Endocannabinology Q&A with Dr. Kristina Ranna

What is endocannabinology?
We define Endocannabinology as an integrative approach to individual health and quality of life.
To make it easier to remember and pronounce we use the phrase ‘balance medicine’.
30 years ago, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered, and as well as its crucial physiological role, it is still of mainstream medicine interest.
If the ECS is well balanced – we are healthy. Unfortunately, in modern times the ECS balance is disrupted by several things – nutrition, physical activity, pollution and stress to name a few.
Are they any other definitions?
The term endocannabinology was first used in Uruguay, in 2017 by the Uruguayan Endocannabinology Society (SUEN).
The Society’s main objectives are to raise awareness and spread knowledge of endocannabinology in academic areas, as well as to the general public.
The Society aims to promote education and research in endocannabinology, as well as focusing on treatments using cannabis and cannabinoids that benefit health. The Society makes clear treatments must always seriously consider human rights, medical ethics and public health.
Dr. Rachel Knox and her family, based in the USA, introduced their approach in 2019. Their concept is very similar to Endoverse.
The main difference is that Dr. Knox are using medical cannabis, with significant THC content to treat specific health conditions.
Both Endoverse and Dr Knox have the same basic principles, using skills learned from traditional medical schools.
We introduced Endoverse this year, because we faced a lot of obstacles in Eastern Europe due to rigid mindset and hierarchical society structure.
Endoverse is more focused on overactivated ECS and the health impacts, than it is on clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome.
We do still this it’s important to establish a working relationship with Dr Knox on endocannabinology development.
How does endocannabinology work?
Let’s start with the ECS and regulatory roles. The system itself consists of the cannabinoid (CB1, CB2) receptors, body produced cannabinoids (anandamide, 2-AG) that produce inputs for receptor activation, and enzymes responsible for endocannabinoid synthesis and degradation. This is relatively well known.
One of the most interesting things about the ECS is its regulatory roles. The ECS is involved in almost all body and mental functions. It is related to a cascade of interactions with other body receptors and systems. Therefore we are using term endocannabidiome as defined by Professor Di Marzo.
There is relationship with widely known dopamine, serotonin and opioid receptors as well as with guts and microbiome.
The balance of the ECS / endocannabidiome is directly related to our health status. We are speaking about its ‘tone’.
Imagine a speedometer and speed limit of 30 mph. If we are driving at around the speed limit, give or take three miles per hour, the drive is relatively safe and there is limited or no risk of a speeding ticket.
However, if we drive too slow, we could block the traffic and increase the risk of the collision with others.
If we drive too fast, there is high probability of a speed ticket and even worse – a fatal accident.
So, imagine that as your health. To be healthy, we have to stay within the safe limits of the speedometer, otherwise the risk of certain illnesses is increasing.
How we can control it?
So far, we know that some health conditions are directly related to endocannabinoid tone.
For instance, migraine, IBS and fibromyalgia with low tone and inflammation, diabetes, CVD with high tone.
From an individual point of view, the most important part is currently almost unmeasurable – the situation when we are slowing down or speeding up to use the car analogy. We are still healthy, but we are running into the trouble.
We only have limited cues to identify individual risk.
It might be prediabetes, higher, but not pathological blood pressure, higher level of the CRP as an inflammation marker and most specific so far disbalance in body lipids.
What are body lipids?
Our body produces endocannabinoids from polyunsaturated fatty acids PUFA.
Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids must be taken from food. Anandamide and 2-AG are produced from Omega 6 fatty acids and are related to higher endocannabinoid tone.
There is a huge group of Omega 3 produced endocannabinoids that are targeting different sites and balancing ECS tone.
So in general, we can say that endocannabinoids are signal lipids that play a critical role in homeostasis (inner metabolic balance).
Recent dietary habits with high fat intake and inappropriate fat structure – for instance a high intake of saturated and trans fatty acids – are responsible for many health-related issues, mainly due to ECS disbalance.
So should we diet?
Unfortunately, it is not a simple as just dieting. ECS tone is influenced by many other things. The main ones are:
Eating behaviour, physical activity, stress exposure, sleep, environmental pollution, genetics and epigenetics.
How this impacts the ECS varies from person to person.
The main role of the endocannabinology (balance medicine), is to gain a deeper understanding of the client’s health related behaviour, to setup realistic and acceptable short and long-term goals and to help the client through their behavioural changes.
To achieve this, client trust and cooperation is very important. We have to set important milestones and measurable criteria to follow the progress.
Is it similar to integrative or holistic practices?
It is, however there is one important difference.
There is a discrepancy between healthy lifestyle awareness and ability of individuals to change their behaviour.
You will easily find in people you know, who have tried several times to make a change in dietary habits, to start workouts or to quit smoking.
There is one evolutionary role of the ECS – rewarding behaviours. For example sexual activity, eating, nursing, parenting, social interactions, and play activity. They are linked strongly to evolution, and they are essential for development and survival.
What was necessary to survive when we were hunter/gatherers, i.e. a rewarding system for food intake by fat accumulation in our body, is actually putting us in risk today.
Easily accessible junk foods are hard to resist if we know, that we will not only satisfy our stomachs, but we will receive valuable reward from our reward circuits.
Moreover, the reward circuits will increase our need for further food intake. It works similarly with other ‘bad’ habits.
The endocannabinoid system is involved in this regulation, mainly by activation of CB1 receptors, and we know that balancing or suppressing endocannabinoid tone could help with behavioural changes.
How is this achieved?
We are starting with changes in fat intake in favour of Omega 3 and Omega 6 PUFA.
Based on individuals and their preferences and possibilities, we are trying to use the potential of rewarding circuits into different directions.
You have probably heard about a ‘runners high’. We found that people who started physical activities switched their ‘reward’ in favour of physical activity.
Now, they find it difficult if they are not able to run or regularly exercise.
What about CBD – it’s a huge trend in the UK right now?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is very powerful Phyto cannabinoid and we are using it in our daily practice. CBD in our body targeting different targets and can fine tune the endocannabinoid tone.
CBD is able to support what we need to support, i.e. mood, activity, sleep and supress what we need to supress i.e. inflammation, anxiety, pain.
We are making sure clients are using CBD properly. Widely recommended usage is something which is ok if you are using it for recreational purposes. You will feel a fast onset and short effect.
But if you have a chronic condition, i.e. chronic pain, you will need effect to last. So we are recommending to swallow CBD and divide the daily dose into two to three single doses.
Secondly, something must be done regarding product labelling. Dosage disappeared and now you usually find total amount of CBD on the package.
From our prospective, the best solution is to label amount of CBD in single dose – in one drop or capsule. It makes easier for the client to understand the dosage and how to use it.
The third important thing is sufficient dose. Most CBD companies recommend a single dose per day. In case of liquids/oils very often only 1 – 2 drops per day are recommended. For most of the population, this is far away from the effective dose.
Where is the endocannabinology evidence?
It depends on who you are asking. There is sufficient evidence about physiological and regulatory functions of the system as well as its involvement in a broad range of pathological conditions. But, there is a lot of further investigation needed to have endocannabinology thought of the same as other medical disciplines such as cardiology or endocrinology.
Development of pharmacological molecules that act on ECS level is very hard. We have experience with rimonabant a drug that was used for obesity treatment. The results were very promising, but the drug was revoked from the market for severe adverse effects.
Similarly, an even worse experience was recorded with another molecule supressing the enzyme responsible for endocannabinoid degradation. It ended with fatal adverse effect during clinical testing on healthy volunteers.
Complex, integrative, personalised approach seems to be the only way of regulation so far.
And this is the reason why at least part of conventional medicine practitioners might see balance medicine as a pseudoscience, the same as they may do for many other integrative and holistic approaches.
This is nothing new in the history of medicine. Therefore we have to set our standards as high as possible and adhere to Hippocrates ‘primum non nocere’, so we are not doing anything to put our clients in risk.
Discussion and cooperation among professionals is the only way to assure that all of us are working in the interest of the client’s health. We must not interfere with our client’s medications and other healthcare needs
Our doors are always open for everyone who wants to see what we are doing and to learn more about the topic.
When is the best time to contact an endocannabinologist in regards to my own health?
Anytime you need to improve or maintain your health status, however, the best time to contact us is when you are healthy. To get the most of the endocannabinology care, it’s best to start early to start work before any preventable health conditions develop.