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How to Protect Your Endocannabinoid System

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Your endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates many processes related to your physiology and cognition. For instance, your ECS is involved in fertility, appetite, mood, pain and memory. As you can imagine, it’s a good idea to do things that support a healthy and functioning ECS as much as possible.

Many studies have indicated that high levels of stress can increase oxidative damage ... This, in turn, leads to reduced functioning of your ECS. 

There are many things that can help stimulate your ECS, especially CBD, but there are also several things that can actually harm it. Below are some of the most important things to avoid to keep your ECS functioning at its highest and healthiest capacity. 


The largest and most chronic source of pesticide exposure today is our food. You may be surprised to learn how much of your diet contains chemicals used in agriculture that can be harmful to your ECS, and to your health. Pesticides like glyphosate, chlorpyrifos and diazinon have been found to be especially harmful by altering your normal ECS functions.

The best way to limit your pesticide exposures through food is to choose organic as much as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to choose all organic foods, but understanding which ones are the worst culprits can help. The Environmental Working Group releases a list of the 12+ most contaminated produce foods every year, called the Dirty Dozen. This gives you a helpful starting place when evaluating your diet and choosing which produce you might want to prioritize buying organic. 

Excessive Alcohol Intake

If alcohol is a significant part of your life, you might want to consider reducing your intake due to its likely detrimental effects on your ECS. 

Research suggests that excessive drinking might actually lower the sensitivity of your CB1 cannabinoids receptors — located in your central and peripheral nervous systems — which can change the number of endocannabinoids in your body. Fewer endocannabinoids can lead to a less functional ECS. Remember, too, that some of the ingredients used to make wine, beer and some spirits are sprayed with pesticides (e.g., grapes, barley, hops), so you may want to look for organic alcoholic beverages if you drink regularly. And as a bonus, the reduced chemical content in organic alcoholic beverages may result in milder hangovers.


Many studies have indicated that high levels of stress can increase oxidative damage and reduce the number of endocannabinoids in your body. This, in turn, leads to reduced functioning of your ECS. 

Some ways to combat this effect are to become more aware of your stress level, and to incorporate stress management techniques into your life. For example: 

  • Engaging in regular physical activity. This doesn’t mean you have to practice intense exercises on a daily basis. In fact, some studies have shown that exercise that’s too intense can negatively impact the ECS. In that regard, incorporating lower stress exercises like walking and yoga may be more beneficial than things like powerlifting or competing in a triathlon. 
  • Practice meditation and focused breathing techniques. These things have a high potential to raise your levels of anandamide — a fatty acid neurotransmitter derived from omega 6 fat — and positively stimulate your ECS. Anandamide binds to cannabinoid receptors in your brain and mimics the effects of plant-derived cannabinoid drugs.

As you can see, many things that are recommended for overall health are also a good idea to directly protect the function of your endocannabinoid system.

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets. She writes about a wide variety of health, environmental and nutrition topics. 

About the Author

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD Image

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She also enjoys writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental and nutrition topics. Find her at

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