We all enjoy getting a high. Whether it comes from chocolate, or intense exercise, the highs of life are just that, highpoints!
The highs people get from exercise, marijuana, massage and even chocolate all owe their popularity to a fragile messenger molecule in the brain called anandamide; the bliss molecule!
Anandamide is produced in the brain in response to prolonged stress and pain, like the uestress from intense workouts; e.g. "runner's high."
Anandamide attaches to neuroreceptors called cannabinoids and produces pain relief and a feeling of wellness, as well as other eye opening functions we will look at in future posts.
Anandamide and the endocannabinoid system (which has regulatory effects on the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems) were discovered during marijuana research.
THC is like counterfeit annandamide, fooling endocannabinoid receptors into triggering a similar pain-killing and feeling-of-wellness-effects, but with a much more intense and persistent "high"; probably due in part to the way it is ingested (smoke inhalation choking the brain of oxygen) or the quantity of THC bred into the plant (mega-dosing).
Regarding the high that comes from exercise and massage, notice this quote from an article in Massage Today, February, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 02 entitled "Bodywork High: The Cannabinoid Connection" by Leon Chaitow, ND, DO:
Not Only Exercise - Bodywork
Darmani, et al.,1 have noted that anandemide is produced in the body, not only in response to aerobic activity or pain, but also as a response to bodywork (such as massage, deep-tissue work, high-velocity [HVLA] manipulation/adjustments, etc.) and according to McPartland, et al.,10 4VC in cranial treatment. Anandemide may therefore account, at least in part, for the sense of well-being that follows such treatments, most specifically anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits.
Enhanced release of endocannabinoids may be one of the mechanisms of osteopathic (and chiropractic) manipulative treatment,10,11 parallel to the effects of manipulative treatment on serum endorphin levels.15 The endocannabinoid (eCB) system balances sympathetic-parasympathetic tone, imparts anti-emetic and antihypertensive benefits, and favorably modulates stress in the HPA axis.13."
Darmani N, et al. Involvement of the cannabimimeticcompound, N-palmitoyl-ethanolamine, in inflammatory and neuropathic conditions. Neuropharmacology. June 2005;48(8):1154-63.
Dietrich A, McDaniel W. Endocannabinoids and exercise.Br J Sports Med. Oct. 2004;38(5):536-41.
Goldstein A, Lowery P. Effect of the opiate antagonist naloxone on body temperature in rats. Life Sci. Sept. 1975;17(6):927-31.
Field T, et al. CFS: massage therapy effects depression and somatic symptoms in CFS. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 1997;3(3):43-51.
Hinton E, Taylor S. Does placebo response mediate runner's high? Percept Mot Skills. June 1986;62(3):789-90.
Hou C-R, et al. Immediate effects of various physical therapeutic modalities on cervical myofascial pain and trigger-point sensitivity. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. Oct. 2002;83(10):1406-14.
Ikimi F, et al. Interstitial fluid plasma protein, colloid, and leukocyte uptake into initial lymphatics. J Appl Physiol.Nov. 1996;81(5):2060-7.
Lederman E. Science and Practice of Manual Therapy, 2nd Ed. New York, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2005.
McPartland J, Pruitt P. Side effects of pharmaceuticals not elicited by comparable herbal medicines: the case of tetrahydrocannabinol and marijuana. Altern Ther Health Med. July 1999;5(4):57-62.
McPartland J, et al. Cannabimimetic effects of osteopathic manipulative treatment. J Am Osteopath Assoc. June 2005;105(6):283-91.
McPartland J, Simons D. Myofascial trigger points: translating molecular theory into manual therapy. J Manual Manipulative Therapy, 2006;14(4):150-7.
Oschman JL. Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. New York, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Harcourt Brace, 2000.
Pertwee R. The therapeutic potential of drugs that target cannabinoid receptors or modulate the tissue levels or actions of endocannabinoids. AAPS J. Oct. 24, 2005;7(3):E625-54.
Simantov R, Snyder S. Morphine-like peptides in mammalian brain: isolation, structure elucidation, and interactions with the opiate receptor. Proc Natl Acad SciUSA. July 1976;73(7):2515-9.
Vernon H, et al. Spinal manipulation and beta-endorphin. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. June 1986;9(2):115
With regard to Chocolate, here is a quote from Antoine Frostburge from his explanation:
" Chocolate and anandamide
Three compounds that strongly resemble anandamide were found in dark chocolate by Daniele Piomelli and co-workers at theNeurosciences Institute in San Diego [Piomelli, 1996]. They also found compounds (N-acylethanolamines) that block the breakdown of anandamide. Piomelli speculates that part of the pleasure of chocolate comes from anandamide and the anandamide-preserving N-acylethanolamines. "We are talking about something much, much, much, much milder than a high", he says.
The Nature article has been used by some to equate the effects of chocolate and cannabis to bolster arguments about the legalization of marijuana. "It is not that simple," Piomelli says. The response to THC and to the chocolate anandamides are not at all the same, even if the concentrations could be made comparable.
Piomelli was bemused by the spin his research was given in the popular press. "...You may be able to improve mood by blocking the breakdown of anandamide. It's not just something cute that we've done, so that now we know more about chocolate. The hope is that it may contribute to helping cure mental disease," he said in a recent interview.[Psychiatric News, 1996] "