The Endocannabinoid System: A Guest Post by Kaisha Cabrera

Cannabis is commonly known. But have you heard of our endogenous cannabinoid system? It’s called the ECS, short for endocannabinoid system, and it’s our body’s largest neuromodulator system.

It functions as our body’s balance, working to keep almost every physiological process in homeostasis. It’s comprised of endogenous cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors , and enzymes.

Endocannabinoid deficiency is a clinical deficit in endocannabinoid system function. This leads to various diseases and issues.

These issues include chronic pain, dysfunctional immune system, fatigue, and mood imbalances. The most common related conditions to
endocannabinoid deficiency include migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and psychological disorders.



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So, what exactly are cannabinoids?

First, there are three kinds of cannabinoids:

endogenous (inside body)

phyto-cannabinoids (produced by plants)

synthetic cannabinoids (made in the lab)

Endocannabinoids are lipid-based neurotransmitters naturally produced in the body. They help with functions such as sleep, memory, metabolism, appetite, learning, pain, and more.

The first endocannabinoids discovered (and the most studied!) include anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol (2-AG).

There are quite a few more of these, all working together to create an entourage effect.

What is anandamide?

Ananda is the Sanskrit word for “happiness, pleasure, joy, and bliss”.  Which makes good sense, because Anandamide is known as our bliss molecule and it’s part of our brain’s reward system, along with 2-AG.

One particularly interesting thing about anandamide is its relationship to exercise.

Often it’s said that  “Runner’s High” or the feeling of euphoria after working out is due to endorphins. However, endorphins cannot pass the blood-brain barrier.

As a result, recent scientific data supports the possibility that it’s actually caused by anandamide being released.

Okay, so what’s 2-AG?

2-AG is neuroprotective and is important in regulating neural inflammation (think of neurological disorders like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease). Human breast milk contains 2-AG in high concentrations.


Tell me about the cannabinoid receptors…

The cannabinoid receptors are called CB1 and CB2. Think of these as locks and keys.

Cannabinoid receptors are largely found in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, immune cells, and gut, and they work to regulate hormone activity.

CB1 receptors are densely found in the central nervous system (CNS), while CB2 receptors are mainly associated with our immune system. Although both receptors can be found in other areas of the brain and body.

Where do we find Endocannabinoids?

A few of the main enzymes for the endocannabinoid system are FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), COX-2, and MAGL (monoacylglycerol Lipase) which break down and degrade the endocannabinoids.

Now with some of the basics of the endocannabinoid system out of the way, how can you help balance
your ECS?

Balancing the endocannabinoid system is largely dependent on nutrition, stress management, and pain relief.

Because our endocannabinoids are lipid based, it’s important to work on your dietary fats, namely your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and having anti-inflammatory fats as a regular part of your nutrition.

Omega-3 foods include:

  • Olives and Olive Oil
  • Nuts and seeds (hemp seeds, anyone?)
  • Fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and tuna
  •  Avocados and avocado oil

Additionally, you’ll want to focus on increasing your fiber intake and antioxidant-rich foods, as well as balancing your macronutrients.

There are dietary phyto-cannabinoids; some working by directly activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors, some inhibiting the FAAH enzyme to raise anandamide level, while some have the benefits of being antioxidants.

Nutrients in foods like cacao and dark chocolate work to inhibit the FAAH enzyme and contain anandamide. Other parts of foods helping inhibit FAAH are polyphenols like resveratrol. Wine, grape juice, peanuts, curcumin, and turmeric are great sources of polyphenols!

Stress management in all its forms can help balance the ECS. Because the ECS is in our skin.

Generally speaking, touch, like massages and osteopathic manipulative therapy, and fulfilling all our senses help the endocannabinoid system. This is due to the boost of oxytocin released.

Other ways to boost oxytocin include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Listening to music
  • Cuddling and hugging
  • Laughing

To help you get some ideas on how to incorporate hemp seeds into your diet, here are a couple recipes:

endocannabinoid system support recipes

endocannabinoid system support recipes

Russo EB. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in
Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Cannabis
Cannabinoid Res. 2016;1(1):154-165. Published 2016 Jul 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0009.

Desai S, Borg B, Cuttler C, et al. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Exercise on the
Endocannabinoid System. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2022;7(4):388-408. doi:10.1089/can.2021.0113.
Ross M, PhD. Vitamin Weed: A 4-Step Plan to Prevent and Reverse Endocannabinoid Deficiency.
Greenstone Books; 2018.

Alger BE. Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. Cerebrum. 2013;2013:14. Published 2013 Nov 1.
McPartland JM, Guy GW, Di Marzo V. Care and feeding of the endocannabinoid system: a systematic
review of potential clinical interventions that upregulate the endocannabinoid system. PLoS One.
2014;9(3):e89566. Published 2014 Mar 12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089566

Leonard-Johnson, S, PhD, Rappaport, T, BFA, MFA. Cannabidiol (CBD) and the Endocannabinoid (ECS)
System Course. Biologix Solutions.

McPartland JM, Giuffrida A, King J, Skinner E, Scotter J, Musty RE. Cannabimimetic effects of osteopathic
manipulative treatment. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2005;105(6):283-291.

Wei D, Lee D, Cox CD, et al. Endocannabinoid signaling mediates oxytocin-driven social reward.Proc Natl
Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(45):14084-14089. doi:10.1073/pnas.150979511

How to eat more protein

Protein Packed!

It may seem like every time we talk about nutrition; we’re talking about how to eat more protein.

But that’s because protein is such a huge part of how our bodies function!

Did you know that every cell in our bodies contains protein?

Protein plays important roles in our immune function, metabolism, feeling full, weight management, body composition, and athletic performance. That’s why proteins are often referred to as “the building blocks of life!”

So, as you can see, it’s a no-brainer that a dancer is going to need plenty to thrive.

Energy Estimator

But just how much protein do we need?

The daily recommended protein intake for a high-intensity athlete (that’s us) is 1.4-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. In pounds, that means that we should consume about .64-.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. An easy way to make sure you’re hitting this goal is to aim for one gram of protein per pound of body weight. This way, if you are a little bit under, you’re still in a great range, and the math is easier! 

The next question is, ‘How on earth do I eat that much?’ At first, learning how to eat more protein can seem daunting. I mean, that seems like a lot! But with just a few intentional choices, you’ll be hitting this goal consistently in no time. 


The best way to get into this habit is by planning ahead.

When learning how to eat more protein, you want to make sure you’re eating your protein in chunks throughout the day rather than all at once. That will help you maintain your energy levels throughout the day and will keep you from feeling overfull after your meals. To review, here are a few easy-to-find protein-packed foods to help you plan your meals: chicken, eggs, turkey, any red meat, fish, shellfish (like shrimp!), greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lentils, beans, tofu, and tempe. There are also, of course, protein powders, shakes, and bars as well.


Use protein hacks to maximize meals.

One of my favorite protein hacks is the protein latte. Make or order two shots of espresso (or cold brew) and put it in a large cup. Then add your favorite protein shake. Suddenly your latte is worth at least 26 grams of protein – add an egg white omelet, and you could be 50 grams of protein closer to your macro goal just by eating breakfast.

Are you an oatmeal person? Why not make it protein oatmeal by adding a scoop of protein powder?

More of a cereal snacker? Why not use a vanilla protein shake instead of milk? Bonus points if you choose to use a protein-boosted cereal like Premier Protein Cereal or Magic Spoon!

When learning how to eat more protein, we’ve found that front-loading your protein in the morning can make hitting your macro goals much easier. And bonus, eating before you drink your coffee (or with it in a protein latte) helps prevent your cortisol levels from spiking, which protects your body from going into stress mode.

Still feeling like you might be too full? Let’s walk through a potential day trying to hit 140-150 grams of protein. 


Breakfast: Protein Latte: 26 g. protein

      Omelete; 4 egg whites, one whole egg, veggies, half ounce of cheese: 24 g. Protein

      Daily Total: 50 grams of protein

Lunch: Big Ass Salad (BAS), Banana, Can of Tuna: 22 g. Protein

Daily Total: 77 grams of protein (Halfway there!)

Snack: Greek yogurt with fruit: 20 g. protein

Daily Total: 97 grams of protein

Dinner: Chicken and Pasta; 4 oz Chicken, Chickpea Pasta, Marinara: 48 g. Protein

Daily Total: 145 grams of protein (NAILED IT!) 


Now, I’m not here to tell you that eating like this comes easily. Learning how to eat more protein takes intentionality.

Culturally, protein is not usually the largest portion on our plates. But with just a few intentional adjustments, hitting your protein goal every day is well within reach. Whether it’s swapping greek yogurt for sour cream on your tacos or adding greek yogurt or cottage cheese to your fruit plate, there is almost always a way to add some protein to your meals and snacks.

Give it a try, and let us know how you do! We love hearing how our community is getting their protein in!

xox Am 

PS if you want to work with a pro-dancer/ certified personal trainer who can make tailored training, nutrition, and recovery plans for you, you should check out our 1:1 coaching program, The Embodied Artist Academy



9 Ways to Spice Up Your Protein

Baked chicken and steamed fish would bore anyone to tears and undoubtedly lead to the demise of one’s diet efforts.
A dancer within the DWL community felt this tension rising and asked the rest of the DWL Fam to weigh in on their favorite ways to make protein more exciting.
Here are the top 9 responses!