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  • Writer's pictureLizy Maratea

Every Body's Got One

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

The human body is a mysterious place, abundant with neurons, neurotransmitters, cells, and receptors. The greatest mystery of all may have always been that of the communication between the mind and the body’s many systems. When we are injured and feel pain, our brain is made aware of those sensations, and then sends messages via neurotransmitter for the body to immediately begin to heal. It does this by first stabilizing the nerves in jeopardy and calming their response. A healthy body will do this, but how? That’s simple enough to answer; homeostasis. Homeostasis can be found in any living thing, from the environmental conditions imperative to planetary survival with plants and climate, to the internal environment of animals and humans. On a hot day our bodies will produce sweat as a means of cooling us down to a healthy temperature. On a cold day our bodies will shiver to warm us up. If we look into the sun, our eyes will naturally blink to protect the tender retinas from the intense brightness. We aid in this homeostasis by removing or adding layers of clothing, drinking cool or warm beverages, and shielding our eyes from the sun. It has been relatively widely known for nearly a century that neurotransmissions from cells in various systems in the body work to deliver messages such as, “Man, it’s hot out here. This doesn't feel good.” It wasn’t until 1988, while tasked with researching the potentially harmful effects of cannabis, that researchers discovered the first cannabinoid receptor; thus sparking the breakthrough detection of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and answering the long-lived question of from where the body receives the message back to cool down, “Okay, well, if we’re getting too hot, let’s cool down with some sweat. Not too much, though. Have to stay hydrated. If you sweat too much I’ll make sure you feel thirsty.”

Essentially, the ECS is an imperative physiologic system (the largest neurotransmitter system in the body) found in all vertebrate animals in the world, as well as many invertebrates, and is instrumental for maintaining homeostasis. It serves as a communication highway between the mind and body, and is the only system that sends messages back to the cells via cannabinoid neurotransmitters - this prevents neurons from becoming toxic and overreacting. Imagine a series of locks that rest upon cells in the brain, throughout the nervous, immune, and reproductive systems, and in bones, lymph cells, blood vessels, and various organs. These locks are cannabinoid receptors, shaped for specific keys in the form of cannabinoids. Cannabinoid keys only open the locks they fit into, allowing for precise responses to issues of imbalance in the body rather than working through a myriad of systems in a hazardous attempt at homeostasis on their way to the correct place - kind of like taking a new medication to help with the side effects of another. After the locks and keys have served their purpose, enzymes in the ECS keep their responses in check by breaking down the leftovers. This is an especially profound process when you look at cancer tumor cells, which are shown to have more cannabinoid receptors. When the enzymes break down the cannabinoids and their receptors on tumor cells, they promote homeostasis by the destruction of the cell itself!

Touching back on the instance of injury mentioned earlier on, let’s examine the immune system’s defensive response to irritants by way of inflammation. While inflammation does much to help heal the body, it must reduce after its works is done or else cause more danger. If it is overactive, or inappropriately active - as in such cases as endometriosis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease - it is the ECS that works to reduce it. Just as eating more leafy greens will boost iron in the body for healthy red blood cell production, nature has provided us with a means of keeping our ECS functioning smoothly. Endocannabinoids are found in our bodies. Phytocannabinoids are found in cannabis plants. Both serve as keys to the many locks throughout the ECS, and both serve to maintain and encourage optimal homeostasis within the body.

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