By: Dr. Suman Bharali
Numerous fine and important functions of the human body are involuntary. Which means we cannot control them directly. Such as our heartbeat. An electrical impulse originates from a little sinus node in our heart and is transmitted to the heart muscles making it contract rhythmically. This results in the opening and closing of the valves between different chambers of the heart and pumps blood throughout the body. The control and coordination of the body depend on the nervous system and the secretion of different biochemicals in the body. Our sensory organs such as eyes, nostrils, ears, tongue, and skin help us in perceiving the universe and gathering knowledge or information. This information is fed to the brain where it is processed and instructs our body to perform different activities. Some information is stored as a memory for future reference and intellect. The excretory system such as kidneys, intestines and skin pores, etc. excretes the waste products and toxins from the body and maintains electrolyte balance as well. A slight disturbance in these can be harmful to the body. Different enzymes, co-enzymes, hormones, autocoids, neurotransmitters, etc. are produced by different endocrine and exocrine glands, cells of different organs that maintain the metabolism of the body. Disturbance in secretion or action of these can cause many diseases and disorders. Our lymphatic system, immunoglobins, and components of blood are responsible for our immunity to fight against harmful pathogens or antigens. But alteration in their secretion and action can result in immunodeficiency, auto immune diseases, bleeding, allergic reactions, etc. Our Musculoskeletal system comprised of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments is responsible for maintaining our posture, strength to do activities, and determining our external appearance. Overuse, underuse, or misuse of them can lead to painful and debilitating disorders. Furthermore, degenerative changes occur in the body after a certain age. Free radicals cause oxidative damage to the cells of different organs facilitating degeneration.
Thus, we see that a lot of important functions in our body are not within our control and are autonomic. The autonomic nervous system of our body is responsible for many major activities. It comprises of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system activities during times of emergency. It is necessary for our survival as it makes us ready to fight or fight a dangerous situation. It makes us alert and gives instant energy to take necessary actions. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, some steroid hormones are secreted from our supra-renal glands and provide an immediate surge of energy. Our heart rate increases resulting in enhanced circulation throughout the body so that every cell of the body is provided with an adequate blood supply carrying nutrients and oxygen. The metabolism is increased and the respiration becomes fast. There is increased sweating, excessive secretion of gastric juices, peristalsis of the intestines, and an urge for excretion of urine to excrete the different toxins from the body as a result of increased metabolism. Our sense organs become hyperactive to increase alertness. Different chemicals such as adrenaline, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, cortisol, etc. are secreted when the sympathetic system is activated. These are beneficial at the time of emergency and stressful situations and saves us from dangers. But if they persist for a long period, they are harmful to the body.
Nowadays people create stressful situations and emergencies due to improper understanding of the body, mind, soul, life, and the universe. People set targets more than their feasibility and keep running towards infinity. Most of them don’t know when to stop, how much is enough, and when to contend. Every moment of life is precious and is to be lived thoroughly and every experience is to be savoured. Life is not only to achieve higher goals and gather as much material as one can. Every moment life is passing by and soon it reaches the end before one starts to live it. So, acceptance and contentment are important.
We need to be conscious of the state of our body and mind. Also, we need to be aware of the universe we are in. There needs to be harmony inside and outside us to live peacefully. People give importance to external appearance and facial beauty. But real fitness, strength, complexion, glow, sharpness of senses, and pure intelligence comes when our internal systems are in homeostasis. So, we need to take voluntary actions for their well-being. We know the cause of our diseases and sufferings yet we are reluctant to take the necessary steps to avoid them with some willpower, determination, and consistent discipline we can change our lifestyle to get better.
If we take conscious actions to make every system of the body better, soon we can have a healthy body and mind to live in harmony with the universe. For that, we need to focus on each system for some time and take some simple actions to improve their functions.
Our gastro-intestinal tract extends from mouth to anus. It is an important system as our body is run by what we feed into it. Food or medicine everything is digested assimilated and absorbed by it and affects the body. If there is some problem in the gastro-intestinal tract neither food will provide nutrition to the body nor medicines will be effective when taken. So, keeping the tract healthy and properly functional is most important. There are numerous diseases and disorders related to the digestive system. Most of them can be controlled if we act consciously. The process of digestion starts from our mouth then each part of the tract performs its activities to complete the process. We should not eat in hurry but should find some distraction-free time for our meals and eat in a clean and proper place. The food should be freshly cooked, juicy, and full of nutrients. The diet should be balanced containing all components such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, dietary fibers, and water in adequate quantity. We should eat food of all tastes such as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent in the required amount. Fruits and vegetables of all colours should be included in our diet. After sitting in a proper place in the right posture, and gathering everything necessary for the meal, we should eat peacefully concentrating on the food and savouring it. We should not overeat, starve or eat before previously taken food is digested completely. All of these impair digestion and are harmful.
We need to chew the food items properly as the process of digestion starts in our mouths. The salivary amylase enzyme is present in our mouth and should be mixed properly. Then the food reaches the stomach where it is churned and mixed with gastric acid and enzymes such as pepsin. These help in the digestion of proteins and heavy components in our diet. We should keep in mind that our food should be in proper ratio to our gastric juices and should not overburden them or irritate them for that reason; if we overeat the digestion is not proper. Also, if we take too much hot, spicy, oily, or fried food they irritate our stomach and we suffer from acidity.
The inner lining of our intestinal walls contains minute finger-like projections known as villi. They absorb the nutrients present in the food and supply them to the bloodstream from where they are carried all over the body by circulation. If these villi are damaged or the pores are blocked there will be an obstruction in the absorption of nutrients. So, we need to keep our guts clean and healthy. Dietary fibers help in cleaning our gut. Some erosive ulcers or intake of alcohol and other harmful chemicals present in adulterated foods may damage the intestinal lining thereby hampering the process of absorption. So, we need to avoid them consciously. Pro-biotics are very much popular nowadays. These are friendly bacteria present in our gut that help in the digestion and absorption of food particles properly. Too much intake of antibiotics kills them and thereby hampers the process of digestion and absorption. So, we need to take care of them and take curd, etc. which replenishes them.
The next important system to be taken care of is the cardio-vascular system. We should be aware of our heart and the circulation of blood throughout the body. Any part of the body that doesn’t receive adequate blood supply for a few minutes will suffer from ischemia and the cells may become dead and dysfunctional. If such an event happens in the major organs of the body like the heart, brain, or kidneys; it can be fatal. If this happens in extremities it may lead to amputation and morbidity.
Our heart rate and pulse tell us a lot about the condition of our body. We should voluntarily try to reduce our heart rate when we are under stress. Also, we should keep the circulation to each part of the body optimal by doing some physical activities or exercises regularly. We are alive until our heart is beating and pumping blood. The beat originates from a little node on the heart due to the activity of ions that produce an electrical impulse at regular intervals. This impulse is transmitted to the ventricles and causes contraction. Contraction of the different chambers of the heart causes the blood to flow from one chamber to another. When the valves between two chambers close there it produces a sound that is our heartbeat. Normally a heart beats 60 to 90 times per minute and takes a rest for fraction of seconds between two consecutive beats. We can focus on our heartbeat and observe whether it is rhythmic and normal or not. Too much stress or excitement alters it. So, we should consciously try to keep it near normal always
The blood carries the nutrients absorbed from the intestines and also takes oxygen from the lungs. It carries different hormones, immunoglobulins, and other biochemicals as well. All these are essential for each cell of different organs to survive and to carry on their activity properly. Also, blood carries the byproducts of cellular metabolism and other toxins to excrete them out of the body. It also maintains the balance in blood pressure, volume, Ph, and temperature of the body.
We need to protect the cardio-vascular system consciously. With stress, anxiety, etc. the arteries may get constricted and lead to hypertension and dysfunctional circulation. These may lead to fatal heart attacks and brain strokes. If the blood supply to the kidneys is disturbed this may lead to renal failure. So, we need to take conscious voluntary actions to keep them healthy.
We need to check the intake of refined flour and oils, sugar, and salt. We should do some aerobic exercise in an environment full of fresh oxygen. Then the blood will circulate well throughout the body to provide adequate oxygen. The sediments will not accumulate in the blood vessels and toxins will be flushed out of the body. The skin pores will open due to sweating and become clean. By doing occasional fasting the fats stored as adipose tissues and carbohydrates stored as glycogen in the liver will be utilized. Also, the enzymes related to these processes will be activated. When each cell of every organ will get an adequate blood supply the whole body will function at its best. Stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression affect the heart rate along with the whole body. This can be controlled by doing some breathing exercises like pranayama and meditation. Good sleep is also essential for the heart to relax and stay healthy. By taking some voluntary actions we can control the involuntary functions of the cardio-vascular system to stay healthy.
The next important organs of the body are the kidneys which regulate the excretion of urine. They are also responsible for the fluid and electrolyte balance in the body; maintenance of the blood pressure and acid-base balance in the body, blood formation, and vitamin D3 metabolism. Supra-renal glands secrete many important hormones essential for our survival.
An adequate supply of blood to the nephrons is essential for the normal functioning of the kidneys. If there is volume depletion due to dehydration, haemorrhage, etc. urine formation and excretion are reduced. Some hormones like aldosterone and anti-diuretic hormone also play an important in determining the concentration of urine. If there is any obstruction in the channels due to stone formation or infections then the flow of urine is disturbed and it is painful. If there is any dysfunction in the excretion of electrolytes in the urine it alters the constituents of the intra-cellular and extracellular fluids and the process of osmosis. If the fluid and electrolyte balance is disturbed and toxins are accumulated in the body, they cause many disorders in the body.
So, we need to be conscious of the condition of our kidneys and take proper care to keep them healthy. We need to rehydrate adequately in case of excessive sweating or fluid loss as in case of diarrhoea, vomiting, burn injury, or blood loss due to different reasons. If they are severe immediate medical intervention is very important. One needs to restrict the intake of salt if there is hypertension and should not take drinks having sugar in case someone has diabetes. We should take different fruits, vegetables, and juices as they contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, dietary fibers, and water. Sugarcane juice is diuretic and cleanses the urine. Coconut water and bananas contain potassium along with other nutrients. We should not take glucose, tea, coffee, and other beverages which are diuretic in nature during dehydration. If the blood pressure is low one can take oral rehydration solution or lemonade etc. in case of dehydration. In case of any severe problem, we should consult with a doctor immediately without losing time.
Another important system is the respiratory system. Due to anxiety, fear, anger, grief, etc. emotional upsurge, our breathing becomes fast but shallow. The lungs are not utilized full and adequate oxygen is not inhaled. As a result, the cells of different organs of the body don’t receive adequate oxygen to perform their activities to the maximum. There is cellular hypoxia and degeneration. The person feels less energetic and less motivated. Less oxygen to the brain makes the person lose concentration, and clarity of thinking and sense organs become dull. As we learn and perceive the world through our sense organs so the learning and perception also become dull.
So, we need to become conscious of our breathing patterns from time to time and do voluntary deep breathing to compensate for the hypoxia. We should fill the lungs with fresh air to its maximum capacity hold it for a few seconds and then release the air in our lungs completely. During deep breathing, we should try to inflate our stomach and chest as much as we can. So that maximum air enters the lungs and all alveoli become active. After a few minutes, we can feel the change in the body. The body will become energetic and the mind will be refreshed. Deep breathing will yield maximum results if we do it in a peaceful, open, and natural environment full of vegetation. Different breathing techniques are there in pranayama. By practicing these conscious breathing techniques, we can have control over our boy, mind, senses, and emotions. When every cell of the body will receive adequate oxygen, every organ will perform its activities at full capacity and there will be less degeneration due to free radicals. Fresh oxygen acts as an antioxidant for the body. It revitalizes and rejuvenates the body, mind, and spirit.
We can think clearly, act efficiently and live in peace and harmony with the universe.
After a day of activities and exercise the cells of different parts of the body get fatigued and damaged. They need proper rest to repair and regenerate. Numerous metabolic activities are going on in our body constantly. Some cells are beings destroyed and some new cells are being formed each moment. These processes are called catabolism and anabolism respectively. There need to be a balance between them for the body to be healthy.
An adult needs around 8 hours of good sleep daily. The sleeping and waking time should be fixed so that our circadian cycle or the biological clock of the body is not disturbed. All the biochemicals, neurochemicals, enzymes, hormones, and metabolic activities of the body are related to our circadian cycle. There is a fixed timing and condition for their secretion and action. If the daily activities are done in a fixed time, these functions of the body happen timely. Otherwise, the biochemicals are not released timely and the person is unable to do the daily activities properly. Disturbance in the circadian cycle is the cause of many metabolic, hormonal, auto-immune, and psycho-somatic diseases. As the activities of autocoids and immunity are also related to it.
Thus, proper sleep and relaxation are vital for a healthy body, mind, and soul. Relaxation techniques like massage, spa, aromatherapy, music, entertainment, reading, hobbies, etc. are beneficial. Meditation, nature walk, spending time with loved ones, family, friends, pets, etc. boost the dopamine and endorphin secretion which elevates our mood, motivates us, and relieves pain. Good sleep gives strength to the body, sharpness to the senses, the mind becomes focused, the complexion is enhanced, and the whole body becomes active. Last but not the least; we should keep our home and social environment clean and positive. We should avoid unnecessary conflicts. Our focus should be to utilize our potential maximum, for the benefit of people and the world. This universe is for everybody and we all are interdependent. So, we should co-exist in harmony. Whatever we need is there in the universe we just need to have the right perspective to find it. We are loved, cared and blessed by the universe always. Each of us is unique, special, and important. We just need to find our purpose and become dedicated to it. Life is a journey and not a competition. We need to get out of the rat race and detach from the suffocating monotonous thoughts of failure, desires, material illusions, ego, loss, etc., and just relax. We should be grateful for what we have and who is with us. We should savour every experience of life. We should live in the present moment fully and neither grieve about the past nor worry about the future. We should live consciously with peace and contentment. (The author is a Ph.D. scholar in Ayurvedic Medicine & can be reached at email@example.com)