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How Does Your Body Work?

Understanding how the body works

– inside and out! –

to heal and prevent disease.

Written by 

Deborah Freudenmann 

Did you know that no organ in your body exists in isolation? Everything is connected. Your thyroid, your bones, your gums, your gut…every part of you makes up the bigger picture.

If you want to heal from the root, you have to understand how your body really works. That’s why everything we teach at Truly Heal is based on how the body’s many systems work together.

When you understand how every organ has its role, and how each part of the body impacts the others, you can finally understand what causes imbalances and illness. You can remove the root causes of disease, regain balance, and live a truly healthy life!

Let’s take a journey through the body to understand how it works and how you can heal from the root.

The Big Picture: Your Body + Your Environment

When you think of your body, what do you think of? Your arms, your legs, your brain? What about the 100 trillion cells that work together to make up the big picture of you? What about the outside factors that contribute to your health just as much as the internal factors?

In reality, your body is an entire microcosm. How healthy you are depends on your genetics and your epigenetics: your habits, lifestyle, and external environment.

If your cells are burdened by the debris from poor diet, heavy metals, chemicals, toxins, rancid oils, preservatives, etc. then you won’t be able to properly repair and build new tissue. The body may create faulty or incorrect products and send the wrong message to the entire body. This then causes an avalanche of trouble; organ systems fall out of balance, the wrong genes are turned “on” or “off,” and disease begins.

While you don’t have control over your genetics, you do have control over your epigenetics. You can prevent this cascade of events by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For instance, eating a diet rich in colorful whole foods and steering clear of GMO foods, pesticides, and processed foods can protect your cells. Exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water, and getting outside promote a healthy balance.

With a healthier epigenetic environment, your cells will be able to send the right messages, make the proper proteins, and lead the body to a balanced state of health.

Fuel First: The Resources We Need to Live

Neither man nor machine can function without fuel! We need a variety of healthy fuel sources to move, think, repair, and regenerate.

Take the brain for instance. At its simplest, the brain is a bundle of fat and protein. Fat myelinates your nerve cells and helps speed up communication. Proteins called peptides make up other parts of the brain and neurotransmitters. Glucose (sugar), ketones, and other polysaccharides fuel the brain with energy so we can carry out all our daily functions and think.
There are three main types of fuel everyone needs to survive: fat, protein, and sugar.

Fats

The body needs fat to thrive. All your cells are held together by a membrane of fat that regulates what comes in and out of the cells. Cells use fat as fuel, since it converts more easily into fuel than protein or sugars. Fat is also necessary to build cholesterol, hormones, and neurotransmitters.

Fat absorbs toxins and keeps them from entering healthy cells. When fats in the cell membrane absorb too many toxins, they are replaced with new, healthy fats.

Unfortunately, a diet full of junk and processed food contains low quality or damaged oils. They have already been oxidized and cannot be used to repair the cell membranes or make essential hormones. To replace the old fats, the body has to neutralize the free radicals of the damaged oils and use up your antioxidant stores. In the end, you can repair your fatty membranes, but you lose energy and vitality doing so.

The better way to “change your oil” is by eating healthier fats and nutrients that support healthy cells in the first place. Reduce your toxic load, eat healthy non-inflammatory fats, and fill up on fat soluble vitamins like vitamin D3, vitamin A, and vitamin E.

Proteins

You can get proteins from either plant or animal sources. Proteins are necessary to rebuild muscle and organ tissues, as well as to provide energy. The muscles, glands, and organs are mostly made from proteins and various minerals. Like the brain, they require sugar to function, as well as amino acids, fluids, and electrolytes.

Sugar

Sugar is harmful, right? While refined sugar does cause inflammation and a range of health problems, the body needs healthy sugars to function.
What is healthy sugar? There are 8 sugar types (called glyconutrients) that the body uses to make essential polysaccharides that make up your cells and tissues, as well as to turn certain genes “on” or “off.” These are found in healthy fruits, vegetables, and certain grains.

Energy, Fluids, and Blood

Thousands of years ago, ancient Eastern medicine doctors suspected that the body had unique energetic properties. The movement of energy through the body is what supports life and keeps our organ systems functioning. It is also what connects all our systems. In more recent years, modern research has proven that this is, in fact, true!

Your body is made up of minerals, salts, and electrolytes that create a seawater-like system. This gives the nervous system the power to make your body breathe, walk, circulate blood, digest, and perform every other task it does on a daily basis.

This salt creates isotonic fluid and blood that is about as salty as seawater (9% sodium). So, in a way, we are saltwater beings! We need an isotonic balance, electrolytes, and fluid to thrive.

The Body Systems

The Digestive System: Your Energy Center

Fuel is important, but we also need a way to incorporate that fuel into the body. Digestion doesn’t start in the stomach, or even your mouth. Digestion actually starts in your brain!

In the brain…The smell of food triggers your brain, which sends a message to your gut to prepare for a meal. The gut then starts producing digestive juices and enzymes to transform the food into usable molecules for the body.

In the mouth…As you chew, you help break down your food into digestible particles. Enzymes in your saliva also help to start the digestive process and breakdown of food.

In the stomach…Stomach acids start to break down big chunks of food into smaller pieces so more nutrients can be absorbed.

In the gut…As food enters the intestines, probiotics and enzymes continue the break-down process. They work together to extract nutrients from the food that are then absorbed into the blood. What cannot be used by the body is passed through the entire intestinal tract and leaves the body as waste.

The Circulatory System: Your Transportation

The circulatory system acts as your body’s transport system. The electrically-charged heart muscle pumps blood throughout the body, delivering nutrients and oxygen to every cell via countless tiny capillaries.

The delivery route of the circulatory system starts centrally, in the heart. Here, blood is pumped to the lungs where it picks up oxygen, then flows down to the digestive system to pick up nutrients from the gut, then passes through the liver to exchange nutrients, moves to the gallbladder to collect cholesterol, moves to the brain to drop off nutrients, then delivers any waste picked up on the way to the kidneys, colon, and lungs.

As you can see, every cell, tissue, and organ in the body relies on healthy circulation to get the nutrients it needs and rid itself of waste and toxins. Without proper circulation, our capillaries become clogged, nutrients do not arrive, and the body starts to fail.

The Bones: Your Reserve Tank

Every good design contains a reserve tank, and your body is no different. Whether you’re dealing with an injury, illness, or other medical condition, a reserve tank offers a safety net of life-preserving fuel and nutrients.

In the human body, this reserve tank is located in your bones. Here, healthy fats, minerals, and necessary growth factors are stored for a rainy day. When we fall out of homeostasis, we can pull on these resources from the bones.

For instance, the yellow marrow inside your bones stores essential fatty acids to use in case you run low. Minerals from your bone matrix can be drawn out to alkalise the blood if it gets too acidic. The bones can even store harmful heavy metals to keep them from damaging your organs and glands.

How do the bones do this? They are made up of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and collagen that can be deployed to create new cells and make sure the body stays in balance.

In addition to acting as the reserve tank, the bones release a key hormone called osteocalcin, which regulates blood sugar and fat metabolism.

The Immune System: Your Security

Your immune system is like your body’s security system. How strong your immune system is depends on how much you support it (through diet, exercise, supplements, and stress management), and how much you train it (through exposure to breast milk, germs, and childhood illnesses).

Each time you get sick, you teach your body how to overcome illnesses – and how to spot danger. T-cells, B-cells, lymphocytes, and immunoglobulins learn to target different germs, viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens every day.

Aside from the immune cells that travel in your bloodstream, other areas of the body have immune system function. The skin contains twice as many disease-killing T-cells as the blood, and the gut stores up to 25% of the body’s total immune cells. You’ll also find immune cells in your nasal passages, your lungs, and other organ systems that act as security units to defend and protect your body.

The Lymph System: Your Waste Management

A well-functioning car, building, or body needs an effective waste management team. And in the body, that’s our lymphatic system.

This essential, yet often forgotten system, acts as your body’s sewage draining system. Lymph fluid picks up dead cells, waste, debris, and toxins and brings it to the body’s “elimination centers” – the skin (sweat), lungs (CO2 exhalation), the kidneys (urine), and the colon (feces).

How does the lymph system “take out the trash”? It relies on your movement! Unlike the blood that gets pumped through the body by your heart, the lymph system only circulates when you move. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, don’t drink enough water, avoid exercise, or stay in bed all day when you are sick, your lymph cannot circulate and help remove waste.

This is why regular exercise and healthy hydration is so important. Flush your system with lots of fresh water throughout the day and enjoy exercise each day, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood! For an even better “jump”-start to your lymph system, try jumping jacks, jumprope, or bouncing on a trampoline.

Outside the Body: Epigenetic Factors that Influence Health

Your health isn’t just dependent on what happens inside your body, but outside it too. Here are some of the ways you can help your body function optimally:

Diet Choices

The classic saying holds true: you are what you eat! While the body does make many nutrients, enzymes, and hormones on its own, it needs certain nutrients and building blocks from your diet, too.

To help your body function like a well-oiled machine, be sure to eat a varied, whole-foods diet. Include foods like:

  • Raw fruits and vegetables. These not only provide tons of vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed for a healthy body, but they also contain enzymes that are needed to properly break down foods.
  • Probiotics. Probiotics can be taken as a supplement or found in fermented foods like kefir, miso, and kimchi. Probiotics also help create enzymes in the gut, encourage healthy digestion, and protect your body’s immune system.
  • Whole grains. Whole grains (as well as many fruits and veggies) contain dietary fiber that cleans the digestive tract and keeps waste moving. This prevents toxic build-up and keeps the body in balance.
  • Healthy carbohydrates. A diet rich in good sources of glyconutrients gives your body the healthy sugars it needs to stay in balance. Avoid refined or processed sugars, as these don’t provide the right nutrients and can cause disease.
Exercise

Exercise keeps your lymph flowing, your capillaries open, and your nervous system calm. Just like a car gets rusty when sitting in a garage for too long, our bodies can become sluggish and even sick when we don’t move daily and stay active.

Aim to exercise every day. A long walk is a great way to get your blood and lymph moving and relax your mind. Try different exercises to find something you enjoy. It’s even better if you can find an activity that gets you outside in nature, breathing in clean air and basking under the sun!

Sunlight

Sunlight is necessary for bone, immune, and nervous system health. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D3. This vitamin is crucial for maintaining strong bones and a resilient immune system.

Beyond the skeletal system, sunlight also regulates the pineal gland, melatonin productions, and other hormones in the body. Unfortunately, many of us spend most of our time inside. We work under artificial light and don’t get out in the sun.

It’s still important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, but you do need some sun exposure to keep your body functioning properly! Otherwise, the pineal gland becomes sluggish, melatonin levels drop, and your endocrine system falls out of balance. Because hormone balance is crucial for so many of our other body functions, a lack of sunlight can cause major health issues.

Work for Your Body and Your Body Will Work for You!

So often we feel powerless in our health. But the truth is that while we all have tendencies to certain issues, we also have the power to change our health trajectory.

Understanding how your body works is the essential first step. The second step is to take on habits that support your body. Functional medicine is here to help you do just that!

Through the functional medicine lens, you can identify the causative factors that are leading to your health issues and reverse them. When your body has the right resources and environment to thrive, it can’t help but to heal itself!

Learn more in our Truly Heal Academy / Course. 

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