You don’t need to go for long runs or exercise for hours to get benefits. In fact, just 15 minutes of strength training each day is enough to boost your natural endocannabinoid levels and reduce pain and inflammation, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham found that short bouts of daily exercise in people with arthritis not just reduced their pain, but it also lowered the levels of inflammatory substances (cytokines) and increased levels of endocannabinoids including 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA).
It’s been known for some time that exercise has the power to reduce inflammation and pain, but it was not known exactly how it accomplished this feat. This new study has found, quite remarkably, the way exercise caused these changes is by altering microbes in the gut.
The results of this study suggest using exercise to increase endocannabinoid levels, which in turn helps reduce inflammation, could potentially help treat certain conditions such as arthritis, cancer and heart disease.
Additionally, it also provides some explanation for how cannabis exerts its well-studied anti-inflammatory effects.
A group of 78 people with arthritis were enlisted in the study. Thirty-eight of them were tasked with doing 15 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises every day for six weeks, and the other 40 were asked to do nothing as the control group.
At the end of the six weeks, participants who did the daily exercise reduced their pain, had higher levels of endocannabinoids and lower levels of cytokines, as well as having more microbes in their guts of the kind that produce anti-inflammatory compounds.
The increase in endocannabinoid levels was strongly linked to changes in the gut microbes and anti-inflammatory substances produced by gut microbes called SCFAS.
In fact, it was found that at least one third of the anti-inflammatory effects of the gut microbiome was due to the increase in endocannabinoids.
“Our study clearly shows that exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-type substances. Which can have a positive impact on many conditions.
“As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know that simple lifestyle interventions like exercise can modulate endocannabinoids,” said one of the study authors, Doctor Amrita Vijay, a Research Fellow in the School of Medicine.
Cannabis use and endocannabinoid levels
While acute cannabis consumption can raise endocannabinoid levels int he short term, long-term chronic use can actually reduce levels in the brain.
This is because, when you consume THC regularly and over a long time, your body becomes adapted to the regular influx of THC by down-regulating CB1 receptors, causing the brain and the body to experience a lack of endocannabinoids.
This is also what causes your tolerance to cannabis to increase the more you consume.
When the presence of THC is removed after long-term use, the body is forced to rely on its natural production of endocannabinoids. However, as it takes time for CB1 receptors to grow back to their baseline levels, reduced levels of endocannabinoids results in withdrawal symptoms.
Although cannabis withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening or medically dangerous, they can make life difficult for a good few weeks. A recent study found that more than half of medical users experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms.
Other ways to increase endocannabinoid levels
As well as exercise, there are many other ways to increase your endocannabinoid levels. These include getting sunlight on your skin and eyes, consuming seafood and omega 3 fatty acids, and doing stress-reduction practices like meditation, deep breathing yoga, massage and socialising.
For more advice on how to increase endocannabinoid levels read this article: 18 Scientifically Proven Ways To Enhance Your Endocannabinoid System.
Somewhat paradoxically, it’s also well established that obesity is associated with overactivation of the endocannabinoid system and raised endocannabinoid levels. This is thought to explain why a number of studies show that cannabis consumers have significantly lower BMI, less obesity, and better metabolic health than those who don’t consume, despite them eating more calories.
Read more about this here: Why Do Cannabis Users Have Lower BMI And Less Risk Of Obesity Than Non-Users?
If you use cannabis to treat a condition, be aware that supplemental interventions, like short bouts of exercise, eating seafood and doing yoga, can help much in the same way as cannabis does – by increasing endocannabinoid levels.
Endocannabinoid-boosting practices should be considered powerful treatments in their own right, just like cannabis.