Inflammation and pain are like love and marriage, just like hemp and your Endocannabinoid System (ECS).  You can often find them wrapped and entangled with each other.  You can have love without marriage.  For instance, I have a deep love for my children but don’t have any plans in the near future to marry any of them! 

Sadly, you can also find marriage without love just as you can find inflammation without any signs or symptoms like pain.  However, more often than not you will find that pain is a frequent companion of inflammation because of chemicals that are released in the inflammatory process that irritate nerve endings associated with pain.  Thank goodness we were created this way, otherwise we would be prone to causing more damage.

And just to set the record straight, I am not at all implying that love and marriage is full of pain and irritation! 

OK on to the relevant stuff …

Pain is no joke and chronic pain is even more irritating.  It is estimated that 50 million Americans experience chronic pain and somewhere around 20 million of those report that it interferes with their daily lives.  And these don’t include pain from trauma or injuries … so I feel it safe to say that pain is just part of life. 

Let’s say you are someone that is experiencing pain.  What do you do now?

One easy and common option is to pick up a bottle of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  They aren’t terribly expensive and for many people they do the trick. 

How do they work?

For simplicity, they block prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are produced by our cells at the site of tissue damage or infection to aid in the natural healing process.  They control processes like inflammation, blood flow, and the formation of blood clots to help with the healing process of the injury or illness.  They are even a key player in the induction of labour. 

No big deal, right?

NSAIDs are easy to access and commonly recommended by all sorts of physicians to “help” people.  But what many people are blind to is that they also have the ability to be especially rough on the stomach lining and esophagus, increase risk of bleeding, and have even been linked to increased cardiovascular events (i.e. heart attacks) … that’s why Vioxx was removed from the market awhile back. It turns out blocking key enzymes and the natural inflammatory response actually does have repercussions. 

Let’s just take this a little bit further upstream to see the bigger picture.  Stay with me!

NSAIDs block prostaglandin production by inhibiting key enzymes … COX enzymes (cyclooxygenase in case you were curious).  Our natural inflammatory response was created to release COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes.  COX-1 is important because it releases the platelets that are responsible for protecting the gastric lining.  Man was our creator intelligent?!  This is the reason that NSAIDs come with the risk of ulcers and GI irritation.  Whenever you block a natural pathway, something somewhere is typically negatively impacted.  I just want people to know that NSAIDs are NOT harmless like they are made out to be these days.  Heck, we give them to babies for fevers

OK, so no NSAIDs.  What else might your doctor be able to suggest to you?

Opioids are another popular prescription.  I hear they work great.  So why not use those??  For starters, they are highly addictive and have gotten a lot of people into a lot of trouble.  Next, their mechanism of action can also cause slowed breathing which can lead to death.  Yikes!

Soooooo let’s assume you don’t want to slap those easy buttons, what other options are there?

There are natural COX enzyme inhibitors that don’t have the same side effects as medications.  Do a quick PubMed search for “Zyflamend and COX inhibitors” and you’ll find some amazing articles that go beyond pain into the caves of cancer care.  It’s a good formulation and it’s been around for quite awhile.

I used to recommend it frequently … until I discovered CBD. 

Now do a PubMed search for “CBD and pain” and you’ll be shocked.  This is where the fun is happening right now.  Research and testimonials are exploding and the use of CBD is seriously growing.  Is it all hype?  Or is there actually validity to its use?  I’d hope your PubMed search shows proof of validity … but let’s review the simple version of how it works.  (P.S. Feel free to check the previous articles for greater details by following the links below)

The ECS contains receptors (or “switch locks”) that are connected to our pain circuits that reach to every part of our body that can feel pain and travel all the way to the spinal cord of the central nervous system up to the brain. Cannabinoids are the “keys” that activate the potential of the ECS to modulate the threshold of pain.  This essentially means that when the right concentration of cannabinoids is present it can turn down the volume of pain. 

Huge bonus here … it’s not addictive and it won’t slow down your breathing and kill you!  Hooray! 

There are other ways that the ECS works to naturally manage inflammation and pain by directly effecting nerve cells to moderate the release of pro-inflammatory molecules (like interleukin-1 (IL-1), tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), IL-6 and nitric oxide (NO) and increased production of anti-inflammatory molecules to create that homeostatic balance like a teeter-totter.

CBD and other phytocannabinoids have also been found to inhibit COX enzymes as well.  So it appears there is more than one mechanism that the ECS can regulate inflammation.  This also offers a glance into the link that the cannabinoids have in colon cancer since overexpression of COX-2 is associated with the development of colon cancer.    

There is a population of people we can attribute their chronic pain directly to a dysfunctional ECS.  In a previous post on Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency we discussed how chronic stress causes down-regulation or loss of CB1 receptors. When you decrease the number of receptors, their sensitivity appears to increase resulting in an increase in pain perception … meaning you feel more pain. 

If this is you, I am betting that you will respond especially well to a high-quality source of exogenous full spectrum hemp to support your cannabinoid counts, combat stress, and re-establish a more abundant number of receptors in the process!  Give it a bare minimum of 30 days but I typically suggest to my patients that they put in a full effort for 90 days. 

May I suggest you give ECS Restore a try?  Even if you have tried other hemp or CBD products, I honestly think it’s worth trying this because it is so different than using the typical oil based products or capsules that both have absorption barriers.  We’ve also done testing for purity and potency with other water-friendly products and it’s beating out all the other products I have experience with. 

One more important tidbit, cannabinoids have been shown to affect the potency of NSAIDs (probably through the modulation of the COX pathway) so if you are already taking an NSAID, exercise caution and consider talking to your doctor about decreasing the dose if you plan to add a CBD-containing product into your plan.