Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord.
It starts when the immune system attacks the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves.
This affects how the brain communicates with the rest of the body resulting in different symptoms from person to person.
For some people, it can cause disability; for others, it remains relatively mild.
According to the MS Society, there are more than 130,000 people currently diagnosed with MS in the UK.
It can start at any age, although it's most often first identified between the ages of 20 and 40. It's also significantly more common in women than men.
The number of symptoms and their intensity depends on where the nerve damage occurs and how severe it is. The most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis are:
- Excessive tiredness
- Problems with eyes and eyesight
- Muscle spasms
- Stiff muscles
- Weak muscles
- Poor mobility
- Chronic pain
- Difficulty thinking clearly, learning and planning
There isn't a complete understanding of why some people develop multiple sclerosis, but it's thought to be a combination of genetics and environmental pressures.
Factors that increase the risk of MS include:
- Being related to someone with MS
- Low levels of vitamin D
- Being overweight from a young age
- Certain viruses
- Being female
Several treatments are available for MS, including medication and therapies to target specific symptoms; however, there is currently no cure.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in plants of the cannabis genus.
It's non-intoxicating and is extracted from hemp to be used as a food supplement.
The CBD extract is combined with other beneficial ingredients to make a range of products, including oils, capsules, e-liquids or gummies.
When you consume CBD, it enters your cells and tissues and interacts with various chemical messenger molecules, enzymes and receptors. These interactions support your body's ability to restore your body systems to a state of healthy balance.
Learn more about CBD with our guide: CBD 101 – Everything you need to know
CBD and Your Endocannabinoid Tone
CBD works in your body in many different ways, but one of the most vital interactions is how it stimulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and raises your endocannabinoid tone:
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system is a collection of signal molecules (endocannabinoids), receptors and enzymes.
It's active throughout the body, particularly in the central and peripheral nervous systems.
When the ECS is activated, it makes tiny chemical adjustments that enhance the signalling capacity of cells within your body.
This allows your body systems to communicate effectively and quickly restore a healthy balance following damage or illness.
What is your endocannabinoid tone?
Endocannabinoid tone refers to the level of potential endocannabinoid activity in your body and the ability of your endocannabinoid system to respond to any problems.
This can be affected by a range of factors, including genetics, diet, stress and disease.
If your endocannabinoid tone is low, your endocannabinoid system is unlikely to be able to restore your body systems to a state of healthy balance. As a result, you may feel unwell or experience symptoms related to anxiety.
Regular consumption of CBD can stimulate the action of your endocannabinoid system (ECS) and raise your tone.
To learn more about how CBD raises your endocannabinoid tone, you can read our article: Endocannabinoid Tone and CBD.
CB1 and CB2 – These are the most common endocannabinoid receptors.
- CB1 is found in the central nervous system.
- CB2 is present in the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system and in immune cells throughout the body.
Anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) – These are endocannabinoid signalling molecules present in humans and animals. They can interact with a range of chemical receptors, including CB1 and CB2.
Endocannabinoid Tone and Multiple Sclerosis
MS first begins in the central nervous system when immune cells attack the fatty insulation around nerve fibres called the myelin sheath.
This attack creates inflammation and draws in more immune cells.
Eventually, the nerve fibres are damaged, which prevents the brain's electrical signals from being transmitted correctly.
For most people with MS, the symptoms will come and go in a pattern of relapsing and remitting.
However, in most cases, the relapses will worsen until they reach the secondary progressive stage in which there are no periods of remission.
Most nerve damage created during the onset of MS is caused by inflammation in the affected areas.
When designing treatment for MS, doctors try to control the immune system's actions to reduce inflammation and protect the nerve cells.
Scientists who investigated the endocannabinoid system of people with MS discovered that it might be able to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system and improve patient outcomes.
Studies have found that when endocannabinoid tone is raised in patients with MS, inflammation is reduced, disease outcomes are improved, and motor symptoms are reduced by decreasing inflammation of the nervous system.
Endocannabinoids Reduce Inflammation and Restore Balance
The current research presents strong evidence that the endocannabinoid system is crucial to maintaining a healthy balance (homeostasis) in the central nervous system where MS-related nerve damage occurs. This is due to the activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Although it is clear that people with a balanced or high endocannabinoid tone are better able to reduce MS symptoms and possibly prevent MS altogether, each receptor's exact role in this process is not yet clear.
The present understanding is that activation of both receptors contributes to a multilevel protective mechanism to reduce inflammation and prevent the immune system from causing damage to nerve cells.
Endocannabinoids control the immune response and reduce inflammation through five main actions:
- Promoting the death of the T-cells in the affected areas.
- Activating microglia and macrophages to restore a balanced state in the central nervous system.
- Stopping adhesion molecules from being created. Adhesion molecules usually draw inflammatory cells to the site of inflammation.
- Preventing the number of T-cells from growing in affected areas.
- Inhibiting the cytokines that promote inflammation and increasing the number of cytokines that prevent inflammation.
Cannabinoids and your endocannabinoid system are vital to regulating the health of our body's biological systems.
Exercise and diet play a huge role in determining the tone of your endocannabinoid system.
Exercise and a good diet help to increase endocannabinoid activity which in turn regulates and maintains your health.
Plant cannabinoids such as CBD will also interact with your endocannabinoid system to change it's tone.