Understanding the endocannabinoid system pt2 1

Understanding the Endocannabinoid System.
An Intro to the ECS – Part 2

By Amy Stevenson

In part one of the ECS intro blog we looked at what the system was, and how all the different elements make it up as a whole. In this post, we’re breaking it down even more, and will explore how the Endocannabinoid System works, and it’s function, role, and purpose.

 

Previously we mentioned the Endocannabinoid System helps to maintain health and wellness, and while it does so in numerous ways, its primary purpose is to help manage homeostasis.

 

Homeostasis refers to the stability and balance of our physiological and cognitive functions in response to fluctuations – created internally or externally – that would cause our bodies to behave or perform differently than usual.

Let’s use our imaginations for just a second, while we picture a gauge, with one half being green and the other red.

The human body actively regulates biological systems within itself to maintain a confined range of optimum conditions consistently, even while sleeping or lounging around. In this imaginary scenario, the green half represents some form of deficiency, like being “too cold” or having “low blood sugar”, while the red half is telling you (and your body) you have too much of something, like “too hot” or “high blood sugar.”

In between those two halves, picture a quarter-sized neutral area with the indicator swaying back and forth only within that small section – not crossing into the blue or red. That’s homeostasis! 

Understanding the endocannabinoid system pt2 2

 

Typically, we maintain homeostasis through negative feedback methods, meaning only when something changes does the body begin to correct itself, and importantly, the Endocannabinoid System plays an essential role in that correction.

The Endocannabinoid System serves as a significant molecular network for helping the body sustain homeostasis. The ECS becomes used only when and where it is required, because its role is to keep all other systems functioning within the optimal range.

 

For example, our neurons, or brain cells, speak with each other by firing electrochemical signals to one another. Every neuron has to be aware of the one currently speaking, so they know when to fire their own signal. When messages are going off one after the other safely, that’s the optimal range of their function.

 

However, if too many signals are being sent at once, the neuron that’s receiving all those transmissions will synthesize Endocannabinoids, where it’s connected to the hyper neuron.

Understanding the endocannabinoid system pt2 3

Endocannabinoids make their way to the overacting neuron and attach to its CB1 receptors (see part 1 if you need a refresher) and send their signals to calm that neuron down, and ultimately return everything to optimal range and back maintaining homeostasis.

 

Other biological systems similarly work when trying to return to their optimal range of functioning, like when our immune system uses inflammation as a response mechanism to physical damage or infection, and immune cells and fluids flow to the injured site and getting things back to how it used to be.

 

Endocannabinoids make their way to the overacting neuron and attach to its CB1 receptors (see part 1 if you need a refresher) and send their signals to calm that neuron down, and ultimately return everything to optimal range and back maintaining homeostasis.

 

Other biological systems similarly work when trying to return to their optimal range of functioning, like when our immune system uses inflammation as a response mechanism to physical damage or infection, and immune cells and fluids flow to the injured site and getting things back to how it used to be.

 

The Endocannabinoid System and your body – A recap

 

Overall, the ECS is a fundamental structure made up of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, and metabolic enzymes, and does a significant amount of work to stabilize our bodily functions. It’s all these pieces working together to help maintain homeostasis.

 

The ECS uses endogenous cannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, to help regulate the functions of neurons, immune cells, and other tissue and organ systems. And remember, Phytocannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, can also affect the ECS by attaching to either its CB1 or CB2 receptors, or sometimes, both.

 

Essentially, the role of the ECS is to make sure our systems and cells function in an optimal range, but only used when and where its effects are required. Even though the ECS and its mechanisms were discovered relatively recently, its existence has been traced back to hundreds of millions of years ago with the earliest vertebrates.

 

The identification and isolation of THC molecules opened the first of many doors to exploring cannabis and how it interacts with the body. This discovery ultimately led scientists to uncover cannabinoid receptors and the Endocannabinoids that react to them.

 

As the scientific community continues with their research in this field, there’s potential to pinpoint whether a deficiency of endocannabinoids could be the underlying cause of some severe health and wellness issues. If ever discovered.

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