5 Myths and Truths about the Endocannabinoid System

5 Myths and Truths about the Endocannabinoid System

If someone told you a few years back that our body produces its own cannabis-like chemicals, you would have scoffed at the idea. After all, cannabis has long been considered a dangerous drug. So, it would have been odd to think that our cells are producing these chemicals naturally.

Our cells do produce cannabis-like substances in response to external or internal stimuli. These endogenous cannabinoids have almost similar chemical structures to the cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD. In fact, if it wasn’t for THC, our scientists would never have discovered the endocannabinoid system and its importance to the human body.

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) allowed us to understand our bodies better. It also helped us understand why and how cannabis interacts with our cells. There is plenty of information available about our ECS system, but, not all of the information you find online is true. In fact, some of them are just misconceptions and myths.

Common Myths About The Endocannabinoid System.

Myth #1 – Only vertebrate animals have an endocannabinoid system

Truth

Many people think that only vertebrates like humans have an endocannabinoid system. Some even believe that we, humans, developed an endocannabinoid system because of our longstanding consumption of cannabis. This isn’t true at all though.

In fact, scientists have discovered that even non-vertebrates like sea squirts and nematodes have this important biological system. These creatures have existed for more than 600 million years and have begun evolving long before we even walked the planet. The fact that these ancient creatures have an endocannabinoid system shows we did not develop an endocannabinoid system simply because of our history of consuming cannabis.

Myth #2 – The endocannabinoid system can only be found in the brain and the immune system

Truth

The brain and immune systems do contain the most number of endocannabinoid systems. However, these vital biological systems can literally be found all over the body. They can be found in the spinal cord, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones. They are in your reproductive system, heart, lungs, stomach, spleen, liver, pancreas, and bone marrows. They’re even in your skin and hair.

Because they’re located all throughout the body, they modulate and control several physiological responses. They help regulate sleep, memory, emotions, mood, anger, fear, anxiety, learning, and focus. They also help modulate appetite, pain, motor and sensory functions, and metabolism.

The endocannabinoid system promotes neurotransmitter and hormone balance. It also helps maintain a healthy immune system, heart, lungs, brain, and digestive organs.

Myth #3 – The endocannabinoid system can help control symptoms, so it cannot be the cause of diseases.

Truth

The endocannabinoid system’s main function is to make sure that there is balance and homeostasis in the body. When this system is functioning well, physiological responses and processes are regulated and maintained.

Studies show that chronic diseases and illnesses damage the endocannabinoid system. They reduce the endocannabinoid system’s ability to promote balance and homeostasis. Its dysfunction then contributes to the worsening of symptoms.

However, there are also studies that suggest that some chronic diseases and illnesses are actually caused by a poorly-functioning endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system dysfunction, endocannabinoid deficiency, and endocannabinoid system overactivity have been implicated in the development of chronic diseases such as obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, metabolic syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

Myth #4 – Cannabis can cause an overdose

Truth

Many people think that consuming high amounts of cannabis can result in an overdose. They believe that cannabis overdose can slow down breathing and heartbeat, ultimately leading to overdose and/or death. Again, this is incorrect.

There may be an abundant number of endocannabinoid systems in the brain, but you won’t find them in the brainstem. This is the part of the brain that controls heart and lung functions. If there are endocannabinoid systems there, their numbers won’t be enough to significantly affect the rhythm of your heart and lungs.

Myth #5 – Cannabis consumption is the only way to boost your endocannabinoid system.

Truth

The cannabinoids present in cannabis compounds like THC and CBD interact with our endocannabinoid system. They have the ability to boost the way this biological system functions, helping it regulate symptoms and other physiological functions. Because of this, many people assume that consuming cannabinoids is the only way of enhancing the endocannabinoid system. But this way of thinking is wrong.

How to Boost Your Endocannabinoid System Without Consuming Cannabis?

Right diet

  • The ECS system in our body needs nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and other essential acids to function properly. So to promote a healthy endocannabinoid system, you need to go on a healthy diet consisting of green, leafy veggies and fruits.
  • Your endocannabinoid system will also benefit from the essential fatty acids found in oily fish.

Exercise

  • One study showed that regular exercise programs have the ability to modulate and enhance the way our endocannabinoid system functions. Moderate-intensity exercises can help reduce the risks of developing endocannabinoid system dysfunction, which contributes to obesity.
  • Experts say that you need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises per day for about five to six days each week.  Not only can this keep your endocannabinoid system healthy, but it can also help you shed some pounds.

Get rest and sleep

  • Our body needs ample rest and sleep. It is during this time that our cells start to heal from the day-to-day stress and problems.
  • So to promote a healthier endocannabinoid system, you need to get enough restful sleep. Experts recommend at least seven to nine hours of sleep.

Stop unhealthy activities

  • Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol, and illicit drug use damage the cells and organs. They also contribute to the development of chronic medical problems such as stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and obesity. These result in endocannabinoid system dysfunction.
  • If you want a healthier and stronger endocannabinoid system, you should stop all your bad habits.

The endocannabinoid system is, indeed, a vital biological system that helps keep us healthy. Through research studies, we now have a better understanding of the endocannabinoid system and its role in our health and diseases.

Reference:
Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Accessed: June 4, 2019.

Physical activity and the endocannabinoid system: an overview. Accessed: June 4, 2019.

 

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