How ECS Imbalance Can Throw Your Mind and Body Off Track
Posted on December 3rd, 2020
The human body is constantly looking to maintain balance in all of its systems and processes. In biological terms, this is called homeostasis. Homeostasis mainly entails the body working to maintain a stable internal environment. Some factors in this are keeping a stable body temperature, blood glucose, blood pressure, and more. As it turns out, one of the key tools that the body uses to achieve homeostasis is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a natural system that was discovered recently when people began looking into how hemp and cannabis interact with the human body. This investigation quickly revealed a complex interplay of neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids) and their receptors throughout the body. As with any part of the body, many things can cause ECS imbalance.
In the past decade alone, there have been thousands of published scientific articles outlining how endocannabinoids can support the health and wellness of the human mind and body. In fact, endocannabinoids have been intertwined throughout human evolution. These compounds are now being leveraged to bring balance to various parts and systems of the body.
How ECS Imbalance Happens
Consider this example. You walk miles to work every day, and eventually you injure your right ankle and walk with a limp. Normally, your body weight would be balanced evenly on both legs, but now that you’re limping, your left leg bears more weight. Despite your weight being unbalanced, you are still able to walk as your body has found a temporary adaptation. However, if you don’t allow your injured ankle to heal, the strain could worsen and damage your joints and muscles over time.
In a similar way, your body’s neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endocannabinoids can sometimes be thrown out of balance. And like limping, your body’s natural attempts to compensate for the imbalance could be detrimental to your health. For instance, if the levels of your neurotransmitters get too low or too high, your cells might end up adapting by decreasing or increasing their receptors. This may lead them to become under or over-sensitized.
Other systems and tissues within your body might also have to compensate in other ways. This compensation could manifest as psychological or physical conditions. To disrupt this pattern and restore the body’s natural balance, it’s important to figure out what is causing the imbalance. The endocannabinoid system is quite complex, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach or remedy to an unbalanced ECS. Some people benefit by increasing their production of endocannabinoids. Others might benefit from alleviating the burden of an overstimulated ECS.
Causes of ECS Imbalance
Many people tend to think that stress is an entirely negative thing. But in reality, when you are faced with danger, a stress response is remarkably powerful and useful. Stress can help your body respond to threats and survive. The problem arises when your body is in survival mode for extended periods.
Initially, when your body faces stress, it reduces the levels of the feel-good endocannabinoids called anandamide. Anandamide triggers feelings of agitation, stress, and anxiety. At the same time, your body increases the levels of 2-AG, which results in the dampening of your perception of pain. It also activates memory to help you escape the situation and avoid such a danger in the future.
However, when the stress turns chronic, the body must adapt to the fact that it’s unable to escape the stressor. The high 2-AG levels end up overstimulating the CB1 receptors in the brain. This in turn over-compensates by lowering its CB1 receptors. Fewer endocannabinoid receptors in the brain causes ECS imbalance that make it more difficult to maintain emotional stability endocannabinoids provide.
Studies have actually found that people with unusual versions of the CB1 receptor gene are more prone to developing bipolar disorder, addiction, and depression. Similarly, mice that have limited CB1 receptors in their brain are often used to study depression.
Western diets packed with unhealthy fats and sugars are widely known to be bad for your health and waistline. What’s probably new knowledge here is the fact that these diets are also rough on the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids help to regulate appetite, and these western diets could raise the production of endocannabinoids in the circulatory and digestive system. This increase can make you hungrier.
Moreover, fat cells tend to produce even more endocannabinoids. Overweight people will often have higher levels of endocannabinoids in their bodies, causing more hunger and difficulty losing weight.
Luckily, boosting the consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can help to remedy the situation. While the omega-3s will certainly not lower the overall production of endocannabinoids by themselves, your body will be able to produce a better ratio of the “good” endocannabinoids. These will have lower binding affinities for your body’s natural endocannabinoids receptors, thereby reducing the burden of ECS imbalance.
Sometimes pharmaceutical and recreational drugs can help to make you feel better. But scientists have started to discover how their long-term use could have significant effects on the ECS. Drugs like alcohol tend to stimulate the body to increase the production of endocannabinoids and are major causes of ECS imbalance. Persistent consumption of recreational (and pharmaceutical) drugs like THC and alcohol could overstimulate the endocannabinoid receptors. Eventually this will lead to a tolerance effect where the CB1 receptors are downgraded in the brain.
This could even explain the addictive nature of certain drugs. Some studies conducted on rodents have revealed that CB1 receptors tend to become even more sparse when alcoholics go into withdrawal. They typically don’t return to normal levels for weeks or longer.
Some people are born with some degree of ECS imbalance. For instance, about 20% of Americans have a mutation in a certain gene that degrades anandamide, which is one of the body’s natural endocannabinoids. People that have this mutation end up with higher anandamide levels in their systems, along with a reduced reaction to stress. Other effects of this gene mutation could include a higher propensity to obesity.
As seen with genetics, the endocannabinoid system can become imbalanced for reasons beyond your control. A person suffering from a wide variety of psychological disorders and physical diseases tend to find relief from their symptoms with CBD or cannabis. This suggests an imbalance with their endocannabinoid systems. In fact, research has started unveiling these associations for depression, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, PTSD, schizophrenia, arthritis, glaucoma, and cancer, to name a few.
Research is still underway to find what diseases cause the ECS to become imbalanced, and which diseases are caused by an imbalance in the ECS. It could be a bit of both in most cases, however, many diseases are often an indication that the ECS may be impaired.
How to Correct ECS Imbalance
Many people struggle with one or more of the problems listed above. If you’d like to manage your causes of ECS imbalance and restore a healthy balance, there are a few natural remedies you should consider:
You know how people claim to get a rush of endorphins from intense physical activity? Well, studies show that endocannabinoids often cause this high. Moderate intensity exercise, when done for an hour or more, can help to raise the levels of anandamide in your blood. This “runner’s high” could lead to reduced anxiety, temporary pain reduction, and post-exercise euphoria or “glow”.
Many people really dislike intense physical activity. But exercising less than an hour a week could help to increase the levels of both 2-AG and anandamide. Not to mention it can help improve your mood. Regular exercise could also help you maintain a healthy weight and manage your stress levels. All of which will go a long way in preventing ECS imbalance.
While CBD is technically a phytocannabinoid, it influences the ECS rather differently than other phytocannabinoids such as THC. Rather than stimulating the ECS, which risks overstimulating it, CBD essentially modifies the CB1 receptors. It makes them harder to activate, and therefore prevents their over-activation.
CBD may also help to boost your natural levels of endocannabinoids by inhibiting their degradation and reuptake. This dual activity of CBD on the ECS tends to produce a balancing effect for most people.
Final Thoughts on ECS Imbalance
If you want to keep your body functioning optimally for a long time, it’s essential to take care of the different systems within your body to help it maintain homeostasis. If you find out that your ECS imbalance originates from lifestyle factors like your diet, you can achieve a healthy balance by adjusting your lifestyle. Unfortunately, if it stems from your genetics or other factors beyond your control, you may consider trying out the options above.
Finding healthy habits that can potentially support your body’s homeostasis is one of the best ways to help prevent disease. Look into Tanasi’s scientifically created hemp extracts and give them a try if you want to take back control of your endocannabinoid system.