It is essential for us to have a basic understanding of our physical make-up. This is highly relevant knowledge that will help us know how to better take care of ourselves. When I became a licensed massage therapist I had to study anatomy and physiology, myology, pathology, neurology, kinesiology, and many other medical sciences. I was required to learn how our body works: its structure and its functions. I loved it! I loved learning about the mechanisms in our bodies—and all that’s going on inside of us. It’s quite fascinating. The more I learned about our anatomy and physiology, the better I knew how to support my physical wellbeing. As I know better, I do better. I am a great advocate of eating [organic] whole foods: grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. When we eat whole foods, we provide our bodies with all of the essential nutrients required to maintain good health. When we eat primarily [overly] processed foods, the cells in our bodies do not receive the nutrients required to perform their jobs. When our cells are nutritionally deprived, we become imbalanced. Our cells maintain us so they need to stay healthy and strong; if we fail to provide them with the nutrients they need, they cannot support us nor protect us. It is within all of our best interests to know how our bodies work and what we need to do to stay healthy. There needs to be a shift in our approach to food. Food is meant to nourish us, cleanse our systems, fight disease, build our immunity, etc. When we forget this, we tend to eat solely for the sake of enjoyment, which can have adverse effects. Find enjoyment in healthy food. It’s a win-win!
Our bodies are very complex. Did you know that inside of our bodies there are 6 different levels of organization and 11 different (major) systems? In the words of Edith Applegate author of The Anatomy and Physiology Learning System: the human body is an awesome masterpiece. Imagine billions of microscopic parts, each with its own identity, working together in an organized manner for the benefit of the total being. Edith Applegate goes on to say: The human body is more complex than the greatest computer, yet it is very personal. Knowledge of the human body is beneficial to all. Using this knowledge will help keep the body healthy. In addition to all of this, the study of the human body is appealing. It lets us learn more about ourselves. Anatomy is the scientific study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Physiology is the scientific study of the functions or processes of living things. It is the study of how the parts in anatomy work, what they do, and why. Anatomy and physiology are interrelated because structure influences function and function affects structure. One of the most outstanding features of the complex human body is its order and organization–how all of the parts, from tiny atoms to visible structures work together to make a functioning whole. There are six levels to the organizational scheme of the body. Starting with the simplest and proceeding to the most complex, the six levels of organization are chemical, cellular, tissue, organ, body system, and total organism (that’s us—the human being). There are eleven major organ systems in the human body, each with specific functions, yet all are interrelated and working together to sustain life (I wish we could say the same thing about the human race).
The eleven systems are:
- The Integumentary System: Its functions are to cover and protect the body and regulate temperature. Foods with Vitamin A help to support this system. For example: yellow, orange, and green vegetables; milk and cheese (to name a few).
- The Skeletal System: Its function is to provide the body framework and support; it protects and attaches muscles to bone and provides calcium storage. To support the skeletal system we need Vitamin D (which is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight)–and also Calcium, Phosphorus and Fluoride. These nutrients are found in fortified milk, dairy, green vegetables, legumes, nuts and fluoridated water.
- The Muscular System: This system produces movement; maintains posture; and provides heat. Our muscular system is supported by eating proteins which contain amino acids. Good sources of protein are dairy, nuts, grains, and legumes.
- The Nervous System: This system coordinates body activities; and receives and transmits stimuli. Our nervous system is supported by eating foods that contain B1, B12, Sodium, and Potassium–for example: whole grains, legumes, nuts, dairy, salt, fruits and vegetables.
- The Endocrine System: This system regulates metabolic activities and body chemistry. Foods that support this system contain essential Omega fatty acids–for example flax seed oil; dairy; olives, olive oil; nuts and avocados.
- The Cardiovascular System: Its function is to transport material from one part of the body to another; and defend against disease. Many different foods can help to prevent heart disease: Flaxseed, Oatmeal, Black or Kidney Beans, Almonds, Walnuts, Red Wine, Tofu, Brown rice, Soy Milk, Blueberries, Carrots, Spinach, Broccoli, Sweet Potato, Red Bell Peppers, Asparagus, Oranges, Tomatoes, Acorn Squash, Cantaloupe, Papaya, Dark Chocolate, Tea.
- The Lymphatic System. Its function is to return fluid to the blood and defend against disease. Foods rich in potassium can help support and build a healthy lymphatic system. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables include bananas, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Eating healthy foods—listed below—assist the flow of lymph in your lymph vessels, according to the American Holistic Health Association: Water: Drinking enough water each day can help you maintain a healthy lymphatic system. You should drink a minimum of eight glasses per day for good health. Essential Fatty Acids: A healthy, properly functioning lymphatic system requires an adequate intake of healthy fats. Good sources of healthy fats include nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts. Other good sources include avocados.
- The Digestive System: Its function is to ingest food and absorb nutrients into blood. Many digestive problems can be prevented through lifestyle. Be sure to get adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Having proper digestion is absolutely essential to maintain good health so it’s great to be aware of the foods that support this system, which are: Yogurt, Rice, Tofu, Dandelion Greens, Sunflower Seeds, Sea Vegetables, Miso, Flaxseed Oil, Tempeh, Papaya, Garlic, Turmeric, Bananas, Basil & Sage
- The Respiratory System: Foods that support this system are: Yogurt and Kefir, Fruits and Vegetables, Warm Fluids: Warm fluids, such as herbal teas, broth, soups and warm water, promote hydration and help your body flush toxins away through urine. Protein-rich soups (with beans and lentils)—and incorporating vegetables into soups provide additional antioxidant benefits. Opt for broth-based soups most often, since creamy soups may interfere with mucus and congestion.
- The Urinary System: Its function is to excrete metabolic wastes; regulate fluid balance and acid-base balance. You can promote optimal health of your urinary system with Purple-Colored Foods. Purple and blue fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, plums, figs, eggplants and purple cabbage, Probiotics (Probiotic bacteria in foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut can help prevent urinary tract infections by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting overgrowth or infection by pathogens), Coriander, Garlic, Diuretic Foods: Most fruits and vegetables have diuretic properties, however, some, such as celery, eggplant, watermelon, leeks and asparagus, are particularly effective, according to George Pamplona-Roger, M.D., author of the book “Foods that Heal”. And last is:
- The Reproductive System: According to Cynthia Staad, a holistic health counselor, green leafy vegetables are reproductive health super foods. Staad states that green leafy vegetables are nature’s multivitamins that are filled with everything the body needs to sustain a healthy reproductive system, including high calcium, Vitamin D and magnesium content Also ginger root because it increases circulation and stimulates energy flow throughout the body and garlic because it opens up blood vessels, accelerates blood flow and stimulates the nervous system. Staad suggests eating a green leafy vegetable every day if possible, including spinach as well as dandelion greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, beet greens, green chard and kale. She also recommends squash, sweet potatoes, turnips and beans. Ayurvedic, or traditional Indian medicine expert Vaidya Mishra also agrees that fruits can improve reproductive health. He suggests eating fresh, organic fruits such as pears, peaches, plums and mangos and eating dried fruits such as figs, raisins and dates. Mishra also recommends cooking with cumin, black cumin, turmeric and ajwain powder, and including dairy products such as milk to your diet to increase reproductive health.
Nutrient-dense, whole foods support our overall health. When we eat healthy, whole foods we support all of the systems in our bodies so that they can perform their various functions and keep us healthy. By eating whole foods: grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables (all of the different colors—green, red, yellow, orange, purple, etc.), nuts and seeds–we give ourselves the best chance at feeling well, aging well and having a greater quality of life. Enjoy and appreciate all of the wonderful foods that nature has to offer and BE WELL!
Credits to author Edith Applegate, webmd.com, curepure.com, and to livestrong.com