Restoring Balance To Your ECS – Natural Ways to Go About It
Posted on November 30th, 2020
Maintaining a balanced environment within the body is crucial to the health and survival of all animals, including humans. Living systems need to maintain stable internal, physical, and chemical states regardless of changing conditions in their external environment. The body’s natural balanced state receives the name of homeostasis. When an organism attains homeostasis, the organism thrives, but when homeostasis is not attainable, it can spell great trouble and even death for the organism. When the body reaches that required state of internal balance, it is able to function more efficiently. An organism can achieve homeostasis thanks to a complex communication network within the body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Researchers first discovered the human endocannabinoid system in 1992. In the years after, they also found the same system in most animals, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mollusks. While it is a relatively recent discovery, the ECS evolved around 600 hundred million years ago. As a result, this had ample time to integrate with a wide range of physiological and neurological functions in the body. This explains why scientists believe that by effectively targeting the endocannabinoid system, we’ll be able to deal with a myriad of health conditions. Cannabis and cannabinoids such as THC and CBD work by interacting with the ECS directly and indirectly. That produces various effects throughout the body. This is one of the key reasons why many people currently use CBD to treat a wide range of conditions.
Functions of The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The ECS is a prominent part of the body’s regulatory system. The body has multiple systems in it that work together to keep you fit and healthy. These systems include the immune system, the endocrine system, the nervous system, and so on. When these systems are functioning optimally, you feel good and healthy. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for keeping all the other systems in check and ensuring that they function as expected. When there is a problem with any of these systems, the ECS activates. But what happens when the ECS itself is out of balance? This can have a disastrous effect on your body. However, there are many ways of restoring balance to your ECS. The main one being the use of cannabis, but more on that later.
Research is still ongoing to better understand all the functions of the endocannabinoid system. As mentioned before, the ECS regulates a wide range of processes. Appetite, memory, hunger, mood, reproductive system function, liver function, stress response, skin and nerve function, etc. All these functions contribute to maintaining a stable environment within the body.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Work?
In order to understand how the endocannabinoid works, it is essential to first understand what exactly makes up the endocannabinoid system. The ECS involves three key components that work together to send messages throughout the body to ensure that everything is in a constant state of balance. These three components are:
- Cannabinoid receptors
Unsurprisingly, the endocannabinoid system has its own messengers known as its endocannabinoids. “Endo” means internal; thus, endocannabinoids refers to cannabinoids produced in your own body. Phytocannabinoids, on the other hand, refers to cannabinoids produced by plants. At the moment, researchers have identified two key endocannabinoids:
- Anandamide (AEA): This endocannabinoid is crucial in regulating mood and other functions such as pain, memory, appetite, and reproduction.
- 2-ArachidonoylGlycerol (2-AG): While 2-AG binds to both types of receptors, it binds primarily to CB2 receptors. Thus, it is crucial in regulating immune function, specifically by reducing inflammation but more on that later.
By binding to CB1 receptors, it can also affect mood, reproduction, memory, pain, bone health, and sleep to an extent.
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body. Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids bind to these receptors, signaling the endocannabinoid system to take specific actions. The receptors pass on messages to a wide range of cell types.
There are two types of cannabinoid receptors discovered so far:
- CB1 Receptors: These receptors are primarily found in the brain and throughout the central nervous system. They play a crucial role in regulating your mood, memory, pain sensation, and motor function.
The CB1 receptors present in different areas of the body also have diverse roles to play. Their influence expands to the reproduction system, cardiovascular health, hormone production, and digestion.
- CB2 Receptors: These receptors are primarily present on immune cells. As you can tell, they play a crucial role in regulating inflammation and the body’s natural response to pathogens.
It is important to note that endocannabinoids are the only neurotransmitters that the body itself produces on-demand. They are not always present in the body but are typically released when needed. The body synthesizes them from fats as a result of the function of various enzymes. One of the main reasons your endocannabinoid system may become unbalanced is that it cannot produce enough endocannabinoids when required.
Certain enzymes are responsible for destroying the endocannabinoids once they have completed their function. The two enzymes responsible for this function are:
- Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH): This enzyme is responsible for degrading both endocannabinoids, anandamide, and 2-AG.
- Monoacylglycerol acid lipase (MAGL): This enzyme is responsible for degrading the endocannabinoid 2-AG.
However, it is essential to note that enzyme function can also cause an imbalance in your ECS. Due to some reason, these enzymes can get out of balance or may not function as expected. For instance, elevated levels of the enzyme FAAH can cause faster degradation of anandamide, leading to low mood and depression.
Signs of an Imbalanced ECS
When your ECS becomes unbalanced, it significantly limits your body’s ability to achieve homeostasis. As a result, this usually leads to a wide range of undesirable issues, including:
According to recent research, various diseases and illnesses do manifest due to an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system. So far, there are links between an imbalanced endocannabinoid system with
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
Further research is still required to precisely determine which diseases are due to an imbalanced endocannabinoid system and which conditions cause the endocannabinoid system to become unbalanced. However, it seems clear that plenty of illnesses point to an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system.
Contrary to what most people believe, stress is actually a good thing, but only when regulated. It is our evolutionary response to threats and danger. It is one of the critical things that help to keep us alive.
When the body is experiencing stress, it lowers the anandamide levels, which leads to increased anxiety levels. At the same time, it increases the levels of 2-AG, which activates your memory and reduces your perception of pain. This is what helps you to escape potentially dangerous situations and also helps you to avoid such problems in the future.
– Sleep Disorders
Research has found that the endocannabinoid system affects many brain and bodily functions that have an effect on your sleep quality. Anandamide and the phytocannabinoid THC play a role in regulating sleep patterns and increasing REM sleep through their effect on CB1 receptors.
Additionally, increasing the levels of anandamide and THC in the brain stimulates the production of adenosine. Adenosine is, by the way, a neurochemical that is responsible for inducing sleep and inhibiting arousal. Thus, an inability to produce adenosine due to an ECS imbalance will hurt your ability to fall asleep.
Natural Ways of Restoring Balance to your ECS
As mentioned, various factors can disrupt your endocannabinoid system, affecting your body’s ability to produce enough cannabinoids. Thus, causing your body to become unable to reach homeostasis. The lack of enough endocannabinoids or having an imbalanced ECS will end up causing an endocannabinoid deficiency.
Fortunately, there are various perfectly healthy and natural ways of restoring balance to your ECS.
Medicinal Cannabis and CBD Products
Arguably the best way to restore balance to your endocannabinoid system is through the use of cannabis. Cannabis helps to boost and restore balance to the ECS through the functions of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. Since these cannabinoids work in pretty much the same way as your body’s own endocannabinoids, they can supplement the insufficient endocannabinoids. This will help your ECS to function as expected and help your body achieve homeostasis.
An excellent and cheap way of increasing your endocannabinoid production is by increasing your physical activity. Regular exercise does indeed boost the production of anandamide, which is responsible for the blissful feeling experienced after it.
Taking a Diet Rich in Healthy Fats
While exercise stimulates the release of endocannabinoids, your diet plays a crucial role in the production and absorption of them. Remember, endocannabinoids are lipid-based. Thus, polyunsaturated fats, more specifically omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are highly beneficial to the endocannabinoid system.
According to research, omega-3 fatty acids help increase the expression of cannabinoid receptors in the body, specifically the CB1 receptors. Thus, with more CB1 receptors in the body, the higher the utilization of anandamide. Omega-6 fatty acids are also crucial in the production of the two main endocannabinoids.
However, you need to consume them in specified healthy ratios. The standard American diet has unusually higher ratios of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids, which is unhealthy. The recommended ratio is 1:1. Foods such as fish, hemp, walnuts, and pasture-raised eggs are rich in omega-3.
Apart from being crucial to your overall health, reducing your stress and levels, and ensuring that you are getting enough sleep are also important for restoring balance to your ECS.