The Endocannabinoid System
What first responders need to know about the ECS
For those of us on the job, we’re all too familiar with some of the negative side effects it has on our sleep, stress and overall physical health. As a first responder, if you want to properly optimize your health, then you have to feed your endocannabinoid system. Unfortunately as a first responder, your endocannabinoid system is more out of whack than most, for the reasons above.
What is it?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of receptors in the bodies of most living things. It’s stimulated by specific compounds that naturally occur in the body called endocannabinoids, which are just cannabinoids (like CBD) that your body naturally produces. CBD is a cannabinoid that a plant produces, so it’s called a phytocannabinoid.
What does it do?
The research shows that the ECS is responsible for regulating all this stuff:
- appetite and digestion
- chronic pain
- inflammation and other immune system responses
- learning and memory
- motor control
- cardiovascular system function
- muscle formation
- bone remodeling and growth
- liver function
- reproductive system function
- skin and nerve function
This doesn’t mean that taking cannabinoids will magically make all of those things better, stronger or faster. But, the ECS is linked to processes within all of these things above.
In essence, it contributes to homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the body’s ability to heal itself naturally. This is when your systems are firing on all cylinders. Nothing is out of balance.
I always picture my anatomy & physiology teacher holding his arms straight out to his sides like a libra scale.
He balanced the scale perfectly and said “This is homeostasis”.
Then he tipped one arm up in the air and the other arm down toward the ground and said:
“This is death and disease”
It’s the perfect example of saying that when homeostasis is balanced, you’re healthy. The only time disease and death works its way in is when some process in the body has failed, whether it’s from an external source like trauma from a car accident or an internal source like being born without a kidney.
The ECS is a crucial part of maintaining homeostasis. It’s not everything, but you can’t have homeostasis if your ECS is out of whack.
How does it work?
Via Cannabinoids (endo or phyto)
The two endocannabinoids that your body produces, AEA and 2-AG, attach to two receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are located in your brain (and somewhat throughout your body) and have psychoactive effects which can make you feel high.
CB2 receptors are located throughout your body (and somewhat in your brain) and do not produce a high or intoxication.
If you had to guess which receptor CBD worked on you’d probably guess CB2, and you’d be correct.
THC works on CB1 and while it has its own benefits, it can produce the feeling of being high (and will also cause a failed drug test).
Each of these receptors has its own job:
- CB1 deals more with pain, appetite and motor coordination
- CB2 has a strong relationship with the immune system particularly in how the immune system handles inflammation and cortisol (the stress hormone). At the same time it balances hormones like serotonin (your happy hormone) and to a lesser extent, dopamine (your reward hormone).
Why this matters for first responders
Shift life ruins homeostasis
Think about the stuff we’re required to do that humans are not evolved to deal with:
- Chronic stress
- Constant sleep disturbances
- Being exposed to bright lights during normal sleeping hours
- Being exposed to carcinogens
All of these things cause the body to be in a state of inflammation and have a bad circadian rhythm and as a result, you’re out of homeostasis.
You can fix all of this naturally. It’s recommended to do the following:
- Reduce/eliminate your chronic stress
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep almost every night
- Don’t expose yourself to bright lights/blue light between 11pm-4am
- Exercise consistently
- Eat healthy foods rich in vitamins and minerals
Sure. No problem!
But, for those of us that live in the real world as a first responder, we’d be happy with getting one or two of those on that list. And for most guys and girls I’ve spoken to, it’s the sleep that’s the biggest problem.
We can only do so much on our own to naturally try to stay in homeostasis, but the job we signed up for is always trying to knock us out of it. Do what you can with exercise, reducing screen time at night, diet and stress.
How to keep your ECS healthy
First responders need to FEED their ECS
If you wanted to raise melatonin levels naturally, you should eat melatonin-producing foods like tart cherry juice, magnesium or pistachios.
If you wanted more iron? Red meat and spinach.
What about more endocannabinoids? The answer is phytocannabinoids like CBD.
Note on minor cannabinoids:
There are other phytocannabinoids like CBN, CBG, CBC and several variations of THC. These aren’t as well-known yet, however they are believed to be beneficial in conjunction with CBD.
see: Broad Spectrum CBD oil vs Full Spectrum CBD Oil
Taking CBD raises levels of endocannabinoids 2-AG and somewhat AEA. This means the ECS has the tools it needs to balance itself out and do its part in maintaining homeostasis.
The Bottom Line
A first responder’s ECS
Spend enough time on the job and your body’s ECS will absolutely be thrown out of whack. If and when this happens, your body falls out of homeostasis and things like sleep, mood, and inflammation are all negatively affected.
Balancing your body’s ECS is all about feeding it. In the same way you can increase iron by eating red meat and spinach, you can increase endocannabinoids for your ECS by taking CBD, the most widely-researched and safest cannabinoid known to man.
I hope you got something out of this and if you did, please share with someone on your crew so that we can spread the word about CBD that’s safe for the job.
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About Rescue 1 CBD
At Rescue 1 CBD, our mission is to challenge the status quo of health and safety in the US Fire Service, while also bringing to light the potential of the cannabidiol compound to be a game changer for wellness.
We are also here to provide products and information to help first responders stay healthy well into retirement. Our content is aimed at leaving the Fire Service better than we found it by letting firefighters have a more common sense-based standard for physical and mental wellness.
Our enduring goals are: improving our first responders’ sleep and physical/mental health and helping them to cut back on the number of medications required to do what they do on a daily basis.
*Always be sure to consult a physician before making any changes to your health or fitness regimen.*
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Disclosure
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. This website contains general information about diet, health, and nutrition. The information is not advice and is not a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional.