It’s a snow day here in central Massachusetts. I’ve spent the morning on the phone with some really incredible women involved in the cannabis industry. I’m getting organized for a very eventful February. And I have some very exciting news to share with you in this regard. I was gonna write about all of the above today.
And then this kiddo crawls on to my lap and reminds me that she’s not gonna be this small forever. She will not want to crawl on my lap and give me this look forever. Okay, she might give me this look forever, but it will most certainly mean different things as we progress through this life thing together. Today, she just wants her Mommy to play, to do yoga, and to snuggle. So I’m going to get us bundled up and outside for a little snow play, or a trip to the mall for some non-snow play in the indoor playground. Whatever Little Miss Personality decides. If you were faced with this look, wouldn’t you step away from the laptop and realize that these moments won’t last forever?
As always dear readers, wishing you a bright and beautiful day! Even if the sky won’t stop spewing snowflakes. Lots of them. Much love, many hugs. Namaste ❤
Crohn’s disease and colitis are chronic inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. These diseases can be lumped into the category of irritable bowel disease (IBD). It is estimated that 1.6 million Americans struggle with IBD. Symptoms related to inflammation in the GI tract include abdominal cramps, pain, constipation, diarrhea, urgent need to move bowels, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats. People who experience such symptoms are often greatly debilitated, their quality of life negatively impacted. They become nutritionally depleted, their fluid/electrolyte balance is thrown off. Severe dehydration is common. Basic functioning is severely altered and impaired. And as if these symptoms aren’t enough to cope with, the diseased GI tract often results in an abnormally functioning immune system. People struggling with IBD also tend to struggle with autoimmune symptoms that include fatigue, severe joint pain, skin irritation, and the inability to fend off infections.
Conventional treatment for IBD conditions includes several categories of prescribed medications including antibiotics, aminosalicylates (anti-inflammatory agents), steroids, and immune modifiers that work to suppress the body’s immune response. Over the counter medications may also be a part of the regimen including antidiarrheals, analgesic medications, and nutritional supplements. Managing an IBD condition can be challenging and overwhelming.
Sherri Tutkus is no stranger to the debilitating nature of IBD. A registered nurse with over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field, Sherri found herself on the other side of the sick bed in 2012. She had contracted a type of acute colitis that is caused by a contagious infectious bacteria. This condition is often an adverse reaction from taking prescribed antibiotics, but she became infected from exposure to this bacteria while she was working. She started with flu-like symptoms such as fevers, sweats, chills and altered bowel patterns alternating between diarrhea and constipation. She developed severe urgency, cramping, had difficulty defecating, and had a feeling that she was retaining stool. A CT scan revealed that her colon was indeed swollen and after a colonoscopy she was diagnosed with pseudomembranous colitis.
As her disease progressed, Sherri experienced pain upon eating, suffered from regular and unpredictable bouts of painful diarrhea. Her belly was distended and filled with air. The abdominal pain she experienced was immense and effected every aspect of her life. She was prescribed the most powerful opioid medications and steroids. She had the strongest IV antibiotics infused to combat her disease. A single mother of three, she was unable to work for months. When attempting to return to work her symptoms would worsen and she would develop another medical problem. Sherri the nurse had become a critically ill patient.
Because of her condition, Sherri experienced significant depression and agoraphobia. She didn’t want to leave her home for fear of not being able to control her bowels. Panic, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and pain were symptoms she experienced regularly. Sherri felt isolated, depressed, and disconnected from her community. She was in a constant state of fight or flight and she continued to struggle with side effects from taking several prescribed and over-the-counter medications. Sherri had exhausted conventional and holistic therapies at that point. She began to experience a cognitive dissonance of wanting to live and die at the same time. Her thoughts scared her and prompted her into seeking out something she hadn’t tried before. She turned to cannabis.
Sherri became a medical cannabis patient in 2014 and started administering cannabis to treat her symptoms and try to wean off of the medications that were causing her side effects. She vaporized cannabis, took tinctures, capsules, and edibles. Her symptoms were improving to the point where she realized “wow, this works!” Through her own trial and error, Sherri was able to wean off of all her IBD meds within 6 months. Sherri had effectively bridged the gap from what she was not getting with her conventional treatment and the holistic therapies that she was utilizing to help herself. Her condition had greatly improved, and she felt connected to her community again.
The Green Nurse Group is Born
Because of everything she had been through, Sherri saw a great need in her community and beyond. Another gap that needed to be bridged. This time for other people. She had to learn how to medicate with cannabis on her own, without anyone to guide her, or help her make informed decisions. It took her a very long time to find what worked for her. Navigating the medical cannabis community can be challenging, and there can be a steep learning curve that patients have to overcome in order to relieve symptoms consistently, effectively, and in a way that doesn’t impair them. Sherri had to learn all of this on her own and felt that cannabis patients shouldn’t have to, especially in the face of debilitating disease which can be overwhelming enough.She founded the GreenNurse™ Group, an action oriented, non-profit organization of dedicated professionals and nurses who seek to relieve suffering via the safe use of medical cannabis and other natural, holistic therapies. The GreenNurse™ Group utilizes a medical-based, patient-first approach. Through their services, they strive to bring the same excellence of trusted, quality nursing care to the medical cannabis industry.
Maybe you haven’t heard yet, but humans (and all other mammals) have a network of receptors found throughout the brain and body that respond to the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Our bodies even make chemical compounds that are very similar to the compounds found in the cannabis plant. This system is called the endoCannabinoid system (eCB system.) It happens to be named for the cannabis plant which ultimately led to the discovery of the eCB system in the late 1980’s. It is an important physiologic system in our bodies as its primary function is to promote and maintain a state of health in the body.
How does the endoCannabinoid System maintain a healthy body?
The 12th body system is primarily responsible for promoting and maintaining a process called homeostasis. Homeo-what? Homeostasis is the promotion of a stable internal environment despite constant external fluctuations. It is the body’s checks-and-balance system.
Need an example to understand homeostasis a bit better? Sure. Body temperature regulation (thermoregulation) is a good example of a homeostatic process in the body. Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Significant increases or decreases in body temperature can cause serious complications, so the body will typically try to maintain that 98.6 degree temperature by either producing heat if the body is too cold, or releasing heat if the body is too warm. Make sense? And yes, in case you were wondering — the eCB system does play a role in thermoregulation.
More about this network of receptors that promotes homeostasis…
Researchers have discovered two primary cannabinoid (CB) receptors — CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors tend to be located in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs. The function of these receptors is dependent on the specific part of the body that it is located in. For example, the CB1 receptors found in the nerve endings act to reduce pain. CB1 receptors found in the amydala (the memory and emotional processing center in the brain) may help someone struggling with post-traumatic stress to forget. Conversely, when the CB1 receptor is stimulated in someone with dementia, it may help the person remember.
CB2 receptors are found throughout the immune system, and also in the spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells, endocrine glands, and reproductive organs. CB2 receptors primarily act to reduce inflammation in the body which is essential in reducing symptoms of chronic conditions and diseases (but not limited to) arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and dementia.
Unlocking the eCB system from the inside
Endogenous cannabinoids are the developed within the body. Researchers have identified two such endo-cannabinoids — anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycero, or simply 2-AG.
Endocannabinoids should be thought of as keys to open the locks that are the CB receptors. They are also known as neurotransmitters. When these keys open the locks, a chemical message is sent along the neurons, or nerve cells in the body. A process called neurotransmission. Communication happens between the brain and the body, and functional changes happen from there.
Anandamide is named for the sanskrit word for bliss. In fact, anandamide is often called the bliss molecule. It is a chemical messenger that looks a lot like it’s phytocannabinoid cousin — Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol — also known as THC. You may know THC as the favorite psychoactive phytocannabinoid of cannabis users everywhere. We’ll take a closer look at THC shortly.
Anandamide tends to bind with CB1 receptors found in the central nervous system which is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. It is thought that anandamide is responsible for the runner’s high and other euphoric, or blissful states of being. Hence its name.
2-AG is also a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger that may have gotten the raw deal in the naming department, but it’s a powerhouse in it’s own right. It’s reported to be more plentiful than anandamide, and tends to interact with the CB2 receptors found throughout the peripheral nervous system. It plays an important role in many functions including sleep, memory, appetite, reproduction, and neuroprotection. This is not an exhaustive list by any means.
Unlocking the eCB system from the outside
It’s possible for someone to have an endocannabinoid deficiency, which is to say that the body may not be capable of producing its own cannabinoids efficiently. Thankfully, the mammalian body evolved with plants that are meant to nourish the eCB system. The most well-known plant of course is the cannabis plant. However, it should be noted that other plants do produce non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids, such as echinacea.
In case you haven’t figured it out, phyto- means plant. So phytocannabinoid means plant-based cannabinoid. We’ll explore the two most famous phytocannabinoids — THC and CBD.
THC is a psychoactive phytocannabinoid that binds primarily to the CB1 receptors. Rather, it is a key provided by nature to unlock the CB1 receptors found in the central nervous system. Euphoria, or bliss is a common effect when the brain receptors are stimulated. As is reduction in pain, appetite stimulation, sleep promotion, and improved mood. Again, this is not an exhaustive list of benefits.
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing benefits, so let’s look at one very common, very preventable risk. Introducing too much THC to a sensitive, or even a well-functioning eCB system could lead to paranoia. To this end, it’s important to start low and go slow. Meaning — start with a low dose of THC and increase slowly. Microdosing is the best way to reduce the risk of becoming paranoid.
Good news! The last cannabinoid cousin that we’re gonna discuss could help reduce cannabis-induced paranoia. CBD mediates the effect of THC. So if you do find yourself a bit paranoid after taking in too much THC, take some CBD, drink some water, eat some food, and rest. Cannabis will not cause you to stop breathing, so you cannot overdose. But having a paranoid episode is definitely real and should be avoided if possible. Remember to start low and go slow.
CBD is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid that is also a powerhouse in terms of promoting a healthy state of being. It is not a key for the CB receptor locks, but it appears to hang out and stimulate other types of neurotransmitters. For example, CBD likes to interact with serotonin receptors and appears to be effective in treating anxiety as a result. Most notably, CBD appears to be effective in reducing seizures in people afflicted with intractable seizure disorders.
I hope that this tale of keys, locks, and cousins has helped you understand the endoCannabinoid System a bit better. Here’s to your health in nourishing your own unique eCB system and promoting optimal homeostatic functioning. Be well, you deserve it!
So I’ll be speaking on a panel of CBD wellness entrepreneurs at Women Grow Boston’s Signature Event happening on Wednesday, November 8th at the Boston Center for Adult Education . I’ll be joined on the panel by Sandy Bernier of Irie Bliss Wellness and Zack McInnis, cofounder and vice president of The Healing Rose Company. Folks – I’m a fan of both of these knowledgeable humans, so it’s quite an honor to be sitting on the panel with them!
I will be starting the evening off with with a little guided meditation and some chair yoga. Click the link below for more information and please join us if all things CBD interests you. Or if you have no idea what CBD is, but you’re interested in learning more! All are welcome to attend! See you there!
Hemp hearts, hemp-seeds, hemp nuts. What’s the difference between these three products? Well, nothing. Hemp seeds are actually hemp nuts, and they’re often called hemp hearts. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s explore some of the reasons why everyone should be consuming these tiny superfood powerhouses on a regular basis.
Enter the Omegas
Essential fatty acids are nutrients that must be sourced outside of the body as our bodies do not produce them.” Our bodies need these nutrients to function properly. Therefore, they are “essential” nutrients for growth, development, and health maintenance.
Omega-3 fatty acids are well-consumed in the western diet. Scientifically known as Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), omega-3 fats are sourced from nuts, green leafy vegetables, some types of grass-fed animal fats, and seed oils like flax seed and hemp seed. The omega-3 fats play a key role in cell membranes and how the receptors found in these membranes function. Omega-3 fats are responsible for initiating hormone creation that regulates blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. They play an integral role in reducing inflammation in the body and in the prevention of heart disease like stroke and atherosclerosis.
Omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid)are also well-consumed in the western diet, but their role is a bit different than the omega-3 fatty acids. Whereas omega-3 fats are thought to be anti-inflammatory, omega-6 fats can be inflammatory. One may wonder, well why do I want to intake something that causes inflammation in my body? Explained simply, the body initiates an inflammatory response when disease or injury is present. This let’s the brain and the nervous system know that there is something wrong that needs to be healed. So this function is vital for survival. However, left unchecked for too long, inflammation in the body causes widespread damage and degradation which leads to chronic disease. In fact, many conditions are directly related to unchecked or out of control inflammation in the body. Diabetes, heart disease, dementia, depression, chronic pain are just a few of the conditions directly related to inflammation.
Unfortunately, people who consume a western diet are typically getting too much omega-6 fat from an overabundance of processed vegetable oils and products that are manufactured with these oils. Therefore, western diet consumers are prone to developing chronic inflammatory diseases. To combat this inflammation, some researchers suggest that a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 fats to Omega-6 fats should be consumed. Western diet consumers get more of a 16:1 ratio — Omega-6 to Omega-3 — which creates a great deal of inflammation in the body.
Omega-9 fatty acids (oleic acid) are not necessarily considered essential fatty acids as the body does produce them. Some sources of omega-9 fats include almonds, safflower oil, olive oil, and you guessed it — hemp seed oil. Omega-9 fats may combat heart disease by increasing good cholesterol levels (HDL) and reducing bad cholesterol levels (LDL). Omega-9 fats may also improve mood, reduce anger, and increase energy.
What the hemp?
So you may now be trying to figure out how to consume the proper amounts of omega fatty acids so that you can decrease inflammation, improve your mood, give you energy, all while striving to NOT increase inflammation! Thankfully, the Earth provides, you guessed it — hemp! Hemp provides one of the best sources of essential fatty acids to promote wellness and healing in the human body. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in hempseed oil is normally between 2:1 and 3:1, which is considered to be optimal for human health. In addition to being this well-balanced source of omega fatty acids, hemp seed is also an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamin E, and minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium.
Give me all the hemp!
Wanna reap the benefits of hemp, hemp seeds or nuts or hearts? There are a lot of quality products on the market. Hemp protein powders, hempseed oils, hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds), and whole hemp seeds are available for purchase in major supermarkets, online from small hemp businesses, and in health food stores. Try a variety of hemp and hemp seed products to boost your health and healing abilities. Support local when you can, and know who is making the product you are interested in purchasing. (Hint: This is a good rule to go by when purchasing anything!) Pay attention to tension and pain in your body and look for reductions in these symptoms. Also pay attention for improved energy and perhaps even better sleep. Here’s to your health with hemp!