You’ve heard about the many benefits of cannabis. But did you know that the food you eat can alter how effectively your cannabis treatment works?
Scientists have uncovered that our bodies need omega-3 fatty acids to properly synthesize cannabinoids—the all-important compounds in the marijuana plant that are also made naturally by the human body. Making sure you ingest enough omega-3 fatty acids can help your body better process cannabis. Omega-3s can also help your body produce more cannabinoids naturally, and this may help improve the health conditions you’re treating.
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Omega-3s Keep Your Endocannabinoid System in Balance
Omega-3 fatty acids can help your body process marijuana, but how does this work?
It all revolves around the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This crucial system of neurotransmitters is found all over the body and controls or affects some of its most important functions, such as:
- Stress response
- Memory building
- Muscle control
The ECS both produces and is activated by the body’s natural endocannabinoids. But plant cannabinoids, the medicinally potent chemicals in cannabis, also activate the ECS. When the ECS is out of balance, all of the system’s functions work less effectively.
As it turns out, omega-3s are essential for maintaining this crucial internal system. In fact, the ECS literally creates its own endocannabinoids out of these fatty acids (along with another fatty acid, omega-6). Researchers conducting a study on animal tissue recently discovered that omega-3s themselves convert into an anti-inflammatory endocannabinoid.
This means that patients who lack omega-3s in their bodies may have problems with issues like:
- Increased inflammation
- Mood disorders
- Sleep imbalances
The ECS feeds on these fatty acids. So, without a well-fed ECS, it becomes unbalanced and problems can arise.
These fatty acids also work to better regulate the ECS, allowing it to process plant cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD). In fact, previous research has shown how important fats are for getting the most out of your cannabis.
Because cannabis’s active ingredients are fat-soluble, not water-soluble, they need fat to be metabolized. Adding more fatty foods to your diet can help your body process plant cannabinoids more easily, in addition to helping your body make more endocannabinoids of its own.
RELATED: WHY YOU NEED TO EAT FAT WITH YOUR CANNABIS
How to Increase Your Intake of Omega-3s
If you’re interested in adding omega-3 to your health regimen, you can do so in a few easy ways. The simplest way may be adding foods to your diet that are high in omega-3. Fish and seafood have the highest levels of omega-3s. So, eating seafood at least twice a week may be the best way to get in the recommended amount.
Of course, you can also get this fatty acid in other foods, such as:
- Grass-fed meat and dairy
- Eggs from pasture-raised chickens
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Brussel sprouts
- Dark leafy greens
Or, if none of these foods sound appetizing, you can use supplements like fish oil capsules to get in these essential nutrients.
Make Sure to Balance Omega-3s With Omega-6s
Just increasing your omega-3s shouldn’t be your only focus. Health experts caution that omega-3 actually needs to be balanced with that other important fatty acid, omega-6. Omega-6 is found in many vegetable oils and so is common in processed foods. It’s also found in conventionally raised animal products like meat, eggs and dairy.
Unlike grass-fed animals, conventionally raised livestock are fed only grains, and this leads to more omega-6 than omega-3 in the final product. Because of this, most people already have diets high in omega-6, and low in omega-3. The average ratio is about 10:1 for most people’s diets today. Our ancestors evolved on a diet that was much more balanced. They had a ratio closer to 1:1.
Scientists report that maintaining a more balanced ratio, like the 1:1 ratio our ancestors enjoyed, can help get your ECS back into balance as well. It’s not just about increasing omega-3s; it’s about getting them in balance with omega-6 fatty acids.
A diet too high in omega-3s could also cause problems with the ECS. For most, this means eating more omega-3s and less omega-6s, but the ratio is what’s most important.
To get your diet back in balance, pay attention to the fatty acids in the foods you eat. It may be as simple as adding more fish into your meal plan or cutting back on processed foods. Whatever shifts you need to make, try it out and see how you feel. Your ECS will thank you.
Photo credit: Malidate Van
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.