are not the only substances that could aid in improving symptoms. A healthy diet with plenty of fatty acids is considered one of the BEST ways to manage symptoms, and reduce severity.
Omega-3, Protein, Phytochemicals, Vitamins and Antioxidants.
A healthy diet “gives you a psychological boost knowing you are doing something to help fight your disease.” (Chet Cunningham)
Food is fundamental in symptom management. Consuming foods that increase inflammation in the body can exacerbate pain. Additionally, consuming a diet high in simple carbohydrates and fatty foods, and not eating enough protein, fruits and vegetables will impact your energy levels, ability to concentrate, and impair mental health.
A well-rounded diet high in low-fat protein, fatty acids, fruits and vegetables, and reducing sugar, processed foods, and alcohol aids in reducing inflammation that leads to pain. A healthy diet also maintains energy levels, boosts brain activity, and eases digestive upsets.
Omega-3s, vitamins, minerals and protein are essential to ‘feed’ your organs. Omega-3 is vital for the functioning of every cell of your body. Yes! Endocannabinoids are made up of fatty acids! And the brain is made up of sixty percent fat, the fattest organ in the body. And it CRAVES those crucial fatty acids to provide the correct fuel.
Magnesium, calcium and vitamin D are important minerals for aiding in the reduction of pain, and participates in the regulation of melatonin, which in turn assists in the release of growth hormone to repair the body during the night.
“Diets that are rich in antioxidants and provide adequate amounts of nutrients such as vitamin B12 can help lead to reduced symptoms.” (Stephanie Watson)
It can be difficult to get in all the ‘right’ nutrients. If you are short on time, try this power smoothie that is packed with all the essential nutrients you need to get your body into gear.
- A scoop of whey protein powder.
- One Brazil nut for your daily dose of immune-boosting selenium.
- Five teaspoons of chia seeds for fatty acids, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and Vitamin B3. Magnesium and vitamin B3 are especially important for the enzymatic conversion of Omega-3 ALA to Docosahexaenoic acid – an important fatty acid for brain development and function.
- Two to five teaspoons of flaxseeds for that amazing alpha linoleic acid (ALA) boost.
- One teaspoon of pumpkin seeds high in the amino acid L-tryptophan, necessary for synthesise of serotonin.
- Four to five walnut halves – one of the healthiest nuts you can eat, and also high in ALA.
- Eight to ten almonds – another good source of magnesium, fatty acids, and Vitamin E.
- Half a frozen banana, a couple of slices of pineapple, and a tablespoon of blueberries or other frozen berries or fruit for their potent antioxidant and vitamin content.
- A cup of milk of your choice
This smoothie packs a powerful nutritional punch you can have any time of the day. And the convenient aspect for this smoothie is that you can make it the night before, or first thing in the morning, and sip throughout the day.
One of the most noted benefits of Cannabinoids and good nutrition is that they ENHANCE the body’s natural processes to get the job done. In my opinion, THC is not the problem, it is the amount people have, causing their body to actually rely on it to activate receptors, instead of cells doing it, creating that body-dependency or addiction.
Understanding the way cannabinoids work can then enable you, through doctor’s advice, to take the right dose for you to not only survive with FMS, but to THRIVE!