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  • Writer's pictureKelly Bonnaci

The Missing Physiological System

Do you remember studying the physiological systems in school? We learned about the skeletal, muscular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, urinary, and reproductive systems. I remember being taught that these systems were separate and distinct. Each it's own eco-system in-and-of-itself. The systems of the body are not separate and independent. Our body is a complex interwoven network of chemical messengers and receivers. Through its massive signaling network, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is the pivotal physiological modulator that connects body and mind and provides a path to equanimity.


The 1990s were a remarkable decade of discovery for integral parts and functions of the ECS. Researchers uncovered the existence of cannabinoids produced by our bodies (endocannabinoids), and started to understand how they communicate among cells, between organs, and physiological systems in our bodies. The discover of the the ECS and its modulating effects, specifically on the brain, gut, immune system, help bridge the body and mind connection as a major medical breakthrough. When supported and cared for, the ECS can prove us with health and wellness. Conversely, when ignored, we see the proliferation of disease and unbalanced bodily functions.


Scientist also have uncovered the presence of the ECS in other mammals as well. All vertebrate species, such as fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and humans, share this critical internal communication system. We have discovered the ECS system in invertebrate marine life. Genetically speaking, the ECS has evolved millions of years ago and most likely integral to adaption and evolution of species.


Composed of cannabinoid receptors (doorways on the cell membrane that respond to a chemical signal) and the endocannabinoids that influence them, the ECS's primary objective is to provide a stable internal environment despite harsh conditions. Due to its ability to respond to changing environments, the ECS is considered an adaptogenic system--an essential part of life that helps the body adapt to an ever-changing external and internal environment.


Since the discovery of the ECS in the 90's, researchers have continued to uncover how it works and what effects it has on our health and wellness. We now know that the system is comprised of many receptors (endocannabinoid receptors), signaling compounds (endocannabinoids) and enzymes that control their fate. Further, these endocannabinoids and their receptors are present everywhere in the body, including the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, lungs, skin, and reproductive track, and affects every physiological function throughout the body.


Disrupting endocannabinoid signaling is now linked to many diseases, including neurological disorders (stress, anxiety, depression, etc.) diabetes, hypertension, liver disease, inflammatory conditions, bone health, insomnia, digestion, and many more. Over the past few decades, researchers have compiled data on the complexities of the ECS and detailed how it regulates and interacts by communicating with our organ systems. The amount of information we have on the ECS is central to maintaining health and well-being. Through the ECS and its vital relationship with all physiological functioning, we now understand how to maintain balance within the body and modulate it for the treatment of many degenerative diseases. The ECS is, in many ways, an adaptogenic system and key to homeostasis in order to attain the state of bodily bliss and well-being.


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