We are witnessing a rare time in history. As the regulated cannabis industry accelerates, it offers people more access to cannabis, in more ways, with more opinions on how to use it than ever before. Cannabis prohibition is without a doubt, crumbling.
Interestingly, at the same time we are watching the growing popularity of this powerful healing plant we are also experiencing more chronic health issues and discomfort than ever before and watching our loved ones struggle as well. Our go-to solution is accessing our outmoded healthcare system that just wasn't built to address the root causes of our malaise.
Many people walk around somewhere on the spectrum of feeling awful to just “off,” and think they are just getting old or it’s how life is. A visit to even the most well-intentioned physician, who has only 10 minutes at best, results with the pharmaceutical management of symptoms or a blanket of advice to the tune of "eat less, exercise more and manage stress.” We don’t have a healthcare system, we have a disease management system.
How’s That Working Out For Us?
Not so well. The last decade has left us with a 25% rise in the number of autoimmune disease cases. (1) 20% of Americans diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, (2) 1 in 6 people with digestive health issues such as IBS (3) and a crushing $535 billion dollar annual loss to the US economy from workplace absenteeism due to chronic pain.(4)
Houston, we have a problem...
It isn’t your doctor’s fault. Most physicians altruistically enter medical school - they want to help. However, from the time they begin schooling and through their post graduate continuing education, they are trained that pharmaceuticals are the first line of intervention. Most medical education conferences are aggressively sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. Once in practice, their hands are tied by strict insurance company reimbursement policies that actually penalize doctors for stepping outside of this “standard of practice.” Not to mention the aggressive sales and marketing of pharmaceuticals directly to physicians at their offices.
The Tides Are Shifting
Thankfully, there is a growing movement of physicians and health care professionals that are taking action to evolve the way healthcare is practiced in this country.
There has been a 30% increase in the last 10 years in the number of physicians completing courses in lifestyle or functional medicine. (5)
They are starting direct-pay concierge practices and breaking up with the insurance companies, and taking the time needed to address the root cause of their patient’s discomfort with education on nutrition, sleep, supplements and taking a lighter hand with the prescription pad.
People are responding. In a 2013 survey, 1 in 5 Americans reported visiting an integrative health professional on a regular basis. (5) Wellness education and lifestyle medicine is here to stay.
The Cannabis Wellness Approach
The path to the end of cannabis prohibition began in 1996 when California passed The Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and permitted limited access for very sick patients under physician recommendation. Decades of research has now been amassed showing cannabis efficacy in managing the symptoms of cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, depression and anxiety, and more. (6) The stack of research is growing.
While cannabis is a powerful therapeutic for the very ill, that represents a relatively small portion of the 1 in 8 Americans who report using cannabis on a regular basis. (7) While there are many people who consume it to achieve the pleasant altered state of consciousness it is popular for, there is a growing movement of people turning to cannabis to self-treat chronic health issues and avoid the side effects (and often lack of effect) of most pharmaceuticals, opiates being the best example in recent news.
New cannabis companies are emerging at lightning speed and offering refined ways to use cannabis - topically, in capsule, edible or tincture form or in distillate oil consumed via vaporizing pens. Reports abound on the internet with people sharing success stories for solving chronic health issues such as muscle and joint pain, migraines, insomnia, IBS, depression, anxiety - the list continues. People are happily including cannabis into their lives, and it is gaining popularity as a powerful wellness product, similar to a dietary supplement.
We are in a renaissance period as cannabis comes into the light and prohibition ends. The enthusiasm for cannabis as a panacea is at an all time high. Pun intended.
However, cannabis is just one medicine. A powerful one at that, and it may be all some people need to manage symptoms or just experience a state of mind gives them improved mental health. But for many people, it is not a magic bullet. They try it once or twice and then give up because it didn’t work.
In my years of private practice as an integrative dietitian, I have been a long time supporter of using cannabis therapeutically with my patients, with remarkable results. But the biggest changes I've helped people achieve happen when we widen the lens and use cannabis as one tool on the road to optimum health.
Fine Tuning the Effect of Cannabis
There are other plant and food based supplements, nutrition strategies and lifestyle practices that can fine-tune the effects of cannabis, and often enable a person to ingest less cannabis with the same results.
A great example is in pain management. I once had a patient that was experiencing chronic lower back pain from an old sports injury. He had tried a topical cannabinoid product and vaporized various strains of cannabis, with inconsistent results. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. We assessed his lifestyle and found that he was doing very little stretching, eating a diet high in processed sugar (highly pro-inflammatory) and chronically under hydrated and the cannabis he was vaporizing tended toward the more cerebral, energizing sativa dominant strains.
I recommended continuing with the cannabinoid topical product, switching to a more indica dominant strain for vaporizing (indica is a natural muscle relaxer), increasing his fluids, decreasing sugar intake, adding in high dose curcumin and omega 3 fatty acids and doing 15 minutes of easy yoga with a smartphone app every day. I referred him to an acupuncturist who also does deep tissue bodywork.
With 2 sessions of addressing his deep muscle pain patterns with massage and acupuncture and following my other recommendations, he was pain free 90% of the time within one month. After 6 years of near daily back pain. Cutting down on sugar and adding in more water helped him easily lose almost 10 lbs, which took the strain off his lower back. He was able to switch back to a sativa dominant strain to smoke, which he appreciated, as the indica made him sleepy. He keeps indica vape cartridges handy if the pain flares up, and continues with the topical. This case study is a great example of the Cannabis Wellness Approach in action. The effects of cannabis were potentiated by also making small lifestyle changes.
Our passion at Aeon is to make optimizing your lifestyle and finding the solution to your health goal doable, because the wellness experts, cannabis and supplement products are at your fingertips, all in one place. We want people who feel good to feel great, so they can get back to doing what they came to do. Enough people at this level of wellness, kicking more butt at life, changes our world.
The wellness team at Aeon is here to help you strategize and personalize a cannabis wellness solution, it’s what we live for.
Hey, we love learning from our community about wellness and cannabis strategies that helped them. If you have a good one that you think will benefit others, please share below, we’d love to hear from you.