Understanding Optimal Health, part 3
As we finish our series of discussing optimal health, we’ll finish by talking about where our health needs to ultimately begin to enjoy all its benefits. Since health begins at the microscopic level, we’ll return to what we’re made of- cells, including how they stay healthy and get sick, and the effects a single unhealthy cell can have on an entire organ and the body over time.
At the cellular level there are genetic mechanical systems. Here biochemical and electrical activities with astonishing amounts of biochemical reactions occur anywhere between 20 thousand to over 120 thousand times per minute, every hour of the cell’s existence. All this activity requires raw material in the form of nutrients; energy in the form of carbohydrates and good fats; and definitely an additional chemical element to help create the spark needed to utilize energy stored in carbohydrates.
As we discussed in our last blog, our digestive system is in charge of absorption of the foods we eat. It breaks down food into smaller particles to be used by our cells. Nutrients are then sent through the circulatory system and are delivered to the cells’ “front door”. This is a very precise and well orchestrated process requiring action on the part of a cell. To get a better picture, let’s take one as a model to discuss its anatomy.
Each cell has a membrane that covers and protects them. Part of it also serves as receptors and messengers for the cell; it can deny or allow entrance of any hormone or chemical. Inside is the cytoplasm which contains hundreds of small organs. There are also hundreds of nuclear power plants provide energy for cellular functions, “manufacturing facilities” to recreate damaged areas or entire organelles as needed, transport “vehicles”, water, biochemicals, and of course the nucleus at the center. In the nucleus are housed chromosomes where cellular genetic material is located. These are made of amino acids.
All cells have a predetermined life. Depending on where they are assigned to in the body, specific genes are turned on making a bone cell a bone cell or an eye cell and eye cell. This genetic information also ensures that cells divide (regeneration) through mitosis, creating an exact replica of itself. In this way our body continually regenerates itself. Once this is completed another gene will turn on initiating the cell’s death through apoptosis. The dead cell is removed through the detoxification mechanism, which calls upon immune cells to dismantle the dead cell into smaller parts. Since dead cells create toxins which are harmful to the body, it’s important work to be done. The remains are passed through “pipes” (veins and lymphatic system) to the kidneys and liver for disposal to the intestines for removal out of our body. Detoxification is also done through our skin and lungs.
It’s important to note that all cellular operations depend on the following:
Healthy cell receptors
Neurotransmitter balance/Communication between the brain and tissues
Hypothalamus/pituitary axis balancing the stress response
Detox of microscopic environment, both inside and out of the cell
Normal Ph levels
Fat storage balance
The cytoplasm is in constant communication with the nucleus. If there are any changes to these factors, the cytoplasm will inform the nucleus, causing specific genes to be triggered to activate cellular inflammation. Additionally internal organelles tell the nucleus of any changes occurring inside the cell, initiating the same inflammatory response. It should be noted that these genes are turned on as a way to bring back balance by regulating the effects of these changes. As cells are repaired, everything goes back to normal. If repairs are unable to be done however, cells will turn on another gene to initiate cellular suicide with the purpose of preventing problems to neighboring cells and the body. This is because if these unhealthy cells remain alive, gene modification occurs creating toxins in the environment. In time the cell becomes a real threat to other cells and cause them to become sick as well, leading to the beginning of chronic illness if the immune system isn’t working at its best.
If repairs don’t take place inflammatory genes remain on (and there are more than 500 genes dedicated to inflammation alone), creating damage to amino acid orders. As a result, cellular aging and chromosome damage becomes irreparable. This change in gene sequences alters cellular function and biochemical production, resulting in toxins and an array of other problems. These include activating genes that aren’t supposed to be turned on or inhibiting specific genes that could aid repair. These problems affect telomerase sizes causing early aging in the cell. As we can see, this is a real problem for our entire body.
Let’s talk about neurotransmitter and its major influence on regulating our entire body, including promoting homeostasis and hormonal balance. These molecules are made by our brain and are responsible for balance and delivering information that helps create cellular homeostasis. They are messengers carrying information; traveling through nerves, they reach cell membranes and pass along the information. Each cell has receptors ready to receive information. Once received, genes are activated for cellular activities in the cell.
Chronic stress affects neurotransmitter balance and communication between the brain and body. It promotes high levels of stress responses and, as a result, a higher level of cortisol and epinephrine in the blood stream. As these hormones run through the body, they affect cellular biological activities, promoting inflammation. Unless this is stopped, cellular sickness is eminent.
Let’s discuss the stress mechanism to understand the genetic, anatomic, and biochemical response.
As living beings, we are exposed to many things in our surroundings- weather, temperature, toxins, predators, famine, injuries; our personal security could be jeopardized by financial or political changes. Aside from this, our own emotional stability could be impacted by the wrong choices of others. Any changes that give a sign or perception of danger or unsafe conditions or loss, turns on the stress mechanism in the brain. As a means to keep us safe, certain areas in the limbic area and neocortex are activated to avoid danger or crisis. The neocortex region maintains trillions of stored files from previous experiences; memories. Our conscience, empathy, compassion, morals, and values are also saved here. These two regions work together to find the right memories/files to understand the situation and keep us safe. The neocortex is constantly vigilant to ensure that misjudgements aren’t taken place. Our conscient state is managed by our limbic area. By doing this the stress mechanism can be regulated. However, if stress persists, the mechanism will remain on leading to a series of physical damages, starting with cellular illness spoken of earlier.
The good news however, is that health can be improved and the body can be healed. We can take back our lives and health by making certain lifestyle changes as needed. Some important tips to begin with are:
Eating well- We need 5 healthy meals a day (3 main meals and 2 snacks). Additionally we should have our first meal within an hour and half of waking up and our last main meal before 7pm.
Stay hydrated- Drink 8-10 eight oz. glasses of water a day.
Sleep enough- For adults this is 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Children need 9-10 hours.
Exercise- At least 20-30 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week.
Balance your life- Make time for family and friends, hobbies, relaxation, etc. Don’t spend all or most of your time on specific task (such as work).
Remember that optimal health is within reach if we’re willing to put in the effort to make the necessary changes. Life will be filled with more happiness and our capacity to serve others around us will be increased. Healing and health can and will come, if we do our part.