Physiology and the Holistic
Physiology, or how the body works, is as much a part of holistic healing as the herbs we use to help the body works as a whole.
But, to give an overview of how the body works will help you to understand the importance of keeping the body functioning to its optimum.
When we consider the body in a holistic way, we must realise that all the organs and systems of the body are connected and influence each other, an imbalance in one organ or system will influence and affect all the others.
I want to give a quick insight into two of the systems in our bodies that are vital in helping to keep the body running to its optimum.
The first system is the circulatory system includes the blood and the way it flows around the body. Everything you put into your body ends up, in one way or another, in the bloodstream. Blood is pumped by the heart to every organ and all tissue in the body, any weakness or congestion in the circulatory system will affect the whole of the body.
The second system is the lymphatic system, its function includes the absorption of excess fluid and its return to the bloodstream, absorption of fat and the function of the immune system. The immune system helps defend the body against virus and infection.
Blood is not the only fluid circulating around the body, running parallel to much of the blood system is the system of vessels that transport lymph fluid. The lymphatic system has been called the ‘removal man’ of the body, up to 24 litres of lymph fluid flows through your lymphatic system every day, that’s around 14 pints.
One function of the lymphatic system is to maintain a population of immune cells, the mainline of defence against bacterial and viral infections and tumours. They spend much of the time in the lymphatic system, but cross over as necessary, into the bloodstream when required.
The other function of the lymphatic system is to return lymph fluid to the bloodstream so that the correct blood volume is maintained.
Let's take a look at how the immune system, via the lymphatic system, works.
You cut your finger, and the wound bleeds profusely.
The leak prevention system in your body springs into actions as soon as the flesh begins to cut, platelets and clotting factors are immediately activated and within a minute or so a clot of fibrin molecules and platelets blocks the tear in the blood vessel wall. White blood cells attracted by chemical signals given off by the clotting agents move in around the clot and clear away any germs or dirt.
Now the body looks to restock the lost blood.
A nice salad for lunch, and because you are trying to maintain a healthy diet you choose spinach and ricotta salad, which is packed with iron.
This is great thinks the body, because it’s been tapping its stores to help replace the lost blood cells. Soon after you cut yourself sensory cells in your kidneys detect that the oxygen-carrying capacity in your blood was low, so it stimulated your bone marrow to churn out red blood cells at a faster rate. Meanwhile, your liver increases its production of plasma proteins, and the lost blood is quickly replaced. (bone marrow, if you are wondering where that came in, is made in certain bones of the body, vertebrae, sternum, ribs and pelvis, which produce blood cells, this is where the blood cells that race around your body come from.)
Now imagine a hot day when the pollen count is high and you start to sneeze, hay fevers kicking in. The pollen grains which have entered into the olfactory system (the nose) are irritating the lining of your nasal passages. Immediately the body releases antibodies which bind to the surfaces of the pollen grains, this activates mast cells which release histamine; the flood of histamine irritates the nasal lining and triggers mucus production, and makes you sneeze. It also activates the tear ducts which make your eyes water. This is the immune system fighting off what’s irritating your nose.
As a matter of interest, there is thought that taking cold showers is good for you, stop you catching a cold. Sounds a bit drastic? Next time you are having a shower, turn the water to cold for a short while, and feel how it stimulates the body; this is because the blood starts to run around its system, which stimulates the immune system into action, getting ready to fight off infection.
If these two systems, circulatory and lymphatic, are to work properly, then they need your help to give them a fighting chance of helping your body to fight off infections and remove any toxins that may stop or hinder it working properly.
The immune system can over-react, resulting in allergies, autoimmune diseases, or in dire cases the immune system can overload and shut down altogether, resulting in disease and even death.
Allergies result from immune system hypersensitivity. Allergens, substances that cause allergies can include dust, moulds, pollen, cat fur, certain foods and some medicines (such as penicillin), the body releases histamine to counteract the hypersensitivity and this can cause such problems as anaphylactic shock, where the body goes completely out of control.
The circulatory system, which works in conjunction with the lymphatic system, is the transporter system. Transporting materials throughout the entire body, nutrients, water, oxygen carried to organs and billions of body cells, and it carries away waste products such as toxins. It's pumped around the body by the heart muscle, which beats around 3 billion times during an average lifetime.
Blood is made up of red cells which carry oxygen and carbon dioxide, white cells fighting off germs, platelets to heal cuts and wounds, and plasma which is the liquid that carries blood cells and platelets to wherever they are needed. Plasma is made in the liver.
One drop of blood contains a half drop of plasma, 5 million red blood cells, 10 thousand white blood cells and 250 platelets. All in one drop of blood!
The lymphatic and circulatory systems always seem to me to be the odd job man of the body, carrying what’s needed to where it's needed, rushing around doing bits of things all over the body, a bit of a repair here, moving rubbish there, a delivery of whatever wherever its needed, and central heating and air conditioning expert at the same time.
You can see just how important these two systems are to the rest of the body, without them organs would fail, cells would die, and the machine that is our body would start to malfunction. The body is one big machine, if it isn’t all working to its optimum performance, then this puts a strain on all the other parts.
The first thing to look at when considering a holistic way of life is that of diet. A healthy diet doesn’t have to be boring and doesn’t mean there are foods or drink you can never have. It’s a matter of looking at what food helps and what food hinders.
A good healthy diet needs fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and minimal sugar and fat. I’m sure we have all been through this time and again, and we all know what we need to eat, and what we should limit.
Alcohol is one of the problem areas; we drink for various reasons, to be sociable, to cheer ourselves up, out of habit. Alcohol is a depressant and is responsible for toxins at joints, puffy skin and face, it affects how we look, how we feel and degenerates the brain quicker than some drugs. Having said that it can be useful when taken in moderation, and the key, as with most things we put in or do to our bodies is moderation.
The rubbish our body doesn’t, or need, will usually start to accumulate at the joints, a nice comfy place for toxins to hide with something good and solid to get a hold of and stick there. It’s these toxins, gathering at the joints that produce arthritis, rheumatism, aches and pains.
So what do we do when our body is full of toxins and we are considering starting to live our lives in a holistic way? We have looked at our diet, and considered possible changes we need to make there, now we need to look at herbs that will eliminate the rubbish our body has accumulated.
Before beginning any form of herbal medicines, it's always advisable to have a clear out, otherwise, the herbs we are taking are fighting on so many fronts they will take a heck of a lot longer to start to take effect. And here is where the lymphatic system becomes of consideration.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds.
A three to four week period of clearing out the lymphatic system will reward you, not only with a quicker uptake of the herbs you intend on taking but it will show first of all in your face, hair, skin and eyes. Second, it will begin to affect the way you feel, perhaps you may notice the brain is a little quicker, the joints aren’t so stiff, and the muscles feel a little freer.
Some of the most useful herbs for clearing out the lymphatic system are -
Of this list cleavers, otherwise known as goose-grass, is probably the most effective, this simple plant, the pest that clings to animal hair and socks, can clear out the lymphatic system so effectively, it’s a part of most of the preparations you buy over the counter at the chemist when you ask for something to detox the body.
Choose no more than 4 of the list above, perhaps -
And goldenseal, (you will only find this from a herbal supplier, but it is worth the work in finding them)
And take these 3 times daily, and within a week you will start to see the difference.
Keeping the Immune System healthy
To keep the immune system healthy and working to its optimum, its a simple matter of feeding it what it needs. A healthy diet, as described above, and around September time it is worth boosting this system with the Herb Echinacea. A dose of Echinacea purpurea 3 times daily during September, and then during October dont take it, leaving the Immune System to settle down a little, then during November another course of taking another course of Echinacea 3 times daily, and so on throughout the winter months.
It is useful also to take in food that has vitamin A, B, C and D during this time of the year, Vitamin C has a direct effect on the Immune System, fighting of coughs, colds, the flu virus and the covid virus too.
If you dont want to take vitamins in tablet form (and lets face it, we dont really know what else may be in over the counter medications) then look for foods that contain these vitamins; this will sustain and boost the Immune system better than all the tablets you can buy. Ramp up the fruit, pick the blackberries and whatever may be around at harvest time, make some warming vegetable soup, filling it with healthy beans, peas and barley, and add some Goji berries (dried Goji berries can be bought from health food shops), and onions are amazing in the winter time, lots of immune boosting vitamins, garlic, chillies, and ginger, and feed that Immune System so it will jump to the rescue quick sticks when its needed.
The body is a remarkable device because its mostly liquid, the body has a great number of places where liquid can dally before it hits the kidneys and subsequently the bladder.
It can take over 24 hours for water taken in via the food we eat to hit the excretory system and be expelled out of the body. Most of what we eat is water.
Water retention is a problem for a lot of people, resulting in swollen feet, fingers, knees; this is mostly down to poor circulation, (back to the circulatory system not working properly).
An interesting concept is that when we are suffering from water retention, we are often told to drink more water. This seems to be just what we don’t want! Yet it's exactly what we need!
Water provides the medium in which all the body’s chemical reactions take place, and the solution in which foodstuffs are dissolved and transported, it helps regulate our body temperature through sweating, we can’t live without water.
A 2 % loss in the water surrounding our cells can result in a 20% drop in energy levels, that’s how important water is for us.
We can live without food for 3 weeks, but without water, we can only survive for 3 days, and the reason for this is that we have food reserves in plenty, in the fat we carry, in the muscle tissue and body cells; we don’t have any reserves of water.
On average the body loses 1 to 1½ litres of water a day if we exercise and sweat we can lose a lot more.
Myths about water abound,
“If you drink too much your body will get rid of the excess so you pee more often and it will be clear like water”
“If you don’t drink enough your body will save water by concentrating your urine, which will look darker, and your brain will tell you that you need more water by making you feel thirsty.”
Strangely enough, these ‘myths’ are true.
“We must drink 8 glasses of water a day”
Is this correct?
Water is found in food, fruit and vegetables, milk and juices, and water from these sources will go some way to meet the requirements of the body, we don’t really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day. But drinking water flushes the kidneys, and helps maintain a good balance, helps the lymphatic system, the circulatory system, the kidneys, liver and excretory systems to work better and with more effectiveness.
The minimum amount of water loss is 500ml through urine and 700ml through breathing and sweating, to be safe and within the minimum requirements of the body we need to drink at least two and a half pints of water a day, 8 pints is certainly not needed, although, after the two and a half pints, drinks of water replenish and refresh when drinking a little and often.
It must sound as if going the Holistic way is a lot of stuff to remember and to take in but put what is above into place, and you will have made a really good start. One step at a time is the only way to go, and this is the best first step you can take.