You likely already know the importance of balance. You’ve probably heard on more than one occasion that you need to find a balance between work and play or healthy foods with junk foods. The one area that often gets overlooked is the endocannabinoid system. Balance here is just as critical as balance in all other aspects of your life.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network in your body comprised of specialized lipids, receptors, and enzymes. Its job is to maintain your internal homeostasis by controlling a wide variety of different health factors such as appetite, inflammatory response, stress, and more.
The cannabinoid receptors are specialized receptors that lie on the surface of cell membranes. They receive endocannabinoids and cannabinoids, binding to them.
There are two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2:
- CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and nerves of the spine, and moderate mood, memory, and pain.
- CB2 receptors exist mainly in the immune system and digestive system, and they help to moderate inflammation.
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoid-like molecules that your body naturally creates on-demand. They bind with and activate the cannabinoid receptors. There are two main types, anandamide, and 2-AG.
ECS enzymes are specialized enzymes that break down endocannabinoids once the ECS is balanced, preventing the molecules from going too far and throwing your system out of balance again.
Cannabinoids and Your ECS
Cannabis cannabinoids also bind with and activate the receptors in your ECS. The effects are slightly different, though. For instance, THC gets you high, but naturally created endocannabinoids don’t. THC binds with and activates CB1 receptors, but doesn’t interact in the same way as endocannabinoids. The enzymes that break down endocannabinoids don’t work on THC, which means the cannabinoid remains bonded to the receptors longer. Cannabinoids also interact with other receptors in addition to activating CB receptors, which results in distinct effects.
What Does It Mean to Have a Balanced Endocannabinoid System?
Balance in your ECS refers to the activity of CB1 versus CB2 receptors. You don’t want an even 50/50 split, though. A balanced ECS requires slightly more CB2 than CB1 levels. Those with high CB1 activity often suffer stress, anxiety, nausea, and pain. An overabundance of CB2 activity, on the other hand, can lead to decreased wound healing and poor immune health.
When you have slightly higher levels of CB2 activity as compared to CB1, you’re more likely to experience positive effects, such as faster wound healing, decreased inflammation, healthier insulin levels, and more energy. Lower levels of CB1 activity can help to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
While you want more CB2 than CB1 activity, some CB1 activity is still crucial for balance. Too little CB1 can lead to issues such as depression, decreased immune function, and infertility. The right levels of CB1 in the body can help to protect you against stress and depression.
Finding the right balance in your endocannabinoid system is a delicate process. Doing so, however, can lead to a healthier life.