Holistic Medicine Part 4: Feeding the ECS – Nutrition

April 2022 by Sandy Yanez

In part 3, balancing within, we discussed the importance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in maintaining homeostasis or balance within and how crucial omega fatty acids are to our health and well-being. In this segment, we will continue looking at other ways to feed the endocannabinoid system and see how small changes can positively impact your health.

Let’s take a look at Anandamide and its role in your pain, mood, appetite, and even fertility. Like THC, anandamide (an endocannabinoid our body produces) inhibits the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate. High levels of glutamate are responsible for chronic pain. Anandamide also plays a big role in our overall mood and low levels have been linked to depression and anxiety.

  • Sanskrit for “bliss”, this happy and uplifting neurotransmitter (facilitates the transmission of signals between cells) is found in nearly all tissues of animals and even in some plants.
  • Anandamide is derived from healthy omega -6 fatty acids and plays a role in regulating dopamine and calcium, crucial in nerve conduction, and influencing motor function.
  • Encourages the development of nerve cells in the brain (neurogenesis) which is imperative for memory and learning. Protects the brain against stroke and inflammation.
  • Involved in embryo implantation within the uterine lining.
  • Mimics binding effects of THC.
  • Low levels are associated with depression, increased fear, anxiety, and lessen your ability to cope with stress.
  • Helps appetite stimulation, too much anandamide may play a role in obesity.
  • The enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) breaks down anandamide.

You can see that anandamide is responsible for many physical and mental health benefits. The question now is, if I need more anandamide, where can I get it? There are not many foods that increase anandamide naturally. The two known are dark chocolate and black truffles (the mushroom).

Chocolate – or the “foods of the Gods” according to the Mayas, has been scientifically studied and is shown to have many benefits including:

  • One of the highest sources of antioxidants even more than blueberries
  • Lowers the risk of heart disease and improves blood flow, decreases bad cholesterol LDL
  • High in nutrients – manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, and fiber
  • Improving insulin sensitivity
  • May improve cognitive functions

Yes, there is a big difference between real chocolate vs. compound chocolate (the cocoa butter is replaced with vegetable oil). Real chocolate, where you’ll find all the benefits, is called cacao or cocoa. Cacao refers to cacao beans that have not been roasted, while cocoa is made from roasted beans. Real chocolate contains some anandamide, but more importantly, it has two compounds that block FAAH from breaking down anandamide.

Black truffles – Truffles are an underground mushroom from the Tuber genus and are known for their unique and delectable taste. They are high in carbs, protein, fiber and contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, as well as micronutrients, such as vitamin C, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron. Research has shown a very strong truffle extract may help:

  • Reduce oxidative stress
  • Protect the liver from damage
  • Aid the immune system with anti-microbial properties
  • Anticancer potential due to their high antioxidants
  • Inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus
  • They do contain anandamide

Unfortunately, the amount of truffles you would need to consume to reap these benefits is fairly high, so it’s unlikely to have a significant impact. But there is another way to help anandamide out. There are far more foods that block FAAH from breaking down anandamide.

Here is a shortlist of other foods that support your ECS either by blocking FAAH from breaking down anandamide or by positively promoting the ECS. For optimal benefits, it’s best to consume fresh organic foods.


A look into Kaempferol

Kaempferol is a polyphenol antioxidant, specifically a flavonoid found in many foods we consume daily. Kaempferol is a strong antioxidant that helps to prevent oxidative damage to cells, DNA and lipids. Studies show kaempferol:

  • Helps prevent arteriosclerosis
  • Inhibits cancer cell formation
  • More potent antioxidants than vitamins C and E
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases
  • Reduce cancer risk – colon, breast and prostate
  • Lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Blocks FAAH from breaking down anandamide

If you’re looking to add kaempferol to your diet, you need to eat your veggies. Kaempferol-rich foods are all vegetables and are found in an abundance in:

  • Kale, spinach and endive (a member of the chicory family)
  • Broccoli
  • Red and pinto beans
  • Onions and leeks
  • Green beans
  • Ginger
  • Dill, chives and tarragon
  • Green tea
  • Aloe and gingko biloba
  • Dark cherries and blueberries

CBD blocks FAAH

CBD or cannabidiol is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis and has a long history as medicine dating back thousands of years. Many people use CBD as an alternative to pharmaceutical medications to help alleviate a wide range of conditions including but not limited to:

  • Autoimmune disease – inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cardiovascular – atherosclerosis, arrhythmia
  • Gut disorders – colitis, Crohn’s
  • Metabolic syndrome – diabetes, obesity
  • Neurological conditions – Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis
  • Neuropsychiatric illness – autism, ADHD, PTSD, alcoholism
  • Skin disease – acne, dermatitis, psoriasis
  • Blocks FAAH from breaking down anandamide

CBD also has cancer-fighting properties, stimulates the growth of new brain cells and enhances the inhibitory effects of THC on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival – meaning CBD makes THC even more potent as an anticancerogenic.



Good nutritional habits and a balanced diet aren’t developed in one day, nor are they destroyed in one unbalanced meal. Healthful eating means a lifestyle of making choices and decisions, planning, and knowing how to make quick and wise choices when you haven’t planned.

It is a challenge that should not be taken lightly. Learning to make sensible choices from a confusing array of options is not easy, but the rewards are great. Eating nutritious and healthy foods while maintaining your proper body weight will contribute to better overall health and wellness.

In the next article in the Holistic series, we will be looking at external care of the endocannabinoid system for optimal health and wellness.


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