Endocannabinoid deficiency suspected as cause of fibromyalgia

Carenza di endocannabinoidi sospettata come causa della fibromialgia

Endocannabinoid deficiency suspected as cause of fibromyalgia

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For decades, since fibromyalgia began to disproportionately affect women, those who have suffered from its often debilitating effects have often been labeled “hysterical women.” Many doctors didn't even recognize that it was a real physical disorder and called the women hypochondriacs. It was often called “ psychosomatic disorder. ” Over the years, the medical community has finally recognized that it is a physical disorder, but has only speculated about the causes behind it. The typical Western treatment consisted of three drugs, none of which help the symptoms, but cause numerous side effects. The three drugs are Lyrica, Cymbalta and Savella.

Of the 41 conditions included in Illinois' MCPP (Medical Cannabis Pilot Program), fibromyalgia is the most common ailment among those who have applied for a card. Medical cannabis has been shown to reduce many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, fatigue, sleep problems, digestive problems and mental confusion. Receiving no relief from medications, many desperate fibromyalgia sufferers have turned to cannabis as a last hope and are ecstatic with the results. There are patients who have been so debilitated by the disease that they were unable to even get out of bed, let alone walk. Many have resumed activities they never expected to do again in their lives, such as working and exercising. It was literally a “lifesaver” for many.

The question is: why does cannabis seem to work so well? The answer, according to Dr. Ethan Russo , medical director of PHYTECS, is that those with fibromyalgia suffer from Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED). When the depleted endocannabinoid system is replenished with the necessary cannabinoids, the symptoms disappear. A similar functioning occurs with a Vitamin B deficiency, which feels much better after taking supplements. Anyone who has studied the endocannabinoid system (ECS) will know that its primary function is to help the body maintain homeostasis. When the body is in homeostasis, it is free from disease.

The ECS is composed of cannabinoid receptors, C1 and C2, which are found in the brain , spine , nerves, stomach , and other organs. It also controls many of our physiological processes such as pain, mood, memory and appetite. Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids, similar to those found in cannabis. They make our ECS work well. When our endocannabinoids are depleted, we are plagued by ailments and diseases.

Those who suffer from severe fibromyalgia know, all too well, all the symptoms of their disorder. The pain is usually the worst, accompanied by disabling fatigue. Other very common symptoms are irritable bowel syndrome and migraines. Russo believes this is indicative of a deficiency in the SEC. He proposed his theory as early as 2011. Recent research supports this theory with evidence that Cannabis use reduces pain , improves sleep , and relieves gastric pain .

CED is based on the theory that there is a link between mental disorders and neurotransmitter deficiencies. Just think of the lack of dopamine in Parkinson's disease and serotonin and norepinephrine in depression. The best evidence for the CED theory comes from an Italian study on migraines. The results showed reduced levels of anandamide , an endocannabinoid, in the cerebrospinal fluid of chronic migraine sufferers compared to healthy control subjects. The ECS regulates the transport of food in the digestive tract, as well as the release of gastric juices to break down food and inflammation. CED takes into account digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, which almost always accompanies fibromyalgia.

There is much anecdotal evidence, but little research-based evidence to support Dr. Russo's theory that he would conduct randomized, controlled trials to prove or disprove the existence of CED. MRIs and PET scans may one day be able to identify endocannabinoid levels in patients. This would allow a comparison of endocannabinoid levels in fibromyalgia sufferers versus healthy control subjects. That possibility may not be that far off.

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