Moving from the heart to the gut, we continue our exploration of the endocannabinoid system.
Everyone’s body contains an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which does much more than simply express the way we experience the intoxicating or psychoactive properties of cannabis. The ECS keeps the two-way communication regulated between the gut and the brain, helping our bodies maintain balance, or homeostasis.
Changes in the brain related to stress or pain can alter gastrointestinal function. In addition, changes in your gut from inflammation or infection are communicated back to the brain via the ECS. This relationship is especially important in maintaining bowel health and has been known to even influence conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
Major functions of the ECS in your gut
According to Thorne.com the Endocannabinoid system affects our gut health in three major ways:
- Modulates inflammation
The ECS seems to play a key role in protecting the gut from inflammation. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors help modulate inflammatory responses when stimulated by certain cannabinoids.4
- Regulates digestive action
Gut motility is the contraction of muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. This contracting movement enables food to move through the digestive tract and ensures that nutrients are absorbed. Several cannabinoids found in plants (phytocannabinoids) stimulate the CB1 receptor. This calms nausea, slows emptying of the stomach, and reduces stomach acid. 5 Strong stimulation of the CB1 receptor will even make you hungry, which is primarily an effect of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that causes marijuana smokers to “get the munchies.
- Regulates communication with your brain
The ECS regulates the two-way communication between the gut and the brain.6 Changes in the brain related to stress or pain can alter gastrointestinal function. In addition, changes in your gut from inflammation or infection are communicated back to the brain via the ECS. This is important in maintaining bowel health and can even influence conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
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