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Unlocking the Mysteries of the Endocannabinoid System

By Trevor Baum December 1, 2022 Wellness

The Endocannabinoid system and CBD

Have you ever wondered why CBD is such a popular natural remedy? You may have heard of cannabinoids and their impact on the body through the internet or word-of-mouth, but do you know how it actually works?

It all has to do with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a vast network of receptors found in all mammals. This system is responsible for the regulation of many physiological processes, including appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.

The ECS was only discovered in the early 1990s, but research suggests that it plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis in the body.

Homeostasis is defined as the stability of the internal environment of an organism. In other words, it helps keep things running smoothly amidst changing external conditions.

Because of its importance, the ECS has been dubbed the “master regulator.” Cannabinoid molecules produced by the human body (endogenous endocannabinoids) interact with endocannabinoid receptors to keep things in balance.

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for a wide range of physiological functions and is absolutely essential to our overall well-being.

So…what exactly is the endocannabinoid system and why should you care? What happens when something goes wrong and the ECS isn’t working properly?

Let’s dive in!

What Is the Endocannabinoid System and What Does It Do?

The endocannabinoid system is a biological system that is found in all mammals. It is a network of receptors and chemicals that helps to regulate a wide range of body functions, including:

Infographic depicting the Endocannabinoid System and its impact on the human bodyThe ECS is composed of three main components: endogenous cannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. Cannabinoids are molecules that bind to receptors and activate the ECS. Endocannabinoid receptors are proteins and other molecules. Enzymes are proteins that break down endocannabinoids after they have been used.

Together, these three components work to keep the body in balance, making the endogenous cannabinoid system an important part of overall health and well-being.

Receptors are proteins that receive signals from and bind to cannabinoids and are located throughout the body on the surface of cells. Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids after they have been used.

Think of the endocannabinoid system as a car’s braking system. The brakes are the receptors, the gas pedal is the endocannabinoids, and the brake pedal is the enzymes.

When you step on the gas pedal, the endocannabinoids are activated and the car speeds up.

When you step on the brake pedal, the enzymes are activated and slow the car down(break up the used cannabinoids).

The brake pedal is important because it keeps the car from going too fast or crashing into something. The same is true for the endocannabinoid system; it helps to keep the body in balance and prevent it from crashing into something.

While the full extent of the endocannabinoid system’s influence is still being studied, scientists have identified three key components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

Let’s look at each of these components separately.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Did you know that our bodies produce their own cannabinoids?

There are two main types of cannabinoids: endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids (which are produced by the body) and phytocannabinoids (which are derived from plants).

Both types of cannabinoids are endogenous ligands (natural chemicals) that bind to cannabinoid receptors, which are located throughout the body. When cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they can produce a variety of effects, including pain relief, anti-inflammatory effects, and anxiety reduction.

Cannabinoids are being studied for their potential use in treating a range of conditions, including pain, inflammation, anxiety, and seizure disorders.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the two best-known cannabinoids. CBD is non-intoxicating, while THC is the compound that produces the “high” associated with marijuana use.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive component of cannabis, binds to cannabinoid receptors and produces the “high” associated with cannabis use. CBD (cannabidiol), another component of cannabis, does not produce a high but is known to have various beneficial properties.

Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids are both active at very low concentrations and have a wide range of effects on the body.

What Are Endocannabinoid/Cannabinoid Receptors?

Cannabinoid receptors are a type of cell surface receptor found in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.

CB1 and CB2 Receptors

Infographic illustrating the location of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the male and female bodyThere are two main types of cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the central nervous system which consists of the brain and spinal cord, whereas CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system and the immune system.

One of the earliest discoveries regarding cannabinoids was the identification of cannabinoid receptor CB1 in the nervous system by radiolabeling. These receptors are what allow cannabinoids to produce their various effects within the body.

Both types of CB receptors are involved in a variety of important bodily functions, including pain perception, appetite, and mood. When cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they can alter these functions in a variety of ways.

For instance, THC binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but it has a much stronger affinity for CB1 receptors. This is why THC produces psychoactive effects when consumed, as it alters brain function. In contrast, CBD does not bind as strongly to the CB1 receptors in the brain cells, which is why it does not produce any psychoactive effects.

Instead, CBD is thought to modulate the effects of THC on the cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors are G protein-coupled receptors, which means that they signal via a G protein-linked pathway.

When a cannabinoid binds to the receptor, it activates the G protein, which then signals to other proteins in the cell. This signaling cascade alters cell function, leading to widely known effects of cannabinoids.

Cannabinoid receptors are most abundant in the brain and immune system. They are also found in other organs and tissues, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, and gut.

Enzymes

Cannabinoids play an important role in regulating mood, pain, appetite, and memory. Once they’ve carried out their function, enzymes help to break them down so that they can be recycled and used again.

If they aren’t broken down properly, they can build up to unhealthy levels and cause problems. That’s where enzymes come in, namely fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL). By breaking down endocannabinoids, enzymes help to keep levels in balance and prevent problems.

Without enzymes, endocannabinoids would quickly build up to dangerous levels, leading to serious health problems.

Fortunately, the body naturally produces enzymes that are specifically designed to break down cannabinoids.

Why Is The Endocannabinoid System Important?

The endocannabinoid system is important because it helps keep our bodies in balance. When something upsets this balance—whether it’s an injury, infection, or chronic stress—the endocannabinoid system steps in to restore balance and promote healing. This is why cannabinoids have such therapeutic potential; they can help us heal by interacting with our endocannabinoid system!

A well-functioning endocannabinoid system is like a team of specialists that work together to keep the body in balance.

The receptors are like the specialists who listen to and interpret the body’s signals. The enzymes are like the specialists who clean up after the team has done its job. And the endocannabinoids are like the team captain who coordinates and oversees everything that happens.

When all of these components work together, the body is able to maintain balance and function optimally.

What is Endocannabinoid Deficiency? And Why Should You Care?

Most people have heard of the therapeutic benefits of CBD, but they may not be aware of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) that it interacts with. When the body is deficient in cannabinoids, it can lead to a condition theorized as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome (CED) by Russo EB.

Though it may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome (CED) is a very real phenomenon. CED is only recently beginning to be understood by the scientific community.

Proponents of CED theory believe that the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating a wide range of bodily functions, can become depleted in certain individuals. This depletion can then lead to a host of health problems, including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and even fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain throughout the body.

In a recent 2016 study it was noted that “If endocannabinoid function were decreased, it follows that a lowered pain threshold would be operative, along with derangements of digestion, mood disorders, and sleep among the almost universal physiological systems subserved by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).”

Scientists are still learning about the cannabinoid system and its role in health and disease. However, they hope that by understanding more about this complex system, they will be able to develop better treatments.

Signs That Your Endocannabinoid System Is Out Of Balance

There are a few key signs that may indicate that your endocannabinoid system is out of balance. If you experience any of the following, it’s a good idea to take steps to restore endocannabinoid levels and balance:

"A calm mind will always bring a better outcome." Jay PatelYou’re always stressed out 

If you find that you’re constantly stressed out, it may be because your endocannabinoid system is out of balance. When this system is out of balance, it could lead to increased levels of anxiety and stress.

You’re always or never hungry

Constant hunger as well as constant satiety can be a sign that your endocannabinoid system isn’t functioning properly. When this system is out of balance, it may lead to increased appetite, cravings for unhealthy foods, and also to a lack of appetite.

Your digestion is off 

Digestive issues are another common sign that your endocannabinoid system isn’t functioning optimally. When this system is out of balance, it may lead to problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and nausea.

You have trouble sleeping

Trouble sleeping is another common sign that your endocannabinoid system is out of balance. If you find yourself tossing and turning all night long, it’s time to take action.

How To Balance Your Endocannabinoid System?

In order to keep the ECS functioning properly, it is important to balance the system. Here are four ways to do just that: 

Eat a nutritious diet full of whole foods

The first step to balancing your ECS is to eat a nutritious diet that is rich in whole foods. Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined, and they include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. Eating a diet full of whole foods will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function optimally.

To restore balance in your digestive system, try eating more fiber-rich foods and drinking plenty of water. You may also want to consider taking natural supplements or eating fermented foods like yogurt.

You can also try CBG, which is claimed to have a positive effect on the digestive system.

Exercise regularly

Not only is exercise good for our physical health, but it’s also beneficial for our mental and emotional health—which directly impacts the ECS. Exercise helps to reduce stress levels and increase feel-good hormones like endorphins, which can help to offset the negative effects of stress on the ECS. 

It can also boost endocannabinoid production, which helps to keep the ECS functioning properly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. And if you’re feeling cramps or want to boost your recovery, CBD Topicals can be an excellent addition to your workout regime.

Get enough sleepA woman waking up refreshed from deep, restful sleep

Sleep is essential for good health. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can throw off the delicate balance of your ECS. Therefore, it’s important to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night to keep your ECS balanced.

Sleep is when our bodies repair and regenerate, so it’s essential for keeping us healthy both physically and mentally.

CBN has been reported to have positive effects on sleep, according to anecdotal reports.

Some people have found that it allows them to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep for longer. Others find that it improves the quality of their sleep, leaving them feeling more rested when they wake up.

Manage Stress Effectively

Stress can have a negative impact on the ECS by causing inflammation and throwing off hormone levels. Therefore, it’s important to manage stress effectively in order to keep your ECS functioning properly. 

You probably know about CBD and stress. You can include here a variety of ways to manage stress effectively, including yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.

Supplementing Your Lifestyle With Phytocannabinoids

A variety of Cannovia CBD products to provide photocannabinoid supportYou can also support your ECS with quality hemp-derived CBD products. CBD is one of the exogenous cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, that interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system to produce therapeutic effects.

Unlike THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana), CBD does not produce any intoxicating effects. Instead, CBD provides balancing and calming effects that can be helpful for your overall health.

However, it is important to remember that phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids) are not a cure-all solution to treat disease – they should be used in conjunction with other methods of optimizing the ECS, such as diet and exercise.

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