Does the Brain Control the Body or the Body Control the Brain?
Control and coordination of our body is not always linear and definitely not reliant on just one system, and just may work differently than we thought.
It is almost like there are three separate levels of control within our body keeping it going together as one. The nervous system, hormonal system, and cellular action.
First we have the brain and nervous system that act as the great data cruncher and responder. About 10% of the central nervous system’s nerve fibers are for out going messages telling the body what to do. Things like voluntary movement, like when you want to walk, shake someone’s hand or get up out of bed. This control seems to have more of a broad stroke concept as the nerves branch out all over and innervate the tissues of our body. The other 90% of the central nervous system’s wiring is for incoming messages from the tissues, organs, and different parts of the body reporting back to the brain what is happening and where we are. Those messages tell your brain where each part is and what it is doing so that when you pick up some food to eat you can put it in your mouth and not your ear without thinking much about it. A big part of that body to brain relay is so that we can do two things very well. One is walk. Upright posture and walking take a tremendous amount of coordination in both the brain and the body. The other major focus of this communication is for chewing. The jaw and all of it’s associated structures like the tongue require more innervation from you nerves than any other single part of your body.
This neurological reporting system sets up the general tone for the body. We have two opposing neurological tones that are in force at any given time, the sympathetic stress mode and the para sympathetic healing mode. Both of these tones are vitally important but they do two very different things to keep us alive and only one mode can be dominant at any given time. The sympathetic stress tone is what stirs things up in our body and gets it ready for action. This mode is traditionally seen and talked about in relation to our fight or flight response. Most people are pretty familiar with the concept of fight or flight. When we perceive a threat, and yes we have to cognitively sense a threat, it is not a given or an automatic response, our brain and nervous system start sending the messages all around our body to defend ourselves by fighting for our life or running away. In either case the nervous system triggers a massive cascade of hormonal chemicals that shut down energy in our digestive tract and organs as well as our immune system to shift that energy to our brain and muscles for action. Blood sugar, our energetic turbo boost fuel, is liberated and sent all over the body to make sure we can do what ever we need to do to get through this threat. Once we take the needed action our body starts to shift it’s tone from the sympathetic stress mode to the parasympathetic healing mode. As this mode becomes more dominant we adjust our breathing, our energy returns to our internal organs, we start up our digestion and immune system again as our body starts to attempt to repair any damage that was done by the turbo boost chemistry and the life saving action that followed.
This example is a good model showing how our nervous system works on a higher level to coordinate movement, direct neurological tone and coordinate responses and certain functions. It also leads us into how the next tier of bodily control works, the endocrine system. The endocrine system is basically our hormonal organs, tissues, glands and the hormones themselves. This system uses very small in size and amounts of hundreds of different types of hormones to influence and direct tissue action all over our body.
Hormones are very powerful and they guide tissue action and sort of take over where the nervous system left off by keeping all the feedback loops together that create the message from the cells that the tissue they make up will report back to the brain. Hormones direct action inside the tissues from one cell to another, from tissue and organ to other tissues and organs, and then of course back to the nervous system and brain. Hormones are very powerful, so powerful that most of the free hormone that gets secreted it bound up immediately by what are called hormone binding globulins to help mediate their effect. Consequently, a little goes a long way. We like to say, hormones whisper, not scream. Just their mere presence in a tissue or the blood stream will jump start action at the tissue and cellular level, even if that particular hormone doesn’t even bind to the corresponding cell.
That brings us to the next and in my opinion the ultimate level of body control. The cell. Each of your 70,000,000,000,000 (that is trillion) cells are alive. Well, almost all of them, it is questionable if red blood cells are alive since they don’t have a nucleus and can not divide…..but anyway. Each one could live independently, for a while. Each and every cell eats, eliminates waste, repairs it’s damage, breathes (so to speak), and divides, or reproduces. The job of each cell s to take care of itself. Be the best cell it can be, because if it does it’s job and stays healthy, and his neighbors do the same, his community will then be healthy leading to healthy tissues that build healthy organs that make up healthy systems that work together to make a healthy you!
True healing, as well as disease, starts at the cellular level. Heal the cell and you get well. The cell drives the feedback to the hormonal system and to the tissues that report to the nervous system and brain and they all respond to what that little cell has to say. I know a lot of people say the brain controls the body, but when you look at the magic of how all this works it is easy to see how the body controls the brain, and the body is built by, and controlled by the cells.
So, now, to this diagram I have made. I am trying to show the relationship of the hierarchy of system and tissue control within the body, just as I have explained here above. It shows the brain and its gross motor control and interpreting what goes on in the body at the top leading down to the general balance and tone of the nervous system. That then directs action in the tissue via the hormonal response. From there and we see how there is a two way street connecting back to the cells. How the cells use fuel (among other things) can influence our cellular health and what gets reported and responded to back up the chain leading to healing or disease.
I also included some beneficial health modalities that can be used at each step to help direct us towards optimal balance, function and healing.
Top tier efforts that have been shown to help promote stronger parasympathetic healing tone and reduce the sympathetic dominance that influence all processes to follow are: Meditation, Chiropractic, Paced Breathing
Sleep. No one single effort has been shown more powerful in helping clear the mind, detox the brain, reset the hormones, clear cell receptors and promote overall healing as sleep.
Stress resilience is different from stress resistance or traditional stress management where it helps your build and condition your system and response to stress in a way that it can build you up and make you better vs. break you down and cause problems.
Diet and exercise play the single number one role in whether our cells are chronic sugar burners promoting oxidation and inflammation or effective fat burners that promote cellular structure and function integrity, healing, and growth.
So I propose that it just might be time to change our perspective from the top down model of physiology to the bottom up cellular driven feedback model. Well, anyway you look at it, it is one amazing system this beautiful body of ours, and no matter which way it works one thing is certain, it can be, and wants to be healthy, if we get out of it’s way and let it.
Be well Tribers!
Dr. Don Clum
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