Reduced Risk of Illness
So you’re coming home from the gym or finishing up a run and you feel it. That scratch in the back of your throat or a faint achy-chill that runs down your back. This is the point where the panic sets in… “Oh no, I’m starting to get sick!”
Having a healthy immune system is the key to avoiding illness, that’s obvious. And more than just avoiding a cold or flu, the strength of one’s immune system will often dictate the severity of the symptoms you might experience from getting sick.
It’s a given that we’re all going to get sick or catch a bit of a “sniffle” at some point. And you’d be naïve to think that you’re completely impervious to every airborne invader trying to attack your wellness.
But there are measures you can take to boost your immune response. Adopting a proactive approach to reduce your risk of contracting a more serious infection is the #1 thing you can do to protect yourself.
As the saying goes; “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
In a time like this, when worldwide health is on the top of every headline, it’s become increasingly important to strengthen your immune system by any means possible.
As an athlete, maintaining a lifestyle of regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep to allow your body proper recovery, and consuming healthy food isn’t a far cry from your existing routine. In fact, it’s your fitness mindset that safeguards you from many of the health concerns that a more sedentary segment of our population often worries about.
But there’s an internal system at play that your doctor may have never even talked to you about. Were you aware of just how big of a role your endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays in the proper function and balance of your immune system?
Think of your body like an entire mini-city built with an intricate system of traffic lights controlled by a central signaling computer. The computer’s job is to make sure the traffic lights turn green when it wants cars to accelerate and show red when it’s time for traffic to stop.
Well, your endocannabinoid system is like the signaling computer that exists to regulate how your body functions in times of “heavy traffic.” Or, more to the point, how your body responds to threats to its immune system.
Let’s dive in and more deeply examine how maintaining the ECS can insulate you from ailments that might otherwise put you down.
A Starter: How the Immune System Works
Keeping healthy and safeguarded from illness is the primary function of the immune system. But it’s important to first understand what “immunity” really means, before jumping into the details of how your endocannabinoid system works to support your immune response.
If this were the Trojan War, your immune system would make up the walls surrounding Troy, amassed with an army of soldiers on the lookout for trouble. Bacteria and pathogens would play the role of the Greeks, and your immune system’s primary function would be to prevent another Trojan horse from slipping through the gates.
Fighting off the toxins and pathogens that your body inevitably comes in contact with is what your immune system was designed to do. Don’t worry, without you even thinking about it, your body has become a skilled fighter in the war against germs.
Keeping out harmful bacteria (like when your coworker sneezes too close to you) and letting in more of what your body deems beneficial (think Vitamin D, from the sun) is the primary function of your immune system.
Many factors can play a role in living with an immune system that’s been compromised. Lack of proper sleep or undue stress are known factors that can lead to a poorly functioning immune system and lowered immunity.
The immune system is your most important line of defense against harmful invaders set out to attack your health.
Imagine your immune system as a locked door to the Target store on Black Friday. The minute the nighttime security guard falls asleep (i.e. a weakened immune system), it’s like he left the door wide open to the mobs of thrifty deal seekers fighting over who gets the 52” flat screen at fifty percent off. Total mayhem!
But with heightened immunity, fortified by a healthy immune system, you equip your body with the proper defense mechanism to keep those intruders at bay.
Since modern medicine first discovered the body’s endocannabinoid system, along with the subsequent studies to follow, it is believed that a boosted ECS can help regulate proper immune function.
How The Endocannabinoid System Affects Immunity
In full disclosure, this is where things tend to get a little caught up in science. But don’t fret, we’re going to walk through this so it’s easy to understand.
For starters, your body’s endocannabinoid system is arguably one of the most vital physiological systems there is. It’s a vast neurotransmitter system that sends messaging signals from head to toe.
Again, think in terms of your body being made up of millions of traffic lights either turning red (“stop”) or green (“go”). There is no organ or function internally that your ECS doesn’t play a part in regulating to some degree.
Things like digestion, appetite, mood, sleep, brain function, metabolism and yes, immune function, are all proven to be impacted at some level by the endocannabinoid system.
For your ECS to work properly, your body needs molecules to tell it how to function. These come in the form of endocannabinoids, meaning cannabinoids that your body produces on its own. Yes… if you didn’t know it already, your body makes cannabinoids.
Cannabidiol (CBD) was later discovered as a phytocannabinoid (meaning, made by plants) that can be used to boost your body’s level of cannabinoids after the degradation of your endocannabinoids occurs.
The reality is that the amount of endocannabinoids your body contains diminishes over time. Add that to the list of bummer news we have to deal with as we get older.
To dive more deeply, there are what’s called CB1 and CB2 receptors in your body that clear the way for these messages to be received. CB receptors are to thank for the timely release of different messaging carriers that support homeostasis inside you.
CB1 receptors are primarily centralized in your brain while CB2 receptors reside mainly on the immune cells that travel throughout your body.
Researchers have found that the primary role of your ECS is to promote balance throughout your body, including the modulation of mood, cognition and other central functions. However, recent discoveries suggest that the endocannabinoid system also regulates the effectiveness of your immune response.
How do Endocannabinoids Affect Immune Function?
Ok… ready to earn your science degree? Put on your lab coat because here we go.
One of the main types of immune cells comes in the form of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are heavily modulated by endocannabinoids. Lymphocytes exist to maximize your body’s ability to ward off harmful attacks from bacteria and viruses.
Think of lymphocytes as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo blasting away at an onslaught of storm troopers chasing them down the halls of the Death Star. One by one, our heros’ blasters take aim and destroy these white-armored villains who are trying to prevent the galaxy from experiencing peace.
It is suggested that endocannabinoids play a major role in governing your immune balance by regulating both the production and degradation of these lymphocytes.
A 2015 study went was far as to document the role that endocannabinoids play in signaling both innate and adaptive immunity in this way.
The bottom line is that without endocannabinoids, our body’s immunity would be completely weakened to the point where any and all harmful threats to our wellness (i.e. cold, flu or disease) would easily topple us over.
How Can CBD Help Boost Immunity?
A 2009 study confirms that “cannabinoids have been shown to act as potent immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory agents” and bring about “beneficial effects in a wide range of immune-mediated diseases.”
In layman’s terms, more cannabinoids in your system means better immune response. In a nutshell, when you boost your body’s level of cannabinoids, you better protect yourself from sickness and should experience less severe symptoms if you were to get ill.
Many doctors and cannabis researchers have identified numerous ways in which cannabinoids like CBD can be incorporated into one’s diet to support overall health, proper internal functions (including immune response) and avoid ailments such as a cold or flu.
A routine use of CBD around cold and flu season, or when you’re exposed to other viruses, is one way you give your body the best chance of warding off the onset of illness.
Supplementing your body with CBD enhances its ability to protect you from sickness and diminished health.
Can Boosting the ECS Help Maintain Immunity?
As we’ve shown, the endocannabinoid system does play a role in maintaining healthy immune functions. This is especially true in how the ECS helps your body’s ability to inhibit an overactive immune response. And this can be directly linked to endocannabinoids.
All told, supporting your body’s ECS can be an incredible way to build a strong immune system.
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