How To Repair Cannabinoid Receptors
Posted on October 13th, 2020
Maintaining a constant and balanced environment within the body is crucial for all living organisms to survive. That includes humans. In biological terms, this process goes by the name of homeostasis. Overall homeostasis in the human body happens through the regulation of a wide range of physiological processes. These include body temperature, energy, heart rate, digestion, thirst and hunger, sleep, and so on. Your body makes use of a complex system, the endogenous cannabinoid system, or endocannabinoid system (ECS) for that. It wasn’t until very recently that this system came to attention. That happened during the course of ongoing research into how cannabis works in the body.
The endocannabinoid system consists of a complex network of receptors found throughout the body. From the brain to your organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The ECS is responsible for regulating the production and uptake of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids naturally produced by the body are endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids. Meanwhile, cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant go by the name of phytocannabinoids. It is worth mentioning that endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids have similar structures. They both bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body to regulate a wide array of physiological and cognitive functions. This explains why the use of cannabis for wellness has been so prolific the world over.
Types of Cannabinoid Receptors
At the moment, scientists have identified two main types of cannabinoid receptors. Denoted by the abbreviation ‘CB,’ the receptors got a number according to their order of discovery; CB1 and CB2. Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids introduced in the body target these two receptors.
While CB1 receptors are all over the body, they are primarily present in the brain and the central nervous system. THC, the primary intoxicating ingredient in the cannabis plant, targets these receptors. Therefore, resulting in cerebral and behavioral effects. Essentially, CB1 receptors are responsible for producing the “high” effect that comes with the use of cannabis.
The influence of cannabinoids on the CB1 receptors produces direct bodily and cognitive effects. Be it on motor control, hunger, memory, emotions, decision-making, and sensory responsiveness.
CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are in the peripheral nervous system – parts of the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord. They are responsible for regulating the intestinal inflammatory response. Making them essentially a part of the immune system. They are also responsible for regulating neurohormones in the body.
Cannabinoids stimulate the CB2 receptors to produce a calming and soothing effect and repair damages within the body. CB2 receptors influence your wellbeing without affecting your cognition. This is mainly because they are sparsely populated in the brain.
The interaction of cannabinoids and the CB1 and CB2 receptors is similar to that of a lock and key system. In this case, the receptors are the locks, while the cannabinoid molecules are the keys. When a cannabinoid binds to a receptor, it triggers a stimulatory or inhibitory response in the brain and body. For instance, the introduction of phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol and THC ca act as pain relief. It helps to inhibit pain, inflammation, and nausea. THC is often used to stimulate appetite and inhibit muscle spasticity. Meanwhile, CBD is often used to inhibit inflammation and stimulate a general sense of wellness. These are just but a few examples of how receptors respond to cannabinoids in the body.
However, the endocannabinoid system is complex, and it can get out of balance. When this happens, it may lead to both psychological and physical problems. Many factors can lead to an imbalanced ECS. But the majority of these factors lead to the overstimulation of the endocannabinoid system. Which, ultimately, leads to the downregulation of certain cannabinoid receptors.
Causes of Imbalance in the Endocannabinoid System
– Alcohol and Drug Consumption
The prolonged ingestion of recreational and some pharmaceutical drugs have a serious effect on the ECS system. Drugs such as THC and alcohol stimulate the increased production of endocannabinoids. Thus, leading to the overstimulation of the cannabinoid receptors. As a result, the brain downregulates or de-sensitizes its CB1 receptors. This leads to a reduced level of CB1 receptors.
– Poor Diet
Foods full of sugars and unhealthy fats are thought of as generally bad for your health. However, they also harm your endocannabinoid system. As mentioned earlier, the ECS is responsible for regulating your hunger and appetite. These types of unhealthy diets seem to cause increased production of endocannabinoids. Specifically in the intestines and circulatory system, which causes you to be more hungry. This cycle causes overstimulation of your cannabinoid receptors, which leads to their downregulation.
Even though stress helps us to quickly and effectively respond to threats and danger, when it becomes persistent, it can create a lot of problems. Stress stimulates the increased production of the 2-AG endocannabinoid. This endocannabinoid lowers the sensation of pain and activates memory. When stress becomes chronic, it leads to elevated levels of 2-AG. Therefore leading to the overstimulation of and later downregulation of CB1 receptors in the brain.
Many people suffering from a broad range of illnesses and psychological disorders use cannabis or CBD to address certain symptoms. That fact alone could be a good indicator of endocannabinoid system imbalance. The general consensus now is that some diseases cause an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system. While other diseases come as a result of an imbalance in that same endocannabinoid system.
Genetics is another cause of imbalance in the ECS; however, this factor is completely out of your control. The imbalance caused by your genetics is nearly impossible to remedy.
How to Repair Cannabinoid Receptors
– Increase Your Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
First, it is important to note that endocannabinoids come from arachidonic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid. Also, the intake of omega-6 fatty acids is essential for the production of endocannabinoids. But an excess amount can lead to the downregulation of cannabinoid receptors. Additionally, high levels of omega-6 fatty acids can have an inflammatory effect. Thus, to balance the omega-6 fats, you would need omega-3 fatty acids. However, American foods have an awfully high omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio, typically 10:1. The recommended ratio is 1:1.
– Abstain from Alcohol
As discussed earlier, the chronic use of drugs such as alcohol and THC can lead to the overstimulation of CB1 receptors. Additionally, excessive consumption of alcohol affects the repair of endocannabinoid receptors. It also diminishes the ability of receptors to effectively process cannabinoids. As you can see, engaging in high alcohol consumption does more harm to your body than you initially thought.
The effects of this imbalance appear during the withdrawal period. However, the receptors often return to their normal levels after a few weeks of abstinence.
– Minimize Stress
Same as with alcohol consumptions, stress impairs the growth and repair of new endocannabinoids. Stress causes an increased production of the hormone cortisol. High levels of this hormone affect the CB1 receptors’ ability to effectively process cannabinoids.
Thus, it is important to stay away from situations or environments that raise your stress levels.
Activities such as yoga, meditation, massage, and any other fun activities lower your stress levels.
– Excercise More
Not only does exercising provide you with you many physical benefits, but it also helps to reduce stress levels. Regulating a major cause of imbalance in the endocannabinoid system. In addition, exercising helps to promote a good night’s sleep, which is crucial for optimum health.
People often claim that the “runner’s high” is normally caused by endorphins. But there is evidence showing it is due to increased production and absorption of endocannabinoids.
Engaging in at least one hour of moderate-intensity exercise can lead to increased levels of anandamide. That is a “feel good” endocannabinoid.
– Herbs and Tea
Various types of herbs and teas contain compounds known to enhance the endocannabinoid system. Caryophyllene, a terpene present in herbs and spices such as black pepper, oregano, basil, rosemary, lemon balm, cinnamon, and so on. They bind to the endocannabinoid receptors, stimulating the endocannabinoid system. It helps to prevent stress and anxiety. Caryophyllene has neuroprotective properties. It also selectively targets CB2 receptors, which is highly beneficial in the treatment of inflammation.
– Cannabidiol (CBD)
CBD is one of the two most common and popular compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD has become renowned the world over due to its supposed therapeutic benefits. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have the psychoactive properties of THC, meaning that it doesn’t produce a ‘high,’ which makes it more appealing to most people. Many conditions seemed to appear due to low levels of endocannabinoids. For example, patients with migraine, IBS, and fibromyalgia all use CBD for therapeutic purposes, although some studies suggest that you should avoid CBD with fibromyalgia pain..
CBD appears to have neuroprotective properties. These help to protect cannabinoid receptors from overstimulation and degradation. CBD may also be useful in mitigating the negative effects of high THC intake, including anxiety and paranoia.