Our bodies are finely tuned machines. The inner workings of our physiological systems know better than we do how to keep us healthy and free from harm. When these systems function harmoniously, wellness naturally follows. Homeostasis, our natural balance, occurs. Stress can adversely affect and or all of our systems.
Let’s briefly take a look at the major systems within our bodies.
The Nervous System is basically our body’s motherboard. Specialized cells, called neurons, carry signals in the form of tiny bursts of electricity which are mostly stored in the brain. The two main subsystems are the Central Nervous System, which coordinates the activities of the body; and the Peripheral Nervous System that consists of nerve impulses that are responsible for relaying messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. The cranial nerves in our brains make up our senses – the sense of touch we have in our skin; the sense of smell we have in our nose; the tastes we have on our tongues, the hearing in our ears and the sight we have through our eyes.
The Endocrine System is closely related to the Nervous System. It is sometimes referred to as our Metabolic Nervous System as it uses chemical messengers called hormones to cause our cells to respond. Hormones are produced by the endocrine glands, which release directly into our bloodstreams. These glands are vital to our body’s function and include the hypothalamus, which regulates our appetite; the pineal gland that controls our body rhythms such as sleeping and walking; the pituitary gland, often called the Master Gland because its hormones control the other glands. The thyroid, which controls our metabolic rate; the thymus is responsible for our immune system; and the adrenal glands which are a key way our body deals with stress.
The Cardiovascular System is comprised of our blood, vessels and heart. We depend on the continuous delivery of oxygen and nutrients as well as the removal of wastes which are all carried by the blood to the cells. Obviously, our heart is a very important organ, the vessel that pumps our blood back and forth within our veins and arteries. The lungs are important in our circulation – oxygen rich blood enters the heart from the lungs and is pumped to the rest of our body. The oxygen poor blood then goes into the heart and is pumped to the lungs for more oxygenation.
Our Immune System consists of billions of white blood cells found in the circulatory and lymphatic systems. The lymphatic organs include the tonsils, the spleen and the lymph nodes. The immune system is triggered by foreign antigens to produce antibodies and antioxidants as well as killer cells that destroy foreign invaders.
The Respiratory System ensures that the body has sufficient oxygen without which it cannot survive. The respiratory process takes oxygen from the air and transports it to the bloodstream. In turn, it then pushes air out expelling unwanted carbon dioxide, which is needed for survival. The respiratory system consists of the nose and nasal cavity, the throat and larynx, the trachea, bronchi and lungs.
The Digestive System is important for processing the food we eat. The digestive system converts food into nourishment by means of mechanical operations and chemical substances. After this process has been accomplished, it gets rid of any undigested waste. Mechanical digestion occurs through chewing and a muscular churning by the stomach and intestines called peristalsis, which break down the food into smaller bits. Chemical digestion occurs through the excretion of enzymes or chemical catalysts that break down the food bits into smaller units. Thus the teeth chew the food, the tongue helps to swallow the food and the esophagus propels it down into the stomach where the enzymes and gastric juices help break the food down into very small bits. From there those bits enter the small intestines to be absorbed. The small intestine provides additional enzymes and receives pancreatic juice from the pancreas and bile from the liver. The walls of the small intestine absorb the nutrients and leave behind indigestible waste which exits our body through the elimination system.
The Urinary System performs the essential function of releasing urine and balancing and stabilizing the conditions inside the body. The kidneys filter the blood to remove unwanted wastes that must be eliminated before a build-up poisons the system. The kidneys manufacture urine which is transported to the bladder. It is stored there until the bladder is full and then carried out through the elimination system. That system is contained within the respiratory system with the lungs expelling carbon dioxide; the digestive system with the large intestine and the urinary system. These systems work along with the skin, which expels toxins through perspiration help to free the body of waste, dead cells and toxins.
The Skeletal Muscular System forms the framework of the body and includes the bones, bony structures, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and connective tissue such as collegen. The skeleton provides the basic framework for the body tissue and organs and gives the body its shape. They protect the vital organs of the body and anchor the muscles. The muscles produce a wide range of movement from running to changes in facial expressions. They help maintain posture, stabilize joints and generate heat. When a muscle is strained or pulled, it becomes out of place and can block nerve channels and vessels transporting nutrients to the body’s cells. When this happens pain occurs and the muscles must be brought back into place.
Our body’s systems are wired to notify us when something is out of balance. Pain or a disruption of any of our normal body functions indicates a problem. Stress can have a very negative impact on our physical being. In our next post, we will explore how stress can limit our ability to function.