If you have ever been a teenager, chances are likely that you are aware of the impact hormones can have on our environment … internally and externally … positive and negative!  Understanding the switch locks of the ECS are vital because every system in our body speaks a different “language”. 

The messages used to communicate are unique to each system.  The endocrine system uses hormones to communicate. The nervous system utilizes neurotransmitters. The messages used for communication in the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) are called cannabinoids.

In the first article of this series, we pointed out how important clear and proper communication is to maintain balance. If you are speaking Hebrew and I only know English … we are worlds apart and will have a hard time understanding anything that is being “said”. The ECS “speaks” in cannabinoids with the help of receptors, ligands, and enzymes. 

Like a key into a lock, the perfect fit can unlock a series of chemical messengers and reactions … but like Cinderella’s shoe, the key must fit perfectly for the “magic” to happen. Every system in our body speaks a different “language” and is basically set up with a variety of different “locks” and “keys”. 

Just as certain hormones bind to certain receptors and activate certain parts of your endocrine system, certain cannabinoids (messengers of the ECS) bind to certain receptors (called G protein-coupled receptors) on the outside of certain cells and activate the naturally balancing effects of the ECS. Want to know something pretty wild and powerful? These G-protein-coupled receptors of the ECS allow them to directly influence incoming signals. It functions as an “override” signal… !!! This is incredibly unique … and powerful!

With receptor sites located throughout your entire body, this vast interconnectedness within you is why you can find testimonials and studies on the benefits of cannabinoids on a variety of different health problems … maybe even all!? You don’t have to look far to find someone talking about improvements in their mood or sleep, or their ability to handle stress after starting to support their endocannabinoid system. Probably the biggest one that is rapidly sweeping across the nation is the effect that cannabinoids have on pain and physical discomfort!

The ECS has different receptors that do different things and are found in different areas of the body. I like to think of receptors as “switch locks” … the cell remains “locked” until the right “key” binds to the receptor to activate it.  Once the receptor is activated and that “door unlocks”, a “switch” is activated inside the cell that causes it to express or react in a certain way. 

For instance, take an endocannabinoid receptor involved in inflammation and bind an endocannabinoid to it … the cell is now activated to respond with an anti-inflammatory effect. 

I love this! It mandats why we need the Understanding the switch locks of the ECS play within us.

The potential within that cell is there … just waiting to be accessed.  Once that “switch lock” is activated … look out!  Cellular potential can now be expressed! Balance and homeostasis become the spotlight of that cell, tissue and organ again!!

So let’s talk about these different types of receptors so we can better understand how the right ECS support can support YOU. Since we are still in the discovery process of all this, we can’t exactly say we know it all. We do know there are at least two main types of these G-protein coupled receptors that mediate the ECS and are commonly referred to as CB1 and CB2. There are speculations of CB3 receptors but without more scientific data, we are going to keep our focus on the CB1 and CB2 receptors for now.

CB1 receptors are primarily located within BRAIN CELLS (specifically found in the cell membrane which is considered the “brain of the cell” by some scientists).  This may be why there is such a close link in how CB1 receptors assist in the regulation of cell proliferation, cell cycle control and cell death. This is something that is the spotlight of cancer, by the way …

CB1 receptors are also located in the spinal cord making connections throughout the entire central nervous system (CNS) and have also been located on other parts of the body like the liver, thyroid, adrenals and reproductive organs. With abundant expression in the brain, this connection explains how the ECS plays a direct role in memory and cognition, emotion, motor control, appetite stimulation, and perception of pain. This newly discovered link is also providing insight into the improvements being reported with ECS support on seizures, neurodegenerative diseases, and neuropsychological disorders.

While not as heavily populated, CB1 receptors are also in many other areas throughout the body and have been linked to participating in pregnancy, hormone production, digestion, and cardiovascular function. 

Interested in hearing more? We haven’t even touched on CB2 receptors yet!

CB2 receptors were initially identified in (macrophages of) the spleen and predominately populate the cells of the IMMUNE SYSTEM, gut, heart, and skin.  They are heavily associated with inflammatory-related tissues and mediates the anti-inflammatory effects found with proper ECS activation. This is why many people are seeking out ECS support for their overactive immune system (i.e. allergies, asthma, arthritis, autoimmunity and inflammatory bowel disease)!

Activation of cannabinoid receptors have been found to play an active role in many other processes … from neurological and inflammatory-related activities to fertility and embryonic development, cell motility and even gene transcription and on into overall survival.  It is becoming more and more clear that the purpose and function of these cannabinoid receptors, is broad and critical, vast and varied. 

Remember the primary role of the ECS is to create balance and homeostasis and to assist us in adapting to our ever-changing environment within and around us.  It is able to do this by its vast interconnectedness to all the other systems in your body and its unique retrograde approach to communication.  How powerful its potential is in regard to our health and well-being is positively mind-blowing! 

I hope this information helps with your understanding the switch locks of the ECS.  To take a deeper dive into the clinical studies used to support my ideas and concepts here, check these out from the National Institue of Health


Get to know Dr Lauren Benakovich DC, ICAK

?I was born and raised in my family’s health food store (Georgetown Market) in Indianapolis, IN. The seeds for optimal health were planted early on. As a child I was also raised with the hands-on healing art of chiropractic that blended beautifully into my roots. I continued growing into the field and became a chiropractor in 2007 (thank you Logan College of Chiropractic). 

Throughout the years I have taken a special interest in holistic care for young families … beginning my own family in 2013 with a fairly rough start launched me into the field of functional medicine to heal my son. I am now blessed with the opportunity to facilitate the growth of four children (Noah, Hunter, Kylie and Clara) with the help of many … especially my husband, Isaiah. 

I chose a long time ago to pursue a path where I could serve and inspire others in living a better life through safe and natural ways. I am humble enough to know that I do not have all the answers, but also have a passion for learning. As we continue to discover more about the endocannabinoid system, my hope is that our world can awaken to the amazing healing power and potential this will bring to all of us.