Most people have heard at least a little about CBD oil and its many potential health benefits, but how and why CBD can be so beneficial leads us to understand more about a system within the body that already exists regardless of CBD usage-the Endocannabinoid System.
What is the Endocannabinoid system (ECS)?
The endocannabinoid system is a cell signalling system composed of three core components – endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. The ECS plays a role in regulating a variety of functions and processes including:
These functions all contribute to homeostasis, which refers to stability of your internal environment. For example, if an outside force, such as pain from an injury or a fever, affects your body’s homeostasis, your ECS kicks in to help your body return to its stable environment.
How does the ECS work?
Endocannabinoids are molecules made by your body that are similar to Cannabinoids. Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:
- anandamide (AEA)
- 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).
They help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.
There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells.
Endocannabinoids can bind to either of them, signalling that the ECS needs to take action. For instance, they might bind to CB1 receptors to relieve pain. Others might bind to a CB2 receptor to signal that your body is experiencing inflammation.
CBD doesn’t directly trigger either of these receptors. Instead, it modifies the receptors’ ability to bind to cannabinoids. Additionally, CBD plays a larger role in the endocannabinoid system: influencing other types of receptors, while also enhancing your natural levels of endocannabinoids by occupying certain enzymes.
Enzymes are responsible for the synthesis and breaking down of the endocannabinoids. Your body has a number of different enzymes that work together to transform fatty substances into anandamide and 2-AG. When your body gets the signal to produce endocannabinoids, these enzymes are put to work.
One recent realisation has been that the ECS is very easy to throw out of balance. Diet, exercise and stress all play a huge role in influencing your body’s ECS, so a holistic approach to keeping them balanced is needed.
Here are a few useful tips for how to boost your ECS in healthy and natural ways:
It’s well known that getting enough exercise can help you sleep better, but adequate exercise can also increase levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid that is believed to promote happiness. In fact, some think the “runner’s high” phenomena is actually due to an increase in the production and absorption of endocannabinoids, rather than endorphins.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
Repeated alcohol consumption can desensitize and weaken CB1 receptor function in the brain region. So for optimal health and endocannabinoid function, use moderation when drinking alcohol.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3’s are the building blocks for CB1 receptor formation, so consuming the proper amount of Omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish and flaxseed, and in dietary supplements, such as fish oil, as well as in the hemp plant!
- Reduce Stress
Stress can slow the growth and repair of new endocannabinoid receptors. High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone can impede the functioning of CB1 receptors. Finding healthy ways to manage stress can be hugely beneficial to boosting your ECS.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin olive oil has numerous health benefits, particularly because of its strong anti-inflammatory effects with oleic acid – oleic acid reduces blood pressure, increases fat burning to help with weight loss, protects cells from free radical damage, may prevent type 2 diabetes, prevents ulcerative colitis and generates brain myelin and protective antioxidants polyphenols.
Tea contains catechins, which are antioxidant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotecti effects. Researchers have found that catechins in tea target and bind to cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system.
CBD is the second most common cannabinoid found in cannabis, with THC being the most common. CBD is non-intoxicating, although it also interacts with endogenous cannabinoid receptors in a way that is still being researched. CBD is often used by those seeking medicinal benefits from the cannabis plant, and many experience relief from conditions theorized to be caused by endocannabinoid deficiency, such as fibromyalgia, migraine and IBS. It has also been shown to upregulate CB1 receptors.