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How To Balance Your Endocannabinoid System

How To Balance Your Endocannabinoid System

There are many things we can do to maintain the health of different bodily systems. Meditation and adequate sleep help keep the nervous system in check; the right amount of exercise strengthens the musculoskeletal system; healthy foods and beneficial bacteria contribute to a healthy digestive system… These strategies are common knowledge. However, we rarely consider what we can do to keep our endocannabinoid system (ECS) healthy. In fact, many people have never even heard of this important physiological network. Continue reading to discover the importance of the endocannabinoid system and how to keep it functioning optimally.

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system is composed of receptor sites found all throughout the body. The system plays a governing role over many other biological systems, and it helps to maintain homeostasis—a state of optimal biological balance. Not exclusive to humans, the endocannabinoid system has played an important evolutionary role in many creatures. The endocannabinoid system features three main components: cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and specialised enzymes. The two main receptor types—CB1 and CB2—are found on different cell types throughout the body. They appear in the immune system, nervous system, muscles, skin, bones, brain, and even the cardiovascular system. Internally produced endocannabinoids activate these receptor sites, specifically anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG. Cells make these molecules on demand from fat-based precursors. They act as signalling molecules and bind to their receptors much like a key fits into a lock. Both endocannabinoids play important roles in learning, sleep, bone remodelling, neuroprotection, pain signalling, and cardiac protection.

Endocannabinoid tone

As you can see, endocannabinoids play a vital role within the endocannabinoid system. They are required by the body to activate cannabinoid receptors, at the right time, to keep things in balance. For instance, endocannabinoid signalling appears to play an important role in anxiety and depression. Endocannabinoids also help to balance out the construction and deconstruction of bone tissue. Because they play such an important role, the body needs to produce adequate levels of endocannabinoids. Some health issues may arise when the body, for whatever reason, does not produce enough of these molecules—a condition known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. Researchers have discovered a correlation between low levels of endocannabinoids and conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome. The same researchers state that each person possesses a certain endocannabinoid tone that reflects their levels of AEA and 2-AG. If tone decreases, it may lead to disturbances in mood, sleep, digestion, and more. However, they also mention that excessive endocannabinoid tone might be harmful, implicating it in instances of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and hepatic fibrosis.

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