Dr. David Pompei, PharmD, MS
According to experts in the cannabis wellness space, there are at least 15 factors that can impact your cannabis experience. The quality of your diet may be one of the most important factors.
Everybody knows it is important to eat a healthy diet. But did you know that the food you eat can directly affect your mental and emotional well-being?
There are a variety of ways that a healthy diet can impact your mental state and your cannabis experience. In this article, we will focus on how the quality of your diet affects inflammation, your gut bacteria, and your neurotransmitter levels, as these are elements that could impact your cannabis experience.
A healthy diet may vary from person to person, but should broadly be comprised of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins. Foods from these categories are rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and fiber. A healthy diet should also minimize the consumption of highly processed foods, such as consumer packaged goods and fast food products, which may have refined out essential nutrients such as fiber and be high in preservatives such as salt.
According to Uma Naidoo, MD, ultra-processed foods often contain chemical additives that can disrupt gut bacteria levels. Additionally, it is best to avoid eating too much sugar. Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to a worse memory, tooth decay, and developing Type 2 diabetes. High sugar intake also disrupts gut bacteria, leading to a process that increases systemic inflammation.
The gut is the only organ in the body to have its own independent nervous system (called the enteric nervous system). The bacteria that live in your gut play a role in regulating your metabolism, your digestion and your immune system.
Neurotransmitters (NTs) are the body’s chemical messengers. They are natural chemicals that transmit electrical impulses between neurons and target cells. The brain uses NTs to regulate everything from breathing, heart rate, digestion, mood, muscle movement and more.
Gut bacteria also produce NTs like dopamine, GABA and serotonin. In fact, more than 90% of the serotonin in your body is produced by gut bacteria. So is it true that gut bacteria is linked to mental well-being, depression and mood?
While this field of research (called nutritional psychiatry) is still in its infancy, animal studies indicate that your gut bacteria can have a positive or negative impact on your health, mental well-being, and levels of systemic inflammation.
For example, animal research has shown that adjusting the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in an animal’s gut can change its brain chemistry and lead it to become more anxious or bold. Interestingly, this relationship goes both ways. Even mild stress can shift the balance of microbes in the gut and set off a cascade of effects.
Emerging evidence has more recently been presented in the field of gastroenterology. Dysbiosis, an imbalance between good and bad gut bacteria, can disrupt the normal function of the gut-brain axis.The imbalance can lead to inflammation in the gut, which has been linked to illnesses such as anxiety and depression
In short, your gut bacteria can affect your mood, your immune system, the level of inflammation in your body, and how resilient you are to stress. As a result, having a healthy and diverse microbiome is likely to have a positive impact on your cannabis experiences. Probiotics and prebiotics are great for your gut bacteria, as is eating a well-balanced, diverse diet with plenty of fresh produce.
We have mentioned that high sugar diets and ultra-processed foods can mess with your gut bacteria, putting you in a pro-inflammatory state. Why might chronic inflammation affect your cannabis or CBD experience?
As Jointly discussed in Cannabis for Focus, chronic inflammation can cause “brain fog”. There is also evidence that chronic, low-grade inflammation affects the brain in ways that may cause anxiety. It is also thought that chronic inflammation can contribute to symptoms of depression.
A healthy diet rich in high-fiber foods promotes a healthy gut microbiome. A healthy microbiome can lower inflammation levels, making you more clear-headed and less anxious. If you feel better and healthier when you consume cannabis, it will likely make your cannabis experiences even better.
The quality of your diet can affect your gut bacteria and your levels of inflammation, both of which can impact your mental state. Your diet may also impact your NT levels. According to Dr. Richard Wurtman, Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, the nutrients in food are the precursor to NTs.
The amount of precursors in your food determines how much of a certain NT is produced. For example, the amino acid tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine. Tyrosine is found in protein-rich foods like fish, beans and nuts. In general, your body tightly regulates NT levels and it is best to eat a balanced diet rather than trying to influence your NT levels with food.
That said, if you don’t eat food rich in NT precursors, you may become deficient. Any changes to your diet should be discussed with your doctor or healthcare provider.
Did you know that your body uses omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to make endocannabinoids (eCBs)?
That means that the foods you eat directly impact the level of eCBs in your brain. The two most well-known eCBs, anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG, are made from omega-6 fatty acids. Two lesser-known eCBs are produced from omega-3 fatty acids. The role of the omega-3 derived eCBs is not yet clear.
The general idea is that omega-6 eCBs are “bad” and omega-3 eCBs are “good,” but researchers indicate that this hypothesis needs to be studied further. However, a diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids is linked to less synaptic plasticity and higher rates of anxiety and depression.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential, meaning you have to get them from your diet, and both play critically important roles in our biology.
Typically, a Western diet has around a 20:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. The ideal ratio for a healthy diet is thought to be much lower; between 2-4:1. To achieve that ideal ratio, try adding more fish, eggs, nuts and avocado to your diet - are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. That's why each of these foods are perfect companion foods that can enhance your cannabis experience.
A study published in December of 2020 found a fascinating link between gut bacteria, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and mood disorders.
The researchers were studying microbiome changes in a mouse model of stress-induced depression. Due to known links between gut microbiome and mood disorders, the researchers transferred the microbiota from depressed mice to healthy mice. They found that transferring the microbiota also transferred the mood disorder.
The researchers searched for a mechanism by which a mood disorder could be transferred through gut bacteria. They discovered that stress-induced changes in the gut microbiome led to impaired fatty-acid metabolism.
As established earlier, fatty acid metabolites are precursors to eCBs. These changes led to “diminished endocannabinoid signaling in the hippocampus,” which has been linked to depression and mood disorders.
Basically, chronic stress led to changes in gut microbiota. These changes affected fatty acid metabolism and thus the generation of eCBs. This process led to decreased signaling in the ECS and reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
The researchers concluded, “this may be the pathway, at least in part, that links microbiota dysbiosis to mood disorders…” Supplementing with a specific bacterial strain of the Lactobacilli genus normalized eCBs signaling and alleviated the depressive symptoms, as did supplementing with arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).
Soon Jointly will publish proprietary data looking at how quality of diet affects Jointly users’ results. Until then, there are various ways that a healthy diet could positively impact your mental well-being and your cannabis experience. But the best way to find out how the quality of your diet impacts your cannabis experiences is to experiment and record your results on Jointly.
Jointly is the cannabis discovery app that makes it easy to find and shop the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals. Your matches are calculated from the real product ratings and experiences from hundreds of thousands of people using the Jointly app.
With Jointly, you can shop your top-rated products, and save lists of your favorites to share and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
The Jointly app also helps you improve your cannabis experiences by uncovering what’s working and what’s not with reflections and personalized insights. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your cannabis experience.
So if you're ready to find your best products and enjoy your perfect cannabis experience, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or shop your matches on the Jointly website. Discovery awaits.