Endocannabinoid Deficiency Fibromyalgia: Is CBD the Answer?

Fibromyalgia has plagued the lives of many, both physically and emotionally. It causes disability and depression, making people feel isolated and unproductive. However, its cause, just like that of many other conditions, remains a mystery to sufferers and doctors… Could science be close to figuring it out?

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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious illness that causes sufferers to feel pain in their body for no apparent reason. It is more prevalent in women, and it is currently the most common rheumatology diagnosis in the United States.

Often, people who suffer from it are dismissed as being over dramatic, or some claim their pain to be psychosomatic, which is why the diagnosis is fairly new, compared to other conditions.

However, in recent years, studies have shown that fibromyalgia is, in fact, a very real medical condition that not only causes unnecessary pain signals to be sent to the brain, but also alters the pain threshold, making people a lot more sensitive to these signals, which is referred to as  hyperalgesia.

In sufferers, fibromyalgia causes stress, anxiety, feelings of guilt, isolation, and even disability. It is part of a group of conditions referred to as subjective pain syndromes, which are difficult to identify, since there are no objective, observable signs and they are often resistant to medical treatment. It is characterized by painful trigger points, mostly in the shoulders and neck, that limit physical activity and generate frustration.

It is associated closely with depression and anxiety, but it isn’t clear if one causes the other or if they coexist because they have the same origin.

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Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

In our bodies, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, has two basic tasks:

  1. Balance feelings of well-being
  2. Stimulating the body to heal from injury or illness

This system reacts to endocannabinoids (cannabinoids that are naturally produced by our bodies), which interact with it and keep it running as it should.

Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, CECD, happens when the concentration of these endocannabinoids, called anandamide and 2-AG, are lower than normal. This is a very new discovery, the initial theory having been proposed in 2001, and subsequent studies have backed it up.

Slowly, scientists and doctors are catching on to how this affects us, and have been shocked to discover that the effects are a lot broader and more significant than previously thought.

The origin of the theory came from the fact that many brain disorders are related to neurotransmitter deficiencies, so it was concluded that, considering its main function, chronic endocannabinoid deficiency should result in alterations in the sensations of pain, system imbalance and inflammation, since the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in those.

Conditions whose cause has been unknown for centuries now have a little ray of sunshine. Low levels of anandamide have been reported in people suffering from a number of illnesses whose cause was eluding the medical community.

If endocannabinoid deficiency proves to be the cause, these illnesses will now have better, more effective treatments that will make them more manageable, and they will be less likely to cause disability and depression.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency Fibromyalgia, Migraine, PTSD and IBS

Some of the conditions that have been observed to concur with clinical endocannabinoid deficiency are: fibromyalgia, migraines, PTSD and IBS, among others.

These three conditions have certain common characteristics:

  • Heightened sensitivity to pain, or hyperalgesia, which has been observed to be associated with endocannabinoid hypo-function (decreased function of the ECS).
  • Are accompanied by anxiety and depression
  • Have been labeled as psychosomatic
  • They coexist in the majority of cases, which suggests the same cause

Recently, it was discovered that people who suffer from fibromyalgia have a distinct deficiency of the endocannabinoid anandamide, which our body is supposed to produce naturally. Anandamide generates feelings of well-being and, in high amounts, can cause euphoria. However, if its concentration is too low, it has shown to have incredibly negative effects physically and emotionally.

When looking further into the issue, other illnesses were associated with this deficiency, which was officially named “clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome,” or CECD. And the main conditions it has been related to often overlap, supporting the theory that it is the possible cause.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency Fibromyalgia: Is CBD the Answer?

If anandamide deficiency proves to be the cause of some or all cases of fibromyalgia, there is a lot of hope for a successful treatment to be developed and standardized in the near future.

CBD is a phytocannabinoid, a cannabinoid that is produced in plants, which stimulates CB2 receptors, the same type of receptors that react to anandamide and cause feelings of wellness and pain relief. Theoretically speaking, CBD should be able to replace anandamide in people who have low concentrations of it, until eventually the body is able to regulate its production.

Interestingly, in a specific study, CBD showed an improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms that highly surpassed those of the usual medications prescribed for this condition (like duloxetine and milnacipran).  

In fibromyalgia and other CECD related conditions, cannabinoid treatment, mainly CBD treatment, has shown improved sleep, pain relief, and other benefits that support the influence of the deficiency in the symptoms.

In a few trials, THC was studied as a possible treatment, but the results were not as significant as the ones showed for CBD and whole plant cannabis, which showed decreased pain and stiffness almost immediately, as well as improvement in sleep and reduced anxiety.

The use of cannabis-based epilepsy medication, Sativex also proved to be highly effective for pain, which proves that CBD oil for fibromyalgia is the best option.

What is the cause of endocannabinoid deficiency fibromyalgia?

Humans have an optimal level of endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG) in the body, which interact with endocannabinoid receptors. When endocannabinoid function is lower than normal,a series of conditions will necessarily follow, such as:

  • Digestive issues
  • Mood alterations
  • Sleep alterations
  • General well-being will be disrupted

It is still unknown why these lower endocannabinoid levels occur, but the CED theory suggests that the cause could be genetic or congenital, or might even be acquired after a significant injury or illness that alters the balance of the endocannabinoid production.

Other illnesses that have been linked to CECD

The ones mentioned above are not the only conditions that seem to be linked to clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. Others that are being evaluated for their possible relation to CECD are:

  • Neonatal failure to thrive
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Infantile colic
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Repetitive, unexplained miscarriages
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder

These are just a few, though there are many others that could be part of this list.

Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency is new, but very important discovery being studied currently that could help us understand different conditions that have mostly been a complete mystery to us.

It seems almost obvious when you think about illnesses being caused by the body being unbalanced. A lot of people have spoken about CBD oil and fibromyalgia. However, we are so used to having external causes to our ailments, that we have failed to see what was right under our noses.

Our bodies have lost balance, so we need to return it to them in order to be healthier and feel better. Hopefully CBD treatments are standardized and recognized as valid methods of improving the quality of life of those who suffer from fibromyalgia and have seen their lives altered by it.

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CBD Oil for Autism: Does it Work?

April is world autism awareness month, and every year has brought with it more progress in terms of knowledge, representation and new treatments for those who live with autism.  

This campaign aims to raise both awareness and funding for medical research in hopes of discovering new treatment options, like CBD, or possible ways of preventing this disorder by identifying risks factors more clearly, which are thought to be a mix of genetic and environmental conditions.

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Hopefully, now that worldwide cannabis legalization is looming above us, it serves as an opportunity to contribute to the different treatments that are currently available for autistic children and adults.

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurobehavioral disorder with a wide spectrum of severity.

Characteristically, those who suffer from autism, have impaired social, communication, and language skills; and it is generally characterized by rigid, repetitive behaviors and movements.

Around 1% of children in the US are diagnosed with some form of autism: 1 in every 37 boys, and 1 in every 151 girls. Though it is more likely to be diagnosed in boys than girls, that gender gap is beginning to diminish, since there is more awareness of how it can manifest differently in girls.

In 2014, it was estimated that more than 3.5 million people in the US live with autism spectrum disorder. The diagnosis of the disorder is increasing quickly, but it is thought to be more due to awareness and better diagnosis criteria, rather than due to an “epidemic” many fear.

Complications…

Around 30% of cases of autism are accompanied by seizures and epileptic disorders, which makes them harder to manage. And the condition may also be complicated by learning disabilities and other disorders, both neurological and physiological.

Adulthood comes with a whole new set of challenges for patients, even those with high functioning autism. For instance, around 35% of young adults with autism haven’t had a job or received further education after high school.

Fortunately, there is constantly more information and scientific research being carried out that could help people and families better cope with this disorder. For example, currently, the University of North Carolina is working on a study that will establish a way of determining if a baby will eventually grow to be diagnosed with autism.

This particular study will allow children to receive therapy and treatment in an early stage, which is likely to result in a better prognosis. Currently, by looking at a brain scan, autism can be predicted and, so far, 8 out of 10 predictions are accurate.

CBD Oil for Kids with Autism

Though at the moment it might seem a little controversial, these past few years, doctors and parents have been turning to cannabis, specifically CBD, in hopes of improving the quality of life of children with autism.

CBD shows promise as a treatment for behavioral symptoms, including violent outbursts, hyperactivity, repetitive behaviors, and hypersensitivity to physical contact; not to mention it can do a lot for autism that is accompanied by epilepsy, reducing seizures and cognitive decline.

Because traditional treatments are limited, parents have begun exploring alternative treatments such as CBD, and some are beginning to see it as a first option, even before any other medications are tried.

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Clinical Trials…

In 2016, Israeli doctors began carrying out a medical trial with 120 low-to-medium functioning autistic children and young adults, in order to evaluate the behavioral effects CBD could have on their condition.

The supplements that were used were completely free of THC, since the purpose of the study was to determine the properties of CBD alone, and THC still comes with a lot of legal, social and medical baggage that they weren’t prepared to deal with.

During this trial, some patients who were 100% non communicative, started speaking after being given CBD.

At the end of this year, 2019, The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, will be launching a trial with the aim of looking into CBDs effects on severe forms of autism in children.

Why does CBD Oil for autism work?

It has been theorized that the reason CBD reduces self harming behavior in autistic children, is that it improves their communication skills, reducing the frustration that they feel when they’re unable to express ideas and feelings.

Parents have reported a significant improvement in behavior and mood alterations when using CBD Oils or Sprays. It suddenly becomes less stressful and risky to have people over, and it becomes easier to show affection and communicate in a clear way.

A lot of parents report more eye contact, less anxiety at being in an educational setting, and even openness to accepting new foods, which is often an issue.

Also, since epilepsy is a common issue with severe forms of autism, the benefit doubles. Parents use CBD oil for autism and epilepsy, and it has shown a lot of effectiveness, since CBD is better known for its anti-seizure properties and is now being used for epilepsy in children and in adults. This means it can potentially improve the lives of those who suffer from both conditions significantly.

Though doctors know of the many benefits it provides, they want to know exactly how CBD works and why it improves autism symptoms before they “go wild” and prescribe it to every kid that comes to their office. However, there are some who have already begun recommending and prescribing the component.

CBD Oil for High Functioning Autism

Since autism is a spectrum disorder, it varies in severity and need for support. A lot of autistic children grow up to be fully functioning adults. However, they still have difficulties with social interactions, depression and anxiety.

Even for high functioning autism, and what was formerly known as Asperger’s syndrome, CBD oil has been known to help with social anxiety, which is prevalent for those who suffer from the disorder; depression; and even helps reduce repetitive movements.

Autism and the CB2 Receptor

In 2013, a study was conducted in order to identify physiological differences between autistic and non autistic children, in hopes that the origin of the condition could be targeted and life skills improved.

It was discovered that there is a significant difference between autistic and non autistic children when it comes to CB2 receptors.

CB2 receptors, one of the two types of receptors that conform the endocannabinoid system, respond to CBD. The component stimulates them and balances different systems and functions.

Hopefully, in the near future we manage to figure out what exactly is affected when a child suffers from autism, and how CBD targets that alteration.

CBD Oil Dosage for Autism

When it comes to dosage, it is extremely important to consult with a healthcare professional and take into account the child’s age, weight and condition.

Generally speaking, the initial dosage is the same as the one normally used for childhood epilepsy, which is 1mg per kilogram, 3 times a day.

Starting from there, the dosage can be slowly increased until positive changes are seen. Though, again, medical supervision is advised.  

So, is CBD Oil for Autism a Good Idea?

If you compare CBD to medication like Risperdal, which is often given to patients, there really is no question that CBD is the better option.

Psychiatric medication often causes significant side effects that can harm the body and mind permanently, while CBD causes virtually none, and it’s completely natural.

Parents, experts and patients themselves don’t report any negatives when it comes to CBD oil for autism. Probably the only issue they’ve expressed is having trouble finding the product.

Just like it occurs with epilepsy patients, CBD usually allows autistic children to lower the dosage of other medications they’re taking, or to stop taking them completely.

Healthwise, CBD is a really good option. However, Child Protective Services is still an issue parents sometimes have to deal with, since it’s not yet a recognized treatment. So, legally, when it comes to minors, it’s still a very delicate territory and parents should be well informed before making the decision to give their child CBD supplements.

Here’s to CBD being standardized as a medical treatment!

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CBD Dosage? Less is More… Here’s where to Start

Everyone reacts differently to cannabis. If you are thinking of cannabis for medicinal purposes, it’s very important that you find the exact and right dosage for you.

Take a minute to remember what you feel after one drink. You feel more relaxed, you start talking a little more and feel chipper. But after you had six or more, you start to feel dizzy. And if you push it a little further, you’ll probably make a visit to the toilet and pass out. This is something called the biphasic effect. And, besides alcohol and other substances, cannabis also produces biphasic effects. We’ll explain how the biphasic effect works and how to properly manage dosage to experience the best results.

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What is the biphasic effect?

The biphasic effect means that too low or too high doses of cannabis can produce equally negative effects, or worsen your symptoms. And, most importantly, in cannabis, specially when it comes to THC, moderate, balanced doses can make you feel the desired effects. However, high doses can amplify the symptoms you’re trying to get rid of. For example, consuming too much THC can induce anxiety and even a panic attack.

But the biphasic effect doesn’t work the same for everyone. Let’s say you try a CBD cream to manage your back pain. You try it and it works so well that you tell all your friends and family about it. Your aunt is having back pain as well, so you give her some of that cream. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work for her. Why? Because of the biphasic effect. Maybe your aunt needs a cream with a higher CBD percentage.

Every person is different and has different reactions to substances like cannabis. This is why dosage is so important. And not just any dosage, but the right one for you. And to find the right one you need to understand that cannabis strains have different ratios.

Different strains, different ratios

Even though the market is full with predominant THC strains, CBD has become more popular. According to Google Trends, CBD searches triple THC searches (see table below).

Among the CBD searches, the most popular related topic is “CBD Oil”. The increasing interest in CBD and it’s different products in the market means that people’s interests and curiosity are mainly directed towards the non psychoactive effects of cannabis. To understand it better we need to explore the different strains and categories of products available in the market.

High THC, Low CBD

This type has between 10% and 30% of THC and very little amounts of CBD. Research has found that CBD can even lower or neutralize some of the psychoactive effects of THC. These type of strains will definitely get you high.

But, when it comes to medicinal purposes, a higher dose doesn’t necessarily mean a better effect. With large amounts of THC, the effect is sedating, more than stimulating.

Balanced CBD/THC

This type has a balanced 5% to 15% of THC and CBD. Even though there is no “right dose” for everyone, some think this balanced type is a good starting point. Guillermo Velasco of Complutense University of Madrid is one of the leading scientists researching cannabinoids for cancer treatment. He states that THC has as much medicinal purposes as CBD. “In my opinion as a scientist, I’ve been working with [cannabis] for quite a long time. THC is the compound that has the most potent anti-cancer activity. CBD is helping—we tried a lot of combinations of THC and CBD because it’s good for avoiding the side effects of the therapy […] but, definitely THC is important”.

A 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC is considered to have a very good response to some treatments. Both cannabinoids have the same medicinal benefits such as analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. So if you want the best result for pain and inflammatory problems, balanced CBD/THC this is your type of product. CBD can cancel the psychoactive effect of THC, so you will experience the medical benefits of THC, but without experiencing so much the psychoactive effects.

High CBD, Low THC

Finally, we have the CBD predominant strains. Products of this type have between 5% and 20% CBD, and under 5% of THC. People who consume these products are sensitive to the side effects of THC. Also, people who need to be in constant medication throughout the day prefer these high CBD concentration products.

But high concentrated CBD products doesn’t necessarily mean more effective. If you have a lot of pain and you are considering CBD, don’t think high doses of this cannabinoid are going to help you even more. According to Project CBD, just 2.5mg of CBD combined with a small amount of THC can have a great medical effect, opposite to high doses of CBD.

In cannabis Dosage, less is more

Above all, cannabis is considered to work better in low doses. For example, let’s take a look at two of the FDA approved medications: Sativex and Epidiolex.

Sativex is a cannabis sublingual spray developed by GW Pharmaceutical. Each spray of 100ml and it contains 2.7mg of THC and 2.5mg of CBD. This means is almost a 1:1 ratio. A study conducted on cancer patients with Sativex prove the concept of “less is more”. Patients who received 21mg a day showed significantly more decrease in pain than those patients who received 52mg a day. Other patients who received 83mg showed no response at all.

Likewise, Epidiolex is another pharmaceutical drug approved by FDA. The drug is indicated for seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients 2 years of age and more. Studies prove that just 1mg/kg of body weight, for epileptic children shows better results. What doctors recommend is to start with this small those and slowly increase after watching the patient’s response.

Start low, grow slow

In conclusion, find the right dose for you. But remember this: start low, grow slow. Everyone’s is different, and taking into account the biphasic effect, you and your aunt will experience different effects while using the same CBD cream. It’s better to try products with a low dose of CBD and/or THC and watch your reaction throughout one week. If you don’t experience any changes, increase the dose. But do it in a very small proportion, and watch your reactions again. Try this until you find the right dose for you. And always remember that, in cannabis, a higher dose doesn’t mean better results.

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