It’s been lifetimes since I went back to my roots: Biology and Neuroscience. So, here’s a post a good chunk of you guys will hopefully enjoy, especially if you’re one of the following; a stoner, about to get your period or one of the folks who checks into the gym and updates us on his or her progress minute-by-minute.
Anandamide: our very own THC
THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana/cannabis/hashish. It binds to receptors in the brain called CB-1 and CB-2. They were discovered in the 60s, but THC is not made by our bodies, so the search for the actual molecule that binds to these receptors took almost 30 years and was finally found to be Anandamide.
However, there is one major difference between THC and ANA: ANA gets very easily degraded and rendered inactive by an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Which of course makes sense, or else we would be high 24/7 forever. THC though, is not broken down by FAAH which lets its effects become more pronounced and more prolonged.
Studies have shown that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has a bit of ANA in it and chemicals that mimic the
effects of ANA. But that’s no big deal right? It’s not that much and would easily be degraded by the FAAH. Well, it turns out that other chemicals in chocolate inhibit FAAH, allowing the ANA from the chocolate, and our own bodies, to have a longer-lasting effect.
Meaning? It’s sort of the same thing when you smoke a joint or eat a lot of chocolate. On the molecular level, practically identical processes are occurring to make you high. Of course, the overall effect is not the same and that’s because with marijuana, it’s not just the THC at work, but something else called CBD which we won’t go into here (but mainly has to do with the sedation you feel when high).
So, the euphoria, feelings of lightness, perhaps even tingling and the overall change of mindset when you eat a lot of good chocolate, is practically a legal way to get high (and fat!)
Well, if you plan on getting high off chocolate, you’re gonna gain the extra kilos in no time. So, you’re gonna have to hit the gym, and folks who exercise regularly and exert heavy physical effort will probably be very familiar with runner’s high.
I was extremely fortunate to study under the principal investigator into runner’s high, Dr. Arne Dietrich, who in a 2004 study discovered that after a 5-minute warmup, then 45 minutes at 70-80% of maximum heart rate, led to a dramatic increase of ANA in the test subjects’ blood.
“Exercise is good for the mind. For the millions of people who exercise, this is not a secret,” said Arne Dietrich, the study’s principal investigator and a former visiting professor at Georgia Tech. “It helps reduce stress, lowers anxiety, suppresses pain, produces a feeling of well-being and can even lead to a euphoric state. To scientists, however, the process that leads to this last phenomenon — popularly known as the ‘runner’s high’ — remains an elusive mystery.
Soure: CNN Health
As a heavy individual not really concerned with physical effort, this was just a myth to me, but one I was convinced of because the science was sound and the evolutionary logic infallible.
However, after my gastric sleeve operation in January 2012, I began exercising regularly and eventually, at the beginning of summer 2012, I experience my first-ever runner’s high: extremely happy, out-of-body experience and lightheadedness followed by a huge apetite (or munchies!) and am proud to say it’s perhaps not as prolonged as you’d hope, but the magnitude of happiness and euphoria is enough to make go for a swim and the come back to do another hour on the treadmill just to get that high again. Perhaps one day soon, folks would be able to take FAAH inhibitors and do sports, instead of rolling joints and using bongs!
The body and brain are amazing and we know so much we didn’t know 20 years ago. Never let popculture and silly magazines dictate how you see the world around you, the stuff in it and if and how it affects you. Keep an open mind and always trust the science, not the grandmothers or priests. Now you have a better idea of what it means to be high and legal (and healthy!) ways of getting there. Which makes you wonder, if the real crime was being high, anyone who likes chocolate or exercises, or both, would be locked up today. BUT, it also means you don’t need to be stupid and break the law (even if the law itself is stupid) because there are alternative ways of feeling the exact same things, safely and without anyone calling the cops on you.