The Runner’s high

By Dr. Barry Morrison

If you’re like most people you have heard about “The Runner’s High”. A phenomenon attributed to a release of brain chemicals causing athletes to experience increased energy, euphoria, and pain killing effects. Wouldn’t you like to know how to turn it on? Then you’ll want to pay close attention.

I’ve been fortunate enough as a competitive athlete and distance runner to experience this amazing feeling on countless occasions. However, I couldn’t put my finger on its true source or how to recreate it.

Scientists presumed that these effects that follow physical exercise are due to a release of our endogenous endorphins. Which is what I have been taught in school. Actually, endorphins were the first identified opioid peptides back in the 1070’s. Recent research suggests that the human endocannabinoid system (endocannabinoid system) (ECS) contributes significantly to this so-called “runner’s high.” While endorphins do play a role, research is pointing toward the ECS as being the major catalyst for this experience to occur.


The Bliss Molecule

Seasoned runners will tell you it takes a time to reach the peak of bliss associated with the runners high. But once reached, we definitely know it. This is due to a substance in the brain called anandamide. Which is one of the more important endocannabinoids known as endogenous or naturally produced in the body. Anandamide is often dubbed “the bliss molecule” however it has little binding affinity for the CB2 receptor. This suggests that exercise mobilizes endocannabinoid activity at multiple levels. Previous research on exercise has highlighted a role for anandamide in the runner’s high, but this appears to be the first work specifically implicating the immunoregulatory effect of CB2 receptors.

Endocannabinoids such as anandamide are neurotransmitters that appear to play a major role in generating this blissful reward.  This occurs by activating cannabinoid receptors in the brain reward regions during and after exercise.


CBD Research

In another study, researchers examined how exercise influences a reduction in pain perception. The results indicated:

  1. activation of the CB2 cannabinoid receptors on immune cells in the spinal cord can
  2. reduce pain during and after exercise. In addition to reducing pain, exercise also
  3. increases the concentration of anandamide in the spine as well as cause the immune cells to
  4. produce more CB2 receptors.

So, what I’m saying is that with more anandamide production and more CB2 receptors to receive it and to be activated it stands to reason this effect to the body will be greatly magnified.

Now let’s throw in another very important step in this amazing physiologic process. Which is an enzyme that is known as Fatty Acid Amide Hydroxylase (FAAH). This enzyme is designed to metabolize or break down the endocannabinoid known as anandamide in the synapse of the nerve. This is where CBD comes into the picture. It has been shown to reduce this enzyme activity causing the body to retain and utilize more of it over a longer period of time.  The inevitable result is an improvement in mood as well as a reduction in pain.

This is a similar physiological discovery of how a 71 year of woman has never experienced pain or anxiety in her life. In her genetic make-up she lacks the gene that produces the enzyme FAAH that removes anandamide, in turn her anandamide levels remain high resulting in her not being able to experience pain or anxiety. This also happens to be one of the reasons CBD is being studied for the treatment of pain reduction as well as mood disorders.


Athletes and CBD Use

For an athlete, utilizing CBD combines the uplifting effects of an increase in anandamide along with the other benefits CBD is known for; reducing inflammation, relieving pain, keeping the body in a state of homeostasis, and more. Ever wonder why you feel good even hours after a workout or why you sleep like a baby the same night?  That’s your amazing endocannabinoid system hard at work and functioning correctly.

For some people, the ECS may be out of balance.  By simply adding CBD to your fitness regimen it may pay huge dividends by helping us attain a blissful euphoric feeling, reducing pain both during and following exercise, as well as reducing inflammation. This benefit obviously allows for faster recovery from workouts and injuries.  Who knows, if you have been seeking that famed runner’s high, CBD might just help you find it!

If you’re like most people you’re probably wondering what I personally recommend for my patients, and if so head on over to CBDPROONLINE.COM to learn from my experience as a doctor working with CBD since 2013. Under the education tab you’ll discover a library of videos on this and other amazing CBD topics.