What Are Endocannabinoids?
Endocannabinoids, those produced naturally by our bodies, are signaling molecules. They are technically called neurotransmitters. Hormones are a more familiar type of neurotransmitter. A vast array of neurotransmitters is produced by the nervous system in response to various states of health and also environmental factors. They interact with receptors found on the surface of cells throughout our bodies. Their job is to instruct a cell to adjust its activities. This can include changing how cells react to other neurotransmitters.
Your body’s nervous system connects to a wide variety of sensors to keep track of every system in your body. The signals from these sensors are decoded by the brain and the nervous system. If it is determined that a system has gone out of balance, the nervous system produces neurotransmitters, which travel through the bloodstream and interact with receptors on cells, instructing them to adjust their behavior.
The Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Now that we understand how neurotransmitters work to adjust our cellular activity, let’s take a look at the role of cannabinoids in particular and their role in supporting homeostasis, a state of balance, within the body. The human endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the homeostasis state of balance in the body which has two components. First is the endocannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells throughout the body. Second is the endocannabinoids themselves that interact with those receptors.
A well-known endocannabinoid is called anandamide. Anandamide is responsible for the production and uptake of serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the “bliss molecule” because levels of serotonin in the body are directly associated with mood. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for “runner’s high.”
The endocannabinoid system is vast and far-reaching. It regulates a wide array of bodily functions, from appetite regulation to sleep patterns, moods, metabolism, immune response, the lifespan of cells and much more.
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