What is the endocannabinoid system?
Discovered in the late 1980s, the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) features cannabinoids, and receptors (CB1, CB2, and two others yet to be named) that are some of the most abundant neurotransmitters found in the brain – and throughout your body.
This system works like a lock and key, whereas the receptors are the lock, and endogenous cannabinoids – naturally produced by your body – are the key to unlocking them. When a cannabinoid binds with these receptors, it signals to the ECS that it needs to take action to relieve pain or inflammation, enhance mood, or to improve the function of the cardiovascular, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems, or other organs throughout your body.
How does the endocannabinoid system affect my overall health and wellness?
Because the ECS responds to endogenous cannabinoids, produced by your brain when needed for regulation, it plays a critical role in your overall health. This system is responsible for regulating mood, mitigating inflammation, feeling hunger, or getting tired. It also regulates key biological processes to keep your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being balanced and in check.
It tells your Endocrine System which hormones to release, when, and from where, and also plays an important role in the development of your central nervous system (CNS).
When the ECS is functioning at its prime, an individual will see a decrease in insomnia, mental tiredness, age-related memory loss, stress, and pain. Ensuring your ECS is performing at optimal levels may also be beneficial in patients healing from brain injuries.
What happens when the endocannabinoid system is out of balance?
Scientists have discovered a condition named Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) which occurs when the body has fewer endogenous cannabinoids than needed for the system to function at its prime. According to preliminary research, this condition may lead to a series of ailments including:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
If you have ever suffered from these ailments, you are well aware that most require significant amounts of medications to manage their symptoms, and some of the medications come with side effects and risks that you may not be willing to take. Sometimes, they are resistant to medication altogether and will need a different approach.
What causes the endocannabinoid system to be out of balance?
Have you ever broken a bone? Whether it was a broken wrist, ankle, or collar bone, the body begins to compensate for the injury by placing more stress on other bones in your body.
For example, if you are out walking and trip and sprain your left ankle, then continue to your destination by limping, your right ankle is tasked with most of the weight-bearing, whereas normally, your weight is distributed evenly. While your body finds a way to temporarily adapt to the situation, if you do not heal properly, you could cause more damage to other parts of your body over time.
This is what happens when our endocannabinoid system is out of balance. Whether your system is over or under-stimulated, it protects itself by upregulating (producing more) or down regulating (producing less) cannabinoids. When this shift happens, other bodily functions may also be thrown out of whack. As in all things in life, we want to have balance within the ECS.
What can I do to support my endocannabinoid system?
When the ECS is functioning at its prime, an individual will see a decrease in insomnia, mental tiredness, age-related memory loss, stress, and pain. To do this, we need to balance the endocannabinoid system. Some ways to do this are:
- Decreasing stress
- Improving diet
- Refraining from recreational drugs & alcohol use
- Take a supplement high in Omega 3 (Fish Oil, anyone?)
- Get OUTSIDE