Balancing Your ECS
Posted on November 27th, 2020
Lately, CBD has been all the buzz. The use of CBD products like tinctures, full-spectrum CBD oil, CBD gummies, and CBD soluble water as supplements has skyrocketed. And for good reason. CBD”s purported therapeutic benefits are more than enough to warrant attention. Though studies are still ongoing, early signs from research indicate it might help with:
- Mental health
- Reward circuits
- Immune system
- Cardiovascular system
- Skin, and much more.
So, how is it really that one compound might hold such a broad range of benefits? What is the underlying mechanism that might just make all these benefits possible? To know the answer to that, you first need to know about your Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
The Endocannabinoid System and Balancing Your ECS
Unbeknownst to many CBD consumers, taking CBD supplements affects the equilibrium of their endocannabinoid system.
People worldwide are now taking or heavily considering taking CBD because its purported benefits might help them manage some conditions. However, these benefits in themselves are simply the outcome of improving your bodies’ internal balance. And that is precisely what the Endocannabinoid system actually does.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a neurotransmitter system that consists of a series of receptors found throughout the mammalian body. These receptors are in some of the most important structures inside your body, from the brain to all peripheral organs. These particular receptors interact with endogenous cannabinoids/endocannabinoids. The resulting interaction controls a vast array of physiological functions, including pain, appetite, mood, immune system, memory, and much more.
The Composition of the ECS
Three different components make up the endocannabinoids systems:
There are two kinds of cannabinoid receptors: the CB1 receptors and the CB2 receptors. Located on cell surfaces, what characterizes cannabinoid receptors is their interactions with their namesake, the cannabinoid compounds. Said interactions result in the therapeutic benefits people say they experience when taking CBD, which is just one of many cannabinoids. Since the ECS strives to achieve homeostasis in the body, the therapeutic effects are simply its way to achieve that end. Usually, the body would use the endocannabinoids it produces on its own to do so. Yet, by taking CBD products, you can help trigger said effects.
CB1 receptors are in high-density within the brain and the nervous system. Therefore, they do influence brain functions, such as memory and appetite. THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that causes the marijuana high, binds to CB1 receptors hence the ‘high’ you experience with it.
On the other hand, CB2 receptors are most prevalent in the body organs, muscle tissues, immune system, and bones. They influence the body’s pain managing response, particularly, the anti-inflammatory response.
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced by our own bodies. They interact with and activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, with each cannabinoid causing different body changes. Despite their origins, they are remarkably similar in structure to phytocannabinoids, the cannabinoids found in plants like industrial hemp or cannabis. CBD itself is one phytocannabinoid found on those plants.
ECS enzymes’ primary function is to break down and recycle endocannabinoids, thereby frequently making sure your body achieves homeostasis. The Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzyme breaks down anandamide, arguably the most important endocannabinoid. The other major enzyme, the Monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) enzyme, breaks down the 2-AG once they have finished their work.
What Are the Endocannabinoids?
As mentioned above, endogenous cannabinoids, better known as endocannabinoids, are cannabinoids produced by the body. The two main endocannabinoids include 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA). 2-AG seems to control appetite and the immune system. On the other hand, anandamide regulates mood.
When your body experiences imbalances, the ECS initiates a response to restore physiological balance, thereby achieving homeostasis.
What Is Homeostasis and Why Is Important
The primary function of ECS is to achieve homeostasis. So, what is homeostasis? In simple terms, homeostasis means balance. Regarding health matters, homeostasis refers to achieving balance in our internal environment. Body organs and, by extension, the human body, functions optimally in specific conditions. Body homeostasis ensures every part of our body is within the right working range and, therefore, functions correctly.
The strife for homeostasis is evident in bodily functions such as temperature regulation, where you sweat to cool down or shiver to warm up. The ECS plays a massive role in achieving balance in our internal systems, despite the tremendous external environment changes.
What Might Cause ECS Imbalance?
Many environmental factors and situations put stress on our bodies. Often times, said stress it so much it overwhelms our systems and throws our internal balance into disarray. Now more than ever, we are particularly exposed to said factors and situations.
By adequately identifying what might negatively affect us, we have the chance to avoid them or, at least, better control the outcome it has on our internal balance. Here are some of the things you should better control if you are looking to balancing your ECS.
Research establishes that endocannabinoids produced in the periphery organs control our appetite. Unfortunately, consuming a diet consisting of high sugar and fat levels can harm the endocannabinoid system, causing an imbalance. Such diets increase the endocannabinoids produced in the intestines and circulating in the blood.
Consequently, the individual is at risk of developing hyperphagia. Hyperphagia is an abnormal desire for food, causing one to consume larger meals much more frequently. Thus, making them very likely to become obese.
Once someone has a lot of fat mass due to an unhealthy diet, the increased fat cells start to produce more endocannabinoids. This, in turn, will further their desire to continue to eat a lot frequently. The production of endocannabinoids by fat cells is among the reasons why losing weight is difficult.
Research indicates that the ECS system plays a vital role in regulating the stress response. Everyday short-term stress is helpful, and in many ways, it is critical to our survival. When exposed to stress, your body will respond by reducing the anandamide levels. Thus, causing you to feel stressed, anxious, or agitated.
At the same time, stress causes an increase in the production of 2-AG, which reduces pain reception. 2-AG also enhances your cognitive functions, including memory, to help you get out of danger.
However, exposure to chronic stress causes desensitization of CB1 receptors. The high levels of 2-AG overstimulate the CB1 receptors. The body compensates this by desensitizing or reducing the number of CB1 receptors. Consequently, this creates an imbalance in the ECS system.
Research linking ECS imbalance to arthritis, depression, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and other diseases is underway. That said, there are indications that certain conditions might have more than a casual relationship with ECS imbalance. This theory might explain why some patients might better manage their ailments by taking CBD products to rebalance the ECS. In other instances, the ECS imbalance seems to cause the disease.
Studies indicate some pharmaceutical and recreational drugs, including alcohol, stimulate an increase in endocannabinoids’ production. Thus, it might overstimulate cannabinoid receptors, especially CB1 receptors. Consequently, the body downregulates receptors as a compensation mechanism, thereby creating an imbalance in the system.
There are cases where individuals have inherent ECS unbalances built into their genetic makeup. Unfortunately, these are something they cannot get rid of completely. For instance, a 2015 discovery reported in the New York Times indicates that approximately 20% of Americans have a mutation that degrades the anandamide. Such individuals have an inherent imbalance that compromises their response to stress while increasing their risk of suffering from obesity.
The Best Methods for Balancing Your ECS
When such imbalances arise, one possible way of achieving homeostasis is to supplement your diet with CBD products. CBD interacts with CB1 receptors, thereby supplementing the endocannabinoids in your body that are not enough to restore balance at a given moment.
The compound also boosts the endogenous cannabinoids by reducing their breakdown. By preventing the degradation of endocannabinoids, CBD ensures your body has an ample supply of homeostasis-inducing compounds. Aside from supplementing with CBD, there are also other means of balancing your ECS, including:
Engaging in physical exercise is known for its benefits in maintaining a healthy weight level. Additionally, exercise can also elevate the anandamide levels in your blood, which rebalances the ECS. The increased 2-AG in your blood also enhances your ability to manage pain and reduce anxiety and stress, improving your mood.
Some herbs and teas contain compounds that enhance ECS balancing. Herbs containing the terpene beta-caryophyllene such as cloves, oregano, black pepper, and cinnamon can help balance the ECS. This compound only stimulates the CB2 receptors and helps combat inflammation.
While unconventional, fasting can help balance your ECS. Being in a fasted state enhances increases the 2-AG levels in your body as your body stocks hunger. The elevated amount of 2-AG will still yield anandamide’s associated benefits, including inflammation and anxiety relief.
Eating A Healthy Diet
Consuming a poorly-balanced diet consisting of high omega-6 fatty acids induces imbalances in your ECS. To counter this, you should prioritize consuming a balanced diet with an ample supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids from hemp milk, fish and fish oil, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds end up converting into endocannabinoids. Thus, help you in balancing your ECS.
Abusing alcohol, THC, and other recreational and pharmaceutical drugs overstimulates CB1 receptors, thus, causing desensitization. You can counter these effects by detoxing. Evidence suggests that the CB1 receptors can return to their natural state after months of detoxing. By detoxing and abstaining from drug abuse, your ECS will regain some balance in time.
As mentioned above, chronic stress is one of the most common causes of ECS imbalance. Thus, it’s better to relax.
There are no studies yet on whether meditating can help balance your ECS. However, some reports show mindful meditation as effective in quelling anxiety and stress, something that definitively counts as ‘relaxing.’
Enjoying Some Sunlight
Basking in the sun is vital for more than getting some Vitamin D. Solar UV light is essential in the production of 2-AG, especially during winter months. Elevating 2-AG by soaking some sunlight can help rebalance your ECS system.
Balancing Your ECS – The Takeaway
The modern world undoubtedly offers us an ever-increasing set of choices of things that might end up causing an ECS imbalance. It is then up to us to take matters into our own hands and be mindful of our habits.
Regularly engaging in habits that help balancing your ECS and limiting those that do not might go a long way in maintaining our internal balance. And with that, helps us feel better in our day to day lives.
Also, if you need to have a little extra help in balancing your ECS, there’s always CBD products. Supplementing your endocannabinoids level with a phytocannabinoid may boost your ECS back into balance. Just remember to talk with a doctor before taking CBD, especially if you are already on some other medication.