CBD and DHA: A Match Made in Heaven

Omega-3’s and CBD have both surged in popularity in recent years, and most people have heard about the health benefits of both. New, ongoing research highlights the importance of these two substances and how they have a synergistic effect when taken together.

Together, cannabinoids and essential fatty acids form the bread and butter of brain and nervous system function. Their interconnectedness is no surprise, as endocannabinoids are lipid-based signaling molecules synthesized from these very omega fatty acids. 

The whole point of taking CBD Oil is to bring homeostasis (balance) back to the mind and body via the endocannabinoid system. However, there are many tricky components to this, as people have wildly different responses to CBD. Two people can take the same dose for the same amount of time and have completely different experiences.

This lack of consistency is likely due to differences in your levels of the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in your diet strongly influences your body’s endocannabinoid profile, as different types of endocannabinoids are created from each fatty acid. For example, omega-3 fatty acid-derived endocannabinoids include DHEA and EPEA, and for omega-6, there’s 2-AG and anandamide. 

Numerous studies have examined the relationships between the endocannabinoid system, omega fatty acids, and various health problems - neuroinflammation, obesity, nervousness, mood disorders - the list goes on. They all seem to agree that a higher amount of omega-3 intake (resulting in higher levels of omega-3 based endocannabinoids) has beneficial effects on virtually all these health challenges. 

CBD and DHA

Not only does the abundance of DHEA/EPEA do the body good, but omega-3’s also combine with neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, to form compounds like DHA-serotonin and EPA-dopamine. These novel chemicals have a myriad of effects on essential functions like brain cell growth and learning ability. 

Researchers believe that omega-3’s are foundational building blocks not only for endocannabinoids themselves but also for endocannabinoid receptors (CB1/CB2). The basis for this hypothesis is the importance of omega-3’s in cell membranes, which would mean DHA/EPA serve as ‘anchors’ for endocannabinoid receptors, keeping them secured in the cellular wall. 

Studies have demonstrated that ongoing omega-3 deficiency uncouples these receptors from their protein, altering signaling pathways, and creates widespread endocannabinoid system dysfunction.

Another study where mice were fed a diet modeled after the Standard American Diet (low in omega-3, high in omega-6) demonstrated reduced cannabinoid receptor activity and altered brain function in regions associated with emotions and mood. These mice also exhibited increased depressive behavior - effects not seen in the mice fed sufficient omega-3.

Considering the severely impaired endocannabinoid and neurological function shown by omega-3 deficient mice, it is probably safe to assume that the typical western diet (with a 1:20 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, far from the ideal of 1:3) has severe consequences for overall health and well-being. It is possible, even, that society’s enormous desire for supplemental cannabinoids is rooted in this essential fatty acid imbalance. 

Omega-3 deficiency (and resulting endocannabinoid system malfunction), a problem that experts estimate affects about 95% of adults in the U.S., shares a direct correlation with obesity.

Studies have shown that high-fat diets rich in omega-3 do not induce weight gain, whereas a low-fat diet rich in omega-6 does cause weight gain. These results suggest that dietary fatty acids have a substantial effect on fat formation, appetite, and weight management via the endocannabinoid system. This concept has been reinforced by studies wherein the CB1 receptor antagonist (blocker) Rimonabant prevented weight gain while on a high-fat diet. Of course, many factors go into a person’s weight, with the endocannabinoid system being but one.

While it’s great that CBD can help to treat underlying issues connected to fatty acid imbalance, it remains important to address this aspect of your health by ensuring you ingest the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats.

CBD and DHA

Popularity Contest: CBD vs. Omega-3

People become super interested in CBD when they learn that virtually every organism on Earth has an endocannabinoid system moderated by cannabinoids, like CBD. Once they hear that cannabinoids in some way dictate every physiological process in our body, it’s hook line and sinker. Why then, do people not adopt the same fanatical interest in fish oil/omega-3 supplements?

When compared with omega-3 supplements, CBD has distinct advantages. Although CBD has a cumulative effect (works better over time), most users experience at least some benefit very early on - if not immediately. On the other hand, omega-3 supplements take about a month of regular use before noticeable benefits are achieved. Anyone knows that it can be hard to maintain a new habit for several weeks without seeing any real benefits to affirm your hard work.

What’s more, fish oil (the most popular way to supplement omega-3) has quite an unpleasant taste and leaves many with fishy burps or a lingering aftertaste. However, CBD tastes pretty darn good to a lot of people - few find it genuinely off-putting. Of course, the result is that people are willing to take sufficient doses of CBD, but may struggle to ingest the recommended amounts of fish oil. 

It’s important to remember, though, that taking CBD will not solve an underlying omega-3 deficiency problem. DHA comprises 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain, 60% in the retina, and 50% in any given cellular membrane - this fatty acid is of the utmost importance.

It’s at the point when one finally decides to take an omega-3 supplement that the unfortunate dilemma arises - how to get sufficient omega fatty acids without ravaging our oceans (as fish oil tends to deplete important species) and ingesting heavy metals. Fortunately, there are alternatives to fish oil for DHA supplementation, with the best being marine-sourced microalgae. 

Just like humans, fish are unable to synthesize DHA and must obtain it from their food (algae). By opting for a sustainable algal DHA supplement, you are cutting out the middleman (fish) while also helping to keep the oceans healthy.

 

Ananda Hemp Vegan Omega+ offers 250mg of algal DHA per two softgels, along with other beneficial fatty acids like stearidonic and gamma linolenic acid from hemp seed oil. Fun fact, algal DHA was originally developed by NASA as a way to keep astronauts fed and nourished on long space missions. 

While opinions vary wildly, research suggests that a minimum of 250-500mg of DHA+EPA a day is the bare minimum for most individuals. If you’ve been on an unhealthful diet for a long time, or have particularly challenging health issues, it may behoove you to take substantially larger amounts. Everyone is different, and your mileage may vary. 

The Bottom Line

There is no magic bullet for health and wellness, but ensuring you get enough DHA and EPA in your daily diet is extremely important. Not only will optimizing your fatty acid intake improve every aspect of your health (both physically and mentally), but it will enhance the functioning of your endocannabinoid system, meaning your CBD dosage will go even further.

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