The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological grid that features connectors that seem to be critical in vital bodily structures. The complex cell-signaling system was discovered in the early 1990s when researchers were exploring THC, a cannabis compound, and how it works in the body.
According to experts, the ECS is active and exists in the body naturally. It covers every substantial part of the human body. That’s why endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome has a severe potential in causing a wide range of effects in the body. However, taking cannabis-based products such as CBD can help to support the functions of this system.
The complexity of this system arises because it contains multiple dimensions. It’s known as the retrograde system functioning in pre-and post-synapse. This specialty makes it the “master” regulator in the body. It also has a significant influence on the levels of cannabinoid receptors.
So, how exactly does the endocannabinoid system function? Besides that, what are the major components of its structure, and what are its main functions? Well, this is an endocannabinoid system 101 article that offers a comprehensive overview.
How Does it Work?
The endocannabinoid system works typically based on the following three main components:
- The Endocannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoids)
- Endocannabinoid receptors
These are molecules that are naturally made by the body. Endocannabinoids are similar to cannabinoids, only that they are found in the body.
To ensure that you function optimally, two types of endocannabinoids support homeostasis; 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA). Unfortunately, the body has to produce them as they are needed adequately, which means that it’s typically difficult to determine their levels.
The Endocannabinoid Receptors
They usually are found throughout your body. So naturally, the endocannabinoids usually bind to these receptors to signal the endocannabinoid system to initiate a response.
Just like the endocannabinoids, there are two types of receptors, and they include:
- CB1 receptors: they are found mainly within the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors: they are found mainly in the peripheral nervous system, mainly in the immune cells.
The endocannabinoids can bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptor. This means that the effects attained will depend on the receptor and its location. Take a look at this; if the endocannabinoids bind the CB1 receptors, they might help relieve pain, such as spinal nerve pain.
Once the endocannabinoids have finished their functions, then the enzymes will break them down. The main enzymes that are responsible for this function include the monoacylglycerol acid lipase. It’s known to break down 2-AG. Meanwhile, fatty acid amide hydrolase enzymes usually break down AEA.
The Endocannabinoid System Structure and Function
This biological system consists of the endocannabinoids and the cannabinoid receptor proteins. Endocannabinoids are endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that usually bind to the cannabinoid receptors. Meanwhile, the cannabinoid receptor proteins are naturally expressed throughout the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
In broad terms, the structure of the endocannabinoid system consists of:
- The endocannabinoids are featuring endogenous arachidonate-based lipids, anandamide, and 2-AG.
- Enzymes that synthesize and degrade the endocannabinoids, including monoacylglycerol lipase and fatty acid amide hydrolase
- The cannabinoid receptors, including CB1 and CB2 receptors
Due to its complicated structure, experts haven’t fully established all the functions of the endocannabinoid system. However, several research studies have linked the endocannabinoid system with the following functions:
- Appetite and digestion
- Chronic pain
- Mood regulation
- Learning and memory
- Motor control
- Sleep regulation
- Liver function
- Muscle formation
- Bone remodeling and growth
- Reproductive system function
- Skin and nerve function
- Cardiovascular system function
Research studies indicate that the cannabis plant has two prevalent phytocannabinoids that usually target the CB receptor. This includes tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active phytocannabinoid that usually targets the CB1 receptors.
The second phytocannabinoid is the terpene, and it selectively targets the CB2 receptors. When you ingest a cannabis-based product, these two phytocannabinoid will end up mimicking the functions of the endocannabinoids.
However, there is still a need for more research studies since it’s still tricky to access the amount of the CB receptors that the phytocannabinoid stimulates. The amount of phytocannabinoid that enters the bloodstream is also challenging to estimate. The only thing that researchers are currently sure of is that the body usually recognizes these two phytocannabinoids as endocannabinoids. As a result, they cause mass stimulation to the ECS.
The endocannabinoid system runs throughout the body. You can also find it in the adipose tissue; hence it plays quite a significant role in the process of glucose uptake, adipogenesis, and lipogenesis. The CB1 receptor usually stimulates all these processes.
What makes cannabinoids different is that they are rapidly synthesized and broken down as soon as used. This means that they create fewer long-term side effects. These endocannabinoids are usually broken down by the fatty amide acid hydrolase and monoacylglycerol lipase.
How Does THC Interact with ECS?
THC is one of the most prevalent and active compounds found in the cannabis plant. It’s psychoactive; hence it’s renowned for giving users the “high” feeling.
THC functions typically just like the endocannabinoids. It interacts with the ECS by binding itself to the receptors. That’s why some people usually use it to stimulate their appetite and reduce pain. However, it would help if you exercise caution when using THC. This is because it has a high potential in leading to the development of anxiety and paranoia.
Note: For medicinal purposes, THC is normally used alongside CBD, but only in trace amounts, i.e., less than 0.3%.
How Does CBD Interact with the ECS?
This is another type of cannabinoid that’s found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive; hence it doesn’t produce the “high” effect or changes the mind’s functions.
Until now, researchers aren’t sure how CBD interacts with the ECS. One clear thing is that this compound doesn’t bind itself to the CB1 and CB2 receptors the way the THC compound does. It’s believed that, instead, it works by preventing the breakdown of the endocannabinoids. Thus, the compound has an enhanced way of influencing the way the body functions.
Even though there is still a need for more research studies to determine how CBD works, preliminary reports indicate that it’s effective in treating:
- Anxiety and depression, etc.
ECS and Mental Health
Research studies done on human beings indicate that the endocannabinoid system is critical for mental health functions. It plays a critical role in regulating cognitive function and emotional homeostasis.
This means that the deregulation of various elements that form part of the ECS can lead to mental health disorders.
Note: Endocannabinoid system trauma has also been linked to psychosis as it usually results in mental instability.
What About Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
Some researchers believe that low levels of endocannabinoids in the body can complicate your health and develop specific health issues.
According to research experts, endocannabinoid deficiency can occur as a result of congenital or genetic disorders. Alternatively, other studies link it to intercurrent diseases or injuries that develop pathophysiological syndromes with specific symptomatology.
Studies have established that endocannabinoid deficiency can occur in the following four ways:
- Inadequate cannabinoid receptors: it means that the body doesn’t have enough connectors that the endocannabinoids can use to attach themselves. It’s worth noting that signals won’t be transmitted to the designated area when there are inadequate connectors.
- Synthesizing short endocannabinoids: if your body isn’t making the 2-AG and AEA cannabinoid compounds incorrectly, the incomplete or deformed molecules won’t be ideal for use with receptors.
- Oversupply of metabolic enzymes: the body can only function when everything is normal. So, if there is excess production of the MAGL and FAAH enzymes that generally break down the endocannabinoids, this can result in an endocannabinoid deficiency. This is because the excess enzymes will break the endocannabinoids too soon before they can even bind to the relevant receptors.
- Poor communication between cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids: if the endocannabinoids and cannabinoids can’t exchange information properly, this will result in improper signaling, leading to a deficiency.
Signs of Endocannabinoid Deficiency
The quantity of endocannabinoids in the body usually changes during signal transmission. This means that they can increase or decrease the quantity of the available cannabinoid receptors in the body. The fluctuations can, consequentially, restrict how the body reaches homeostasis. This has a high potential in leading to complications.
The two primary signs of endocannabinoid deficiency include:
You have heard about the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and CBD. Additionally, there is a direct link between CBD and stress.
So, stress could be potentially one of the factors leading to the development of endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. This mainly occurs when the body has a lasting heightened stress response, resulting in unwanted harmful effects.
It should be noted that when you are in a stressful situation, the body usually reduces the levels of anandamide endocannabinoid.
One of the functions of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate sleep and promotes a good night’s sleep. Well, this process is usually facilitated by the CB1 receptors that stimulate the natural sleep pattern.
If there is an increase in the amount of anandamide endocannabinoid in the brain, then the amount of adenosine will increase. Adenosine is a natural chemical compound that promotes arousal and affects sleep. In this case, the body will end up experiencing an imbalance, resulting in sleep deprivation.
How to Maintain the Regularity of the Endocannabinoid System
Endocannabinoid deficiency has significant health effects. Therefore, you must constantly find a way to balance or boost them. One way of naturally doing this is using an organic product such as CBD.
However, the effects of CBD can only be positive if you are utilizing a complimentary healthy lifestyle. To do so, your everyday life should consist of:
- Working out
- Analyzing your family history
You need to engage in physical activities at least three times weekly. An active lifestyle helps to improve the functions of the ECS considerably, unlike a sedentary lifestyle.
However, make sure that you don’t engage in intense workout activities. For starters, you should consider low-impact aerobics before gradually implementing new workout routines.
You need to ensure that you get sufficient rest because physical and mental stress can significantly reduce the endocannabinoid levels in the body.
Make sure that you implement a healthy lifestyle plan by ensuring that you rest when you are tired. Besides that, your sleep routine should have around 8 hours of stress. Lastly, you must find ways to destress often. For enhanced results, you can use CBD-based bath bombs and CBD with melatonin.
Analyzing Your Family History
Like its stated above, one of the leading causes of endocannabinoid deficiency is genetics. In case you have serious concerns about your family history, then you should check it up. You probably have an underlying hereditary issue that could be the cause of endocannabinoid system deficiency. Once you are aware of these harmful factors, you can find an effective solution to help you manage your condition.
The Bottom Line
The endocannabinoid system is an essential biological grid that helps to promote homeostasis. The fact that it appears in every significant bodily structure means that it’s crucial for the optimal function of various processes in the body.
Whether it’s regulating metabolism, moods, sleep patterns, motor control, or digestion, you can rely on this system. However, you might be affected by endocannabinoid deficiency that could contribute to the development of other medical conditions.
To ensure that you lead a healthy life, exercise, watch your diet and analyze your family history. Besides that, you can incorporate CBD into your wellness regimen. This organic cannabis compound usually interacts with the endocannabinoid system to enhance its effectiveness.