This article written and contributed by Danny Vega, MS of the Fat Fueled Family.
420. It’s become a popular unofficial holiday internationally. It conjures images of marijuana pop culture, Bob Marley, Cheech and Chong, and countless other people who have been publicly vocal about their marijuana use. While I respect the freedom of anyone to use cannabis recreationally, I want to bring attention to a campaign that will hopefully redefine what 420 means to us.
420 is a day to highlight all of the ways we pursue wellness and integrate medical cannabis into our wellness regimen.
As you may have already heard on our podcast, or read online, medical cannabis has been used to treat a host of conditions—many of which were not being resolved with the standard of care, or the side effects were intolerable. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of people throughout the last several decades, hundreds of thousands of patients have finally been able to get relief where there was no relief before. 420 is a day when we can celebrate how far we have come, but it is also a day to bring attention to the many benefits of medical cannabis. In addition, 420 is a day to highlight all of the ways we pursue wellness and integrate medical cannabis into our wellness regimen. For this reason, I wanted to share a few ways you can enhance your health and well-being in conjunction with medical cannabis.
The Autonomic Nervous System: Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic
These are fancy terms, but the idea behind them is not. Simply put, we have an autonomic nervous system that responds accordingly depending on the stimuli we give it. Your parasympathetic nervous system is described as your “rest and digest” system. When you are calm and stress is low, your autonomic nervous system has what is called “parasympathetic tone”. This just means that your body is not under any immediate threat and can focus on things like digesting food properly, sleep, etc. When you are in this state, HRV is generally higher. HRV is short for heart rate variability, and when HRV is high, it means that you are in a relaxed and recovered state.
Conversely, if you are stuck in a sympathetic state, your heart rate is faster and your HRV is lower. This is what many refer to as “fight or flight”. Historically, this system was activated when you encountered a predator, or anyone who you perceived could bring you harm. The body responds immediately by releasing catecholamines (adrenaline) into your bloodstream as well as liberating some sugar to fuel short intense bursts like a sprint, a hunt, or a fight. The problem is that nowadays we are overly sympathetic. Our lifestyles are hectic, we lack sleep, we don’t eat correctly and we even add fuel to the fire by overconsuming things like caffeine and stimulants. Below are a few ways to counteract our modern, overly sympathetic lifestyles.
If you have never meditated, you may feel intimidated by the thought of having to sit still for 10-20 minutes and focus on breathing. If this is the case, I implore you to at least give it a try. You can start with heavy guidance (I still do guided meditations most of the time, and I have been practicing meditation consistently for a few years). In several areas of my life, nothing has helped me more than my daily meditation practice. Meditating every morning for 10-20 minutes upon waking has significantly improved my focus, my breathing, my sense of well-being, my reactivity to life’s ups and downs, and most importantly—my relationships.
I am a better father and a better husband because of it. Meditation teaches you to live in the moment. You learn how to quiet your mind, stop worrying about the future, stop fretting over the past, and most importantly how to put some space between any stressful event and your response. You are able to respond effectively and dispassionately vs. reacting illogically. Meditation also helps you realize how hard your brain is always working. Once you begin to consistently pay attention to how many thoughts run through your head, you can acknowledge them and let them pass through without judgment. Meditation is called a practice for a reason, and it’s important to note that the point of it is not to become a “great meditator”. There will be days when your breathing feels off, or your mind is racing, and that’s okay. The key is to make it a part of your daily routine. Once you do, you may find a whole new world of possibilities. Cannabis may also assist you by helping you calm down and get into a meditative state.
The benefits of the sauna are almost endless. Sauna bathing 4 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and all causes mortality.1,2
Another huge benefit of sauna bathing is detoxification. Our great friend Dr. Anthony Jay, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, has highlighted a few studies that demonstrate how sauna use helps us rid ourselves of some of the environmental toxins and substances we are exposed to or consume in this video:
Here’s some more research on the benefits of saunas:
- Sauna bathing may help reduce drug residues and metabolites “…a rehabilitative treatment intervention…to aid in the broad elimination of chemicals from body stores improves symptoms common to both chemical exposure and drug addiction. The regimen, which includes exercise, sauna bathing, and vitamin and mineral supplementation, is utilized by nearly 70 drug rehabilitation and medical practices in over 20 countries.”³
- Sauna bathing may help eliminate molds and mycotoxin. “Of 28 patients [exposed to mycotoxin], 27 did well and returned to work.”⁴
- Sauna bathing may help us get rid of harmful phthalates. “Induced perspiration may be useful to facilitate elimination of some potentially toxic phthalate compounds including DEHP and MEHP.”⁵
- Sauna bathing may help eliminate trace amounts of BPA from the body. “Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of BPA.”⁶
If you purchase your own sauna for your home, you can also meditate while in the sauna. I do both every morning upon waking.
I originally wanted to focus on exercising outside, but really, you can get massive health benefits from just unplugging and spending some time in nature every day. Whether you go for a walk or jog, do some cross-training, hike, or just play with your friends and family, you will get a ton of benefits—vitamin D, a break from the monotony, or even just a chance to clear your head. Spending 20-30 minutes outside (especially now that the temperatures become more bearable in the colder states) is worth the break from whatever else you may be doing.
These three practices alone, combined with a well-formulated treatment regimen, can work wonders for your health and sense of well-being.
How do you 420?