Homeostasis is defined as ‘any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival.’
Homeostasis also involves regulating our bodily systems in regards to a roughly 24 hour cycle. For instance our day/night circadian rhythms are regulated via melatonin. Other process maintained by homeostasis include regulation of food intake; cortisol levels; core body temperature; and the timing of other biological processes.
Put simply…Homeostasis ensures our body is kept in optimal condition by orchestrating a variety of internal changes in response to internal or external changes.
Consider how body temperature, hunger or stress can alter how your bodily functions, and you have direct feedback loops which prompt you to sweat or eat etc. For example, our body temperature hovers around 37° C, and we have processes in place to maintain this by shivering when cold or sweating when hot.
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. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid found naturally in the cannabis plant that interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system.
Cannabinoid receptors are known as CB1 and CB2 which are found across the body but located most extensively in the central nervous system and immune system. Cannabinoids produced by our body called “Endocannabinoids” interact with the ECS and bind with the receptors. The two most well-known of these compounds are called (2-arachidonoyl glycerol) (2-AG) and anandamide.
Enzymes break up endocannabinoids when they are no longer needed or if they are produced in excess. The most common of these enzymes are known as MAGL (breaks down anandamide) and FAAH (breaks down 2-AG). The homeostatic feedback loop can be maintained via endocannabinoids binding with receptors, completing their tasks and being broken down. This process can be repeated until homeostasis can be achieved.
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.
To reach homeostasis, our bodily systems must find a balance. An example could be; an athlete applies greater stress to their body, leading to pain and inflammation. This is sending homeostasis out of balance; the endocannabinoid system then begins to try to restore balance to the body. Taking cannabinoids as a supplement can assist this process. If you are curious about cannabinoids, you may want to take a look at our CBD benefits page, where you can find more information.