A Cannabis Nurse Consultant Explains Endocannabinoid Deficiency
Updated: Mar 21, 2022
As a cannabis nurse consultant, I work with patients daily regarding their medical cannabis education, and I find many are struggling with not just one health condition, but several. If you're among those suffering from multiple health issues, your problems could stem from an imbalance in your endocannabinoid system.
What's this? Most people have never heard of the endocannabinoid system or ECS, but we all have one. Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like substances that the body makes naturally. Receptors and enzymes throughout the body interact with these endocannabinoids to create the endocannabinoid system. It's a master regulator of all the other systems in our body, and it works to keep us in balance. When it's not working correctly, health issues sometimes arise.
We know all too well that one health issue tends to lead to another, and the side effects of many pharmaceuticals only further complicate the situation. Here's an example: A patient lives for years with a "sensitive stomach" and is prescribed over-the-counter stomach relief remedies. Later, she's diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The patient is then prescribed acid reduction and bowel regimen meds in addition to the over-the-counter drugs. The condition then worsens to become leaky gut syndrome (increased intestinal permeability), which worsens still to an auto-immune condition because the body is now attacking itself. The patient now requires extremely strong pharmaceuticals including immunosuppressant therapy or even chemotherapy drugs. As you can imagine, the patient is likely to be pretty upset that she endured a condition that became significantly worse with each treatment, especially if there were other therapies available.
Don't get me wrong. Sometimes pharmaceuticals are just what we need. But getting to the root of a health issue, rather than simply treating symptoms with pharmaceuticals, can do great things. With legalization of medical marijuana in many states and marijuana dispensaries opening in Springfield, Missouri and surrounding areas, I find that more patients are asking questions about how plant-based cannabinoid medicines may be helpful. That question often leads to conversations about clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. Sadly, a growing number of people suffering from ECS deficiency includes younger women with migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The endocannabinoid deficiency theory first proposed by Dr. Ethan Russo in 2001 implies that various factors make the body unable to maintain this system efficiently. For example, you can suffer from a deficiency if your body has too many or too few cannabinoid receptors, if there are not enough endocannabinoids produced, if you have an overabundance of metabolic enzymes, or if there's not enough action between the endocannabinoids and their receptors. Long periods of sleep deprivation, poor diet, and stress are all known contributors to this imbalance.
Some ways to help improve or balance the endocannabinoid system include increasing daily activity or exercise, even with stretching or low-impact activity, getting enough sleep or rest, managing stress, healing your gut microbiome with pro-and prebiotics, avoiding pro-inflammatory foods such as fried foods or those with too many calories, and adding cannabis to your routine health and wellness routine. While an endocannabinoid deficiency is not genetic, there may be genetic tendencies, so knowing your family history of chronic illness can be helpful.
Below is a list of known and potential diseases/conditions based on Dr. Ethan Russo's research from 2001 to present. Those with an asterisk are well documented as progressions of an unhealthy gut, leaky gut, or dysbiosis (out-of-balance microbiome).
Anxiety and depression*
Complex regional pain syndrome
Fibromyalgia / Myofascial pain syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome*
Nausea and motion sickness*
Neonatal failure to thrive
Phantom limb pain
Schizophrenia and bipolar disease
If you have been diagnosed with any combination of these diseases, disorders, or conditions, you should know that many of the conditions are listed as qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. Consult with your physician or cannabis nurse about more ways you can improve the health of your endocannabinoid system.
If you're searching for a cannabis nurse consultant to provide cannabis education services or to consult with you or a family member on obtaining a medical marijuana card, let 2 Leaf Nurses be your guide. We provide a range of medical cannabis consulting and educational services, and you can book a complimentary consultation today!
VanDolah, H. J., Bauer, B. A., & Mauck, K. F. (2019). Clinicians' Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 94(9), 1840–1851. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003
Russo E. B. (2016). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), 154–165. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0009
Hartley, M. (2020, July 28). Does endocannabinoid deficiency play a role in these common illnesses? Leafly. https://www.leafly.com/news/health/what-is-endocannabinoid-deficiency