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Homeostasis

Petar Petrov
Written by Petar Petrov

Image Credits: Imperial College London

Homeostasis is a human beings’ invisible backbone, providing the balance and equilibrium our body needs to function properly on both a physical and psychological level.

What is Homeostasis

Homeostasis refers to the balancing of the internal environment that works overtime to maintain constant set points in the background of the constantly­-occurring processes in our bodies which our existence depends on.

Even when we feel stable in the mind, our body is working toward homeostasis. For example, you may consider sweating a bad and unwanted reaction. However, sweating works toward restoring temperature homeostasis during times of physical exertion or thermal duress. When we work out, our body temperature rises. Sweating, and the subsequent evaporation, cools the body down. If it wasn’t for this mechanism, our body temperature would skyrocket.

The Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is homeostasis’s right hand, the area of the brain where all the control towers reside. This cluster of nerve cells, located just above the brain stem, is like a central command post, the communication hub that receives news of disruptions to our inner environment and deploys neurotransmitters, hormones, and chemicals to counter those changes and drive the body back towards homeostasis.

Some of the most important homeostatic processes that are regulated by the hypothalamus are appetite, thirst, blood pressure, heart rate, sleep cycles, and body temperature.

Cannabis and Homeostasis

What homeostasis does for our bodies, the endocannabinoid system does for homeostasis. This network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors permeates our bodies. It reacts to any unwanted changes in our inner environment by “sending” endocannabinoids up our blood stream, all the way to the cannabinoid receptors, located in the affected area where they trigger the required counter reaction.

For example, if you cut yourself, endocannabinoids lower the production of both “sensitizers” that cause pain via the nerve cells and the inflammation-inducing substances, released by the immune cells.

Some people suffer from a medical condition called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) which refers to the failure to produce enough endocannabinoids. [1] This in turn hinders the endocannabinoid system’s ability to maintain homeostasis and leads to adiverse myriad of well-known physiological and psychological diseases like Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many more. [1]

Cannabis’s phytocannabinoidsshare the same activating moieties, or pharmacophores, ashuman endocannabinoids. When CECD is treated by consuming cannabis products, you supply the endocannabinoid system with the compounds it fails to produce by itself.

References

[1] Russo, E. “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes”, Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2016; 1(1): 154–165. [journal impact factor= N/A; cited by 26)

About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov

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