We now know that we have this unique and powerful system that is responsible for our survival and homeostasis. Thank you ECS!
We also know that the ECS has tiny “switch locks” all over our body, just waiting for a key to unlock its innate potential. How amazing!!
Now let’s find the keys to the kingdom …
Our amazing little bodies are hardwired to make our own cannabinoids, which are known as endocannabinoids (or endogenous cannabinoids if you want to be really fancy). These “cannabinoid keys” are quickly created and rapidly destroyed in response to our environment with a primary focus on maintaining balance and homeostasis.
If you have an increase in stress, the endocannabinoids attempt to de-stress. If you have an increase in pain, the endocannabinoids produce pain-relieving effects. If you have an increase in inflammation, the endocannabinoids can offer anti-inflammatory effects.
To date, we have extensively been studying primarily two endocannabinoids (that are both derivatives of arachidonic acid in case that matters to you …)
Nicknamed: “The Bliss Molecule”
Scientifically named: N-arachidonoyl-ethanolamine
“The Bliss Molecule” has links to appetite, memory, pregnancy, mood, and many more. Anandamide appears to be produced by all animals (including a couple types of parasites) and has also been found in truffles. Not the chocolate dessert treats but the underground fungus … weird, right!? Anandamide primarily binds to the CB1 receptors that are most abundantly found within the brain and spinal cord. This important connection with the central nervous system explains the link the ECS and cannabinoids play in seizures and other neurological condition and also for pain management.
Since our cannabinoids are rapidly made and quickly destroyed, they do not stay in the body for very long in high amounts. This is HUGE for people that are concerned with opioid and benzodiazepine use and why the right ECS support is offering people a much safer alternative to manage and control pain without the long list of terrible side effects that comes with pharmaceuticals.
Anandamide is broken down by the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) after it has “served its purpose”. Once endocannabinoids bind to their designated receptor, they activate the cell to do whatever it is intended to do, and then certain enzymes will break down the cannabinoid. The other cannabinoid we will review is 2-AG, which is mostly broken down by monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
Scientifically named: 2-arachidonol glycerol
2-AG is the most prevalent endocannabinoid in the human body. Chemically speaking, its structure is quite similar to anandamide but has effects on BOTH receptors, CB1 and CB2, and is different in many ways. Due to its high concentration and abundant expression in immune cells, it has been linked to have critical roles in healthy immune expression and in regulating the inflammatory response.
2-AG linked to the brain, liver and lungs is a major source of the building block (called arachidonic acid) that is needed to produce something called prostaglandins. Here’s what you need to take away from this …
Prostaglandins control things like inflammation (and therefore pain), blood flow, the formation of blood clots, the induction of labour and even protection from the extreme acidity of the stomach. In order for your body to produce these important hormone modulators, an ample supply of arachidonic acid is essential. 2-AG is a fantastic fueling source of this.
Research is showing that our endocannabinoids have been reported to regulate the expression of certain genes associated with certain conditions (like mitochondrial dysfunction). They’ve also been found to play a role in anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-metastatic effects. This is something that is the spotlight of cancer and if you do a PubMed search on “endocannabinoids and breast cancer”, you will find some interesting stuff. Open that search up to generally cover “endocannabinoids and cancer” and be amazed!
We’ll cover more on this later but it’s too profound and powerful to not mention right away. This explains why this newly found system in reference to what we know about the human body is booming with research and exploding with power!!
The building blocks of these important cannabinoid “keys” comes from the fat we intake from our diet (or don’t in the case of low-fat diets – more on that later). Endocannabinoids are “lipid-based neurotransmitters” …
this means they are molecules made from fats that act as messengers.
Here’s the kicker …
Your body is mostly made of water. We all know the story about oil and water, right? They don’t mix.
In order for cannabinoids to travel through your body and reach their targeted destination point, they have to be escorted by things called endocannabinoid transport proteins. Similar to how soap can disperse oil into water, these transport proteins help the cannabinoids flow smoothly through our many waterways.
ENVIRONMENT DRIVEN PRODUCTION
Since it plays a primary role in our survival and our ability to adapt to our environment, our ECS will manufacture cannabinoids in response to our environment, assuming we have the necessary raw materials available. They are created on demand in response to a number of different situations … when we are hungry, tired, stressed, exercising and even in pain. Endocannabinoids are also produced in response to SINGING and DANCING!
Go ahead … you can do a happy dance like I did when I heard this!
Exercise is not only a great way to manage stress in a healthy way, it also can increase levels of anandamide. In fact, scientists now believe the “runners high” to be associated with an increase in the production and absorption of endocannabinoids rather than endorphins!
On another note … and chiropractic advocates are going to LOVE this …
Research is uncovering deeper insight into why adjustments to our spines (or in the medical world are also referred to as “spinal manipulations”) offer natural pain-relieving effects, enhance nervous system function, and positively impact the immune system – ENDOCANNABINOIDS! In response to the environmental change that occurs internally following an adjustment, our body naturally releases endocannabinoids!!
In fact, one study found serum levels of anandamide increased 168% following treatment (and only 17% after a “sham treatment”). That’s a pretty big difference in my opinion! I sure hope you are still happy dancing with me!
Considering the standard American diet and our all-around stressed out way of life these days, it isn’t all that surprising that an imbalance of the ECS and a deficiency of our endocannabinoids now has a medical term – Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency. Yup, it is an actual “thing” now! Are you ready to keep going on this journey and navigate through what this fully means together?
Next week, we will unpack this “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency” in a practical, applicable way.