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What happens when your Endocannabinoid System is out of Balance?

We all know, even if sometimes we pretend we don’t, the fact that our health is the most important thing in our lives. Our health and maintaining balance within our bodies and minds is something we don’t always focus on until we have to- when we get sick. 

That’s where the endocannabinoid system (ECS) comes into play, the ECS is part of the human body’s regulatory system and is as important to the body as the nervous and digestive systems. The ECS was first discovered in the 1990s, which is why we are still trying to fully understand the biological system and its functions. What we do know, currently, is that it regulates physiological functions such as:

● Stress levels
● Appetite
● Liver function
● Mood
● Sleep
● Reproductive system function
● Skin and nerve function

All of these functions add to the balance of the body’s internal environment. An example of this is that if you are injured or suffering from a fever, this will disrupt your body’s homeostasis, this is where your ECS steps in to assist your body in returning back to its ideal internal balance. Until this balance is returned to your body, the different systems are overcompensating for the unbalance, which leaves the body vulnerable. 

But how do we recognise that our body’s homeostasis is disrupted, and therefore the ECS is overcompensating? Well, first we have to understand what the ECS is made up of, and that is of three key pieces: endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes.

● Endocannabinoids
The human body produces endocannabinoids naturally when the body needs them to help keep the internal balance. Two cannabinoids that have been discovered so far are; anandamide (AEA), and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

● Receptors
Receptors can be found throughout the body, and are what endocannabinoids bind to in order to make the ECS aware that it needs to take action. There are also two main receptors; CB1- which are usually found within the body’s central nervous system, and CB2- which are usually found within immune cells.

● Enzymes
The enzymes are responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoids after they have completed their designed function. The two main enzymes responsible for this break down are; fatty acid amide hydrolase, and monoacylglycerol acid lipase.

The body’s transmitters can vary in quantity, which means the available receptors can also vary- increasing or decreasing. When this fluctuation happens, it is possible that it will limit the body’s ability to naturally find balance, which can then result in numerous issues, such as; stress, bad sleep, and illness. 

It is not clear what diseases can be caused by an imbalance of the ECS, as well as what types of diseases result in the ECS becoming unbalanced, that is why scientists are continuing to carry out research into this. A current theory is that it could be a bit of both, although what is clear is that a lot of diseases can indicate that there is an impairment within your ECS. 

Your body’s natural balanced state is when it is in homeostasis, this balance is crucial for our health and survival, as when the ECS is not working how it should, it can result in numerous issues. The ECS is activated to focus on only what it needs to, assisting in getting our body’s back to homeostasis. For example, if your reproductive hormones are out of balance, then the ECS will manage them without affecting the digestive or immune systems. And once they have completed their action to balance the system, the enzymes will then break them down and stop them from tipping the balance themselves.

It is evident that the ECS is a huge player when it comes to our health and functioning of our bodies. Therefore it is essential that we assist our ECS in balancing our bodies and preventing any potential illnesses, anyway we can.