CED is based on the premise that many brain disorders have been linked to neurotransmitter deficiencies. For example, dopamine has been implicated in Parkinson’s disease, and serotonin and norepinephrine have been associated with depression.
“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 sub-served by the ECS,” Russo writes.
That’s a mouthful, but essentially it means if the ECS isn’t properly working, then it could account for the pain, sleep, digestive and other issues so common among fibromyalgia patients. Adding cannabinoids to the body through the use of cannabis may help to bring the ECS back into balance.
“It’s a key in a lock in your body that exists for a reason,” explains Dr. Jahan Marcu, chief scientist with Americans for Safe Access. “We send in cannabinoids to activate this system that’s supposed to be working. It’s a sort of care and feeding of the ECS so it can do its job.”
The best evidence for CED comes from an Italian migraine study, which found reduced levels of an endocannabinoid known as anandamide in patients with chronic migraines versus healthy controls.
“Reduced [anandamide] levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of chronic migraine patients support the hypothesis of the failure of this endogenous cannabinoid system in chronic migraine,” read the study.
Unfortunately, the Italian study will probably never be repeated in the United States because it required risky and invasive lumbar punctures.
In the gut, the ECS modulates the movement of food along the digestive tract, the release of digestive juices to break down food and inflammation.
Cannabis has long been used to treat digestive issues and was one of the first effective treatments for diarrhea caused by cholera in the 19th century.
“Unfortunately while many patient surveys have touted the benefit of cannabinoid treatment of IBS symptoms, and abundant anecdotal support is evident on the Internet, little actual clinical work has been accomplished,” Russo writes.