Monthly Archives: August 2006

The Endocannabinoid System: Number II The Hormones

The Endocannabinoid System:  Number II   The Hormones

Competency # 1  RISK

Reference:  Clin Cornerstone. 2006;8 Suppl 4:S24-35

Last week we learned that the Endocannabinoid System  (ECS)  controls your endocrine response to food, appetite in an integrated fashion.  In fact, it appears the fog of uncertainty is lifting and the ECS system is part of the controlling process that regulates all the components of the “Metabolic Syndrome”.  Right now we see those as separate components with elements like elevated sugar, elevated lipids, elevated blood pressure: all associated with “visceral fat”(AKA big tummies.)  If we can figure out and control the ECS, we may find that what used to take multiple medications for multiple diagnoses may need much less total medication and more focused medication.  Imagine taking one pill for high blood pressure, diabetes, lipids and that that pill could help you lose weight.  That all makes sense when you realize that all those conditions do get better when you lose weight the old fashioned way: by burning it and achieving real weight loss.

Back to the hormones:  The ECS’s first hormone that was discovered was called anandamide.   A second one is called 2-arachidonoylglycerol.  Anandamide is a feed back inhibitor.  You make it when your brain puts out dopamine, GABA, glutamate, and serotonin.  It’s released from the nerve cell that has GABA and dopamine receptors and goes back to the originating neuron to signal it to stop releasing those messengers.  So, it is a modulating and self- regulating process.  Those receptors are called CB1 and CBs for cannabinoid 1 and 2.

For those of you who are neurology buffs, those receptors are in the hippocampus, the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, brainstem, limbic system AND in FAT CELLS and in the GI tract and immune cells.    Interestingly, it’s in the most primitive parts of our brain, and in our digestive system and immune system.  (Remember the common soil idea: that our metabolic system is all tied up with our inflammation and immune response?)

The combined effect of its feedback loop is that the ECS becomes a Stress Recovery System.  It becomes transiently activated to RELAX your response to pain and fear, to relax smooth muscle tone, to lower blood pressure.  It helps you to REST and feel slightly sedated.  To FORGET nasty memories and thereby PROTECT you from stress at the cellular and emotional level.    And all those make you feel good about EATING MORE.  It becomes appetite inducing and reward-reinforcing.

What happens when we get too much reward and get overweight with tummy fat?   In the brain our hypothalamus gets rewarded for eating more and more. And in our visceral fat, it increases insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and triglycerides, and lowers our HDLs (good cholesterol).  We get in a cycle of eating as a way of reducing stress.  This isn’t rocket science.  It’s what happens when you are tired at 10 o’clock at night.  The fridge pops open, the ice cream levitates out into your hand and it feels so sooooo good.

This all makes sense.  It describes the mess we are all in.  We stress eat.  We gain weight.  We eat more.   And ALL OF US are in this together as we get heavier, and our metabolic syndrome runs amuck.  For those of you who are slender and in good shape, this is the mortal enemy you have struggled against to stay skinny and have won.  For the rest of us, this explains why it is so easy to flounder.

Help may be on the way.  Understanding is the first step.

Next week:  the future.  What might be around the corner to help you with all this: ECS blocking agents.

Goji Berries: Traditional Chinese Medicine Comes to Wellness

Goji Berries:  Traditional Chinese Medicine Comes to Wellness

Competency # 14 Superfood

Reference: Time Magazine, July 24, 2006

All right, we’re jumping right off the end of the dock here and advocating something that’s completely new to most of us.  Goji berries are becoming more well-known, and should be.  Here’s why.  They may be “the next big thing”, but they certainly are part of a trend that is unpacking a critical lack in our nutritional mix.  We are starved for antioxidants and flavonoids, and Goji berries supply those in abundance.

But Goji berries are NOT new.  They have been known in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousand years.  They grow in the Himalayas and in Tibet naturally.  They are now being cultivated in many parts of China.  What is new is that they are catching on in America.  The July 24th issue of Time Magazine called Goji berry the “Breakout Superfruit of the Year”.    We are now importing thousands of tons of them year which is being turned into all sorts of juices and miracle products.  Some of that is borderline hoaxy, but some of it is true.  Before you get turned off on the internet marketing, here is the science that we know.

There are a bunch of things that make the Gogi a powerhouse.  Their ORAC score (oxygen radical absorption capacity) comes in at 30,000, compared to blueberries at 9,300.  They are potentially three times the potency of blueberries!   The goji berry has a few unique complex sugars that appear to have some dramatic intracellular signaling capacity.  They come stuffed with phenolics, which are another form of antioxidants.  That’s part of what gives them their bright red color. So the table is set for the goji berry to start demonstrating powerful personal health effects once they get studied in the structured methodology of American medical science.  The randomized controlled trial (RCT) takes years to have measured impacts.  Our degenerative illnesses take years to develop, if not decades.  The journey of discovery that this newsletter is on is finding those stories before those decades elapse.  But antioxidants have been proven to be very beneficial in multiple other venues, and the goji berry is as potent as they come.  And I haven’t even started on the omega fatty acids, the vitamins and the protein (more than soy).

So, we are left with anecdote for the time being.  Here are the personal stories I have heard from people who have been drinking two ounces of goji berry juice a day.

1. A young thirties female with high blood pressure who no longer gets ankle swelling and is in such good control of her blood pressure, she’s starting to ween off her blood pressure meds.

2. Older male on a variety of high blood pressure meds being weened off all but one

3. An older female with chronic inflammatory bowel disease whose had her first formed stool in 20 years

For me these aren’t just stories in the news.  These are people I know with first hand experience.  The science isn’t “proven” yet.  We don’t know exactly how these antioxidants work.  But there is too much of this puzzle that fits for it not to end up being valid.  God bless those traditional Chinese healers.  What else have they got in their bag?

WWW.  What will work for Me.  I have family and friends with heart disease.  I don’t have 20 years to wait for a RCT (Random Control Trial) to prove to me that goji works.   I’m going to give it a try.  And if it’s good for you once you have heart disease, why not before?  In the meantime, I’m eating blueberries every day and making sure I get an abundance of brightly colored foods.  My daily ORAC goal is 3500 points a day.