Our endocannabinoid system is one of the most recently discovered systems in our body. This system’s primary goal is helping our body to maintain homeostasis, or a stable condition. Endocannabinoids and the receptors (CB1 and CB2) are found all over the body. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain, whereas CB2 receptors are found all around the body, especially in immune cells. The endocannabinoid system is similar to a multi-tool in that it does a little bit of everything to keep the body running smoothly. Our body produces natural cannabinoids to connect with the receptors. When our body senses a problem, our endocannabinoids are produced, they connect with the cannabinoid receptors and then they are reabsorbed by the body.
The endocannabinoid system regulates many things from appetite, mood, digestion, and even our immune system. We have known the benefits of cannabinoids for appetite and mood for several years. However, we’re still discovering the benefits cannabinoids have on the immune system. Two major benefits are the anti-inflammatory effects and the neuroprotective qualities. These two benefits combat chronic inflammation triggered by an overactive immune system and can protect neurons from long-term damage from an extended inflammatory response.
Lung Inflammation & Cannabinoids
Why is knowing what our endocannabinoid system does important? We live in a world full of pollutants that can trigger our immune system to fight bacteria we can never get away from. When our bodies do this, it leads to chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease, just to name a few. One major pollutant that can cause lung inflammation is sulfur dioxide.
What is sulfur dioxide?
Sulfur dioxide is an invisible, sharp smelling gas that reacts with other chemicals to create harmful compounds such as sulfuric acid and sulfate particles. The majority of sulfur dioxide in the air comes from us: humans. We add sulfur dioxide to the air by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, or natural gas. Just driving a car emits sulfur dioxide into our atmosphere, so city dwellers or those who drive a lot are at risk of inhaling this irritant on a regular basis.
Sulfur dioxide negatively affects people’s lung health and the environment too. Temporary exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause respiratory distress and make breathing difficult. Sulfur dioxide irritates the nose, throat, and airways and will cause shortness of breath, a tight chest, and coughing. These issues are especially detrimental to those suffering from asthma because their lung function is already compromised. The short-term effects of sulfur dioxide can be life-threatening, but long-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can be equally detrimental.
Long-term exposure to sulfur dioxide harms the respiratory system, causing inflammation and irritation to the airways. While inflammation might not sound like a big deal, it can cause serious disease if allowed to go on because tissues can eventually die from the stress of inflammation. Any kind of irritant or mild disorder, if allowed to go on and become chronic, can cause serious disease. Sulfur dioxide and other lung irritants are no exception.
We are lucky in that our body has developed various systems that work with the natural world to help heal us and support healthy function of our immune system. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is one of those bodily systems that helps our body eliminate toxins, reduce harmful inflammation, and help prevent tissue death and therefore disease.
How the ECS Helps Ease Lung Inflammation
There have been numerous medical studies performed by doctors and scientists around the world about how the Endocannabinoid System works, and their discoveries include the regulation of the immune system and neurotransmitter function on a cell-to-cell basis. This basically means that a healthy ECS improves how everything in our bodies talks to everything else, from our brains to our immune systems.
This new medical research study examines the potential positive effects our endocannabinoid system has on the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide such as lung inflammation. The main purpose of the study was to see what goes on in the endocannabinoid system when sulfur dioxide is presented to the body in harmful amounts. Researchers found that the 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) endocannabinoid connects with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. This endocannabinoid has the ability to suppress proinflammatory stimuli and improve the function of small blood vessels.
When this endocannabinoid connects with receptors CB1 and CB2, it inhibited neuroinflammation, or the inflammation of nervous tissue, in direct response to the test subject breathing in sulfur dioxide. It also lessened the amount of inflammatory white blood cells sent to the lungs. The endocannabinoid 2-AG restored balance to the body after the sulfur dioxide exposure.
Conclusion: Supplement Your ECS for Better Lung Health
What we learn from this study is more about how our endocannabinoid system works. Researchers now understand the process the body goes through when presented with harmful stimuli and the role that our endocannabinoid system plays in that process. The fact that these results are mediated by the activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors sets a foundation for the future of protecting our brains and our bodies from the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide.
While this study focuses mainly on our endocannabinoids — that is, the cannabinoids that our body naturally creates — all of the known health benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) make it a perfect supplement for any diet. The endocannabinoid system focuses on keeping the body running in the best possible shape and just like a person might supplement vitamin C if they’re feeling under the weather, phytocannabinoids can be supplemented when the body isn’t running as perfectly as it could be.
THC and CBD both have amazing health benefits, but THC also has psychoactive effects, making it a less than ideal supplement for many people. CBD lacks the psychoactive effects and the potential anxiety that can accompany THC. In fact, CBD’s side effects are manageable and mild. There are also many ways to ingest cannabidiol, from vaping it to taking pills to consuming gummies infused with CBD extract.