Numerous studies, journal articles, and media reports suggest that CBD and the endocannabinoid system play key roles in promoting homeostasis- but what exactly is homeostasis, and what does the endocannabinoid system have to do with it?
WHAT IS HOMEOSTASIS?
Homeostasis is a term used to describe the process of maintaining internal balance in an ever-changing external environment. In humans, homeostasis refers to a plethora of individual yet interdependent processes that ultimately keep our bodies functioning properly.
The conditions within our bodies can fluctuate in response to a variety of external factors. Think about how things like temperature, stress, or even the food you eat can temporarily affect how your body works.
The heat on a particularly hot day, for example, might cause your blood pressure to drop and leave you feeling light-headed, fatigued, or nauseous. On the other hand, the stress of preparing for a work presentation or studying for an exam might cause your blood pressure to rise, leaving you feeling anxious or dealing with headaches and other physical symptoms.
These are just some examples of how the internal conditions of your body can fluctuate in response to the ever-changing conditions of the external environment. Luckily, your body has inbuilt response mechanisms to deal with these changes and get back to functioning properly as quickly as possible.
These different mechanisms all play important roles in helping our body achieve and maintain homeostasis. And while the individual homeostatic processes in your body vary, they are all made up of 3 essential components:
– Receptors responsible for sensing external changes.
– A Control Center that decides on how to respond to these changes.
– Effectors which carry out the relevant response.
To better understand how our body responds to external changes, let’s think about how it regulates our internal body temperature.
In this example, the control center is the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which helps our bodies detect changes in temperature and respond to them accordingly to maintain an optimal internal temperature.
In some ways, the hypothalamus works like a thermostat. Using receptors found both on the skin and internal structures within the body, the hypothalamus is able to sense any changes in temperature and respond to them accordingly. When temperatures rise, our body starts to promote heat loss in order to keep its internal temperature at around 37°C (98.6°F). When temperatures drop, on the other hand, our body reduces heat loss.
Thermoregulation is just 1 example of a homeostatic process that constantly takes place in our body. Body fluid composition, blood sugar, and blood pressure are some other processes involved in keeping our body operating at its best.
HOMEOSTASIS AND THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
The endocannabinoid system (or ECS) is a complex physiological system present in all mammals. Recent research has highlighted the complexity of the endocannabinoid system and suggests it is involved in managing various homeostatic processes.
There is a solid body of research exploring the role of the endocannabinoid system. Up until now, studies show that it is involved in managing pain, inflammation, immune response, appetite, metabolism, memory, mood and emotion, and much more.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of 3 main components:
1. Cannabinoid receptors (such as CB1 and CB2), which are found in various sites around the brain and body, as well as in specific cells of the immune system.
2. Endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG which are produced in the brain and bind to either of the 2 cannabinoid receptors.
3. Metabolic enzymes that break up endocannabinoids after they’ve been used. The two main enzymes in the endocannabinoid system ar FAAH, which breaks down anandamide, and MAGL, which breaks down 2-AG
Unlike other molecules in the body, anandamide and 2-AG are synthesized and used when they’re needed, not produced and stored to be used later.
The growing body of research on the endocannabinoid system suggests that the endocannabinoid system switches into gear when it senses certain imbalances in the body, and then switches back off once order has been restored to the system.
Below we’ll look at some specific examples of how the endocannabinoid system can help regulate various bodily processes and promote homeostasis:
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM REGULATES METABOLISM
By stimulating key receptors in areas like the digestive tract, the pancreas, liver, and even adipose tissue, the endocannabinoid system has been shown to directly affect a variety of metabolic processes.
Studies suggest, for example, that by stimulating receptors in the digestive tract, endocannabinoids can possibly influence digestion and nutrient uptake. Furthermore, research also shows that the endocannabinoid system can directly influence