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Before we understand how CBD works, we need to understand how the endocannabinoid system functions.

Understanding The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990s as scientists were trying to figure out how cannabis produced its effects in the body. They found that endocannabinoids, and the receptors they bind to, exist throughout the body in the central nervous system, glands, immune cells, organs, and many different connective tissues. Understanding the Endocannabinoid system might revolutionize the way we view health and wellness. The endocannabinoid system permeates all the other systems in the body. The human body comprises eleven main physiological systems that work together to handle the many functions necessary to survive. Each system does something different within the body.

The Meta-System of the body

The endocannabinoid system is not one of these systems, but is rather a system within these systems. It’s a Meta-System. This one system aids in regulating almost every single aspect of our well being. In each part of the body, the endocannabinoid system performs different tasks, but it always has the same goal in mind: homeostasis and balance. Your ECS works to keep a stable internal environment as many changes and variations occur in the external environment.

The stronger your body’s ability to react to outside stimuli to reach a state of homeostasis, the better your health.

A study carried out in 2017 at the same APC Microbiome Institute mentioned above found that adding a particular strain of bacteria, could reduce anxiety and improve memory in patients. Other studies came to similar conclusions about the essential role of the microbiome in mental health. Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disease that affects a huge number of people. Most people that suffer from the condition experience severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation. Treatments that target the disease provide little to no benefit because the cause of the disease is unknown. Many doctors noticed that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome also suffered from anxiety and depression. Scientists wondered if these mental changes associated with IBS could be due to something within the gut bacteria of the patients.
A team of researchers at the University of Waterloo came up with a brilliant experiment to test this out.10 They gathered a group of patients with IBS that were exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression and got another group of patients that had IBS, but were not showing mental symptoms. They then transported some of the gut bacteria from each group of patients into two corresponding groups of mice. The mice that received the bacteria from the patients that had anxiety also exhibited signs of anxiety.

This finding lead scientists to conclude that the bacteria in your gut play a role in mental health.

How The Endocannabinoid System and The Gut work together

Endocannabinoid receptors exist throughout the gut and digestive system. The ECS plays an interesting role mediating hunger, metabolism, and the desire to eat. Stimulating the ECS results in increased hunger while blocking specific cannabinoid receptors can lead to a significant decrease in hunger.

Endocannabinoid tone and the ability of the ECS to function well can contribute to overall energy balance and body weight.

Improve your gut, improve your endocannabinoids

Studies show that the endocannabinoid system and the gut microbiome interlink. By taking probiotics, rats saw an increase in the number of endocannabinoids present in their gut. The same study discovered that this increase in endocannabinoids resulted in a decrease in abdominal pain.11 The endocannabinoid system is an important player in regulating inflammation in the gut and improving the gut-barrier function.12
By improving the gut-barrier function, using both the microbiome and the endocannabinoid system, it is possible to improve the metabolism of fat tissue, mental health, and the inflammation response within the gut. This is still an emerging field. While scientists have done many studies, it is difficult to come to full conclusions about how the endocannabinoid system interacts with the gut and the microbiome. It is almost certain, though, that these two systems work together. By impacting one, the other shows a response. By improving either the microbiome or the endocannabinoid system, the two systems both function better.

Endocrine System & the ECS

Did you know that the same system that keeps your blood sugar in check also regulates your energy levels and your libido? The endocrine system does all that and more, and the endocannabinoid system makes sure it functions at its best. The endocrine system is a collection of glands and organs responsible for regulating and controlling the hormones present in the body. Hormones aid in controlling many different bodily functions including growth, the repair of cells, reproduction, metabolism, sexual development, mood, and sexual function.

The endocannabinoid system is an essential part of maintaining the endocrine system by regulating the balance of energy and hunger.

The ECS also plays a role in many common endocrine disorders including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and other problems that take place in the endocrine system. When the ECS gets over or understimulated, many of these diseases can occur. The endocannabinoid system modulates various endocrine functions in the brain. The endocannabinoids themselves play a role in creating both oxytocin and vasopressin, two hormones essential to the way the endocrine system functions in the brain. 13 Multiple studies show that the ECS alters and changes the secretion of hormones and the processes involved in metabolism. The ECS also regulates some of the reproductive functions and stress responses. High or low levels of endocannabinoids alter the endocrine system and cause it to function worse.14

Immune System

By properly toning the endocannabinoid system, your immune function will improve, you’ll be less prone to infections, and you’ll be less likely to succumb to disease.

Healthy immune function starts with a properly toned endocannabinoid system. The ECS is intertwined through the immune system and plays a pivotal role in ensuring that you stay free from infection and autoimmune disorders. Immune cells have cannabinoid receptors, produce cannabinoids, and have a mechanism for breaking down cannabinoids after they’ve been used. The main role that the endocannabinoid system plays in the immune system is establishing immune homeostasis.15

Balancing The Immune System

A balanced immune system is neither too active or inactive. When your immune system becomes too active, it can attack your body’s own cells resulting in autoimmune diseases. When it is not active enough, you become susceptible to bacteria and viruses. There is a sweet spot in the middle of these two poles where the immune system is actively fighting invading foreign agents that can cause harm, eliminating damaged cells and not attacking cells that functioning properly. One of the main functions of the immune system is balancing inflammation and anti-inflammation. These two functions are important to creating a healthy, functioning person. When there is too much of either activity, serious diseases can occur. Most autoimmune diseases result from this imbalance. The endocannabinoid system’s role within the immune system is to help it get to this point of balance. Let’s take a look at what happens when the immune system gets out of balance so you can understand how essential the endocannabinoid system is to creating a state of health.

issues resulting from an inactive immune system

Your immune system can be too inactive. The result is many different maladies. Cancer is a perfect example. Everyone has cancer cells in their body at all times. In some cases and with certain types of cancer, cancer cells can proliferate throughout the body as a result of a weak immune system. When the immune system is strong, it can eliminate these cancer cells before they pose a threat to health.17 The immune system is the body’s main defense system against foreign invaders and infectious diseases. It fights infection and ensures cells in the body are operating in a healthy and proper way. Throughout day to day to life, you come into contact with enormous numbers of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that try to infiltrate your body. If you didn’t have an immune system, these bacteria would cause distress and sickness. When your immune system is working well, it attacks bacteria and viruses and prevents you from getting sick. If the immune system is not active enough, these bacteria and viruses can proliferate and cause sickness. The endocannabinoid system makes sure your immune system does not become too inactive. It is able to fight off invaders and also eliminate any diseased or cancerous cells.

How the ECS balances The Immune System

How the endocannabinoid system balances the immune system is a vast topic that comprises the different cells of the immune system and the ways in which they function. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors have a role in regulating the activity of a certain type of protein that is involved in the regulation of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell. This regulation is an important part in keeping the entire immune system in homeostasis.18 The stimulation of cannabinoid receptors within the immune system causes a series of regulations and modulations to take place along cAMP pathways. These pathways are responsible for many different types of communications that take place throughout the immune system. They are thought to play a significant role in the regulation and creation of immune homeostasis. The ways in which the endocannabinoid system and immune system function together has not been fully defined at the moment. It appears that the cannabinoid receptors in the immune system exhibit varying responses. One of the main roles that the endocannabinoid system appears to play in the immune system is signalling for the inhibition in activity across different types of cells which prevents the immune system from being activated when it should not be. However, while the ECS can inhibit activity, it has a certain threshold that can be overcome if the threat to the body is severe enough which allows the immune system to respond when a serious threat like an infection occurs. The endocannabinoid receptors in the immune system can exhibit two different types of effects: They can stimulate the immune system, or suppress it. With the combination of both stimulatory and inhibitory potentials, the endocannabinoid system allows for the establishment of homeostasis by preventing the immune system from becoming overly active or not active enough. The numerous and complex ways in which the endocannabinoid system exists and functions within the body hold tremendous potential for new discoveries in health and medicine. Now that you have an understanding of how these systems intermingle together, it’s time to learn about some of the ways that the endocannabinoid system can be boosted and supported naturally.