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Five Fun Facts and Five Important Discoveries About the Human Body

Understanding this human body we inhabit, with all its talents and quirks, is a key for our personal resilience. Here are some fun facts and discoveries that may get you thinking about your body in new ways.

Fact 1: The human nose can distinguish at least 10,000 different odours.

Discovery 1: Epigenetics

We are all pretty much used to the idea that our DNA contains a program that creates the proteins that in turn create us. DNA contains the details of how we work, our susceptibility to different diseases and disorders. Science used to tell us that our DNA was our destiny, that our genetic self was set in stone. Today, we know that this isn’t true. We know, for example, that certain cancers appear to be passed down genetically. But research has also shown that adopted children exhibit the same predisposition toward cancer and other diseases as their adopted family. A new branch of science called epigenetics explores how genes are expressed.

Identical twins with identical DNA, for example, will start life with the same set of epigenetic predispositions that govern how their DNA is expressed. As they go through life and their experiences start to diverge, those epigenetic tags start to differentiate, to the point where the twins may end up looking very different, experiencing different health challenges etc.

There are at least 30,000 different combinations of ways in which any genetic code can be expressed, depending on the epigenetic tags. Thus, the genome is more like a set of building blocks than a complete blueprint. The way the blocks are put together determines the outcome.

Fact 2: Medicine attributes around 1/3 of all healings to the placebo effect.

Discovery 2: Heart Thought

Within the heart, there are many neural cells, and specialists now believe that these cells act to imprint the heart’s substantial electromagnetic charge with the information needed to regulate the cells of the body. Studies have shown that the heart responds faster than the brain to outside stimulation.

Fact 3: Cow’s milk, peanuts, egg whites, wheat and soybeans account for 90% of allergies.

Discovery 3: Muscle Fibres

There are basically three types of muscle fibres- slow, fast twitch and super-fast twitch. The fast and super-fast twitch fibres make up the “white” muscle. While the normal “red” muscle gets the lion’s share of the blood supply, fast-twitch fibres are largely glycolytic in metabolism- they are working off the body’s stored energy. By triggering these fibres, you switch to the body’s anaerobic metabolism, which in turn has been shown to release significant amounts of human growth hormone (HGH), a significant factor for health, longevity and muscle growth.

Fact 4: The brain uses 20% of the body’s oxygen and glucose intake.

Discovery 4: Good Fat

Low-fat diets were all the rage a few decades ago and haven’t yet died out completely, but the truth is that it matters more what kinds of fats you eat than whether you eat them (and your body does need them).

Unfortunately, modern diets tend to be weighted toward Omega 6 fatty acids rather than Omega 3, while our bodies are designed for the opposite. This is of particular concern, because there is evidence that one particular kind of Omega 6 molecule is associated with memory loss and neural degeneration. We get Omega 6 from grain-fed factory-farm animal products, but especially from vegetable oil (corn, sunflower, canola and soybean), which is the main source of this imbalance in our diet. These are present in most processed foods.

Conversely, Omega 3 is quite important for brain health. Dietary sources can be supplemented by krill oil or fish oil capsules, but beware of eating too much fish, as fish in our food chain is often contaminated with mercury and PCBs.

Fact 5: All the human body’s blood vessels, laid end to end, would measure around 96,000 kilometres (60,000 miles). So your blood vessels could circle the earth at the equator nearly two and a half times!

Discovery 5: Psychoneuroimmunology

Psychoneuroimmunology is a field of study that has helped us to understand the link between your emotions, the neurochemical state of your body and your immune system. It turns out that our stress responses and our immune systems are wired into the same system.

If you are always experiencing stress, you are always triggering your fight or flight response, the neurotransmitter chemicals are going out and screaming at your immune system to get going. The trouble is, this becomes your new neurochemical baseline, and your shell-shocked cells decrease their sensitivity to all these neurochemicals. In response, your body sends out more and more of them. It’s like trying to keep a military on war alert all the time- after the fiftieth false alarm, they’re not going to respond as quickly. This chemical state affects us not only on the emotional level, as fear, anger and stress become suffering and depression, but on the genetic level as well. And your immune system is even worse off. A persistent adrenal response causes the immune system to activate again and again, sending messenger chemicals throughout our bodies.

The immune organs- the bone marrow, the thymus gland, the spleen and the lymph nodes- have abundant connections to the nervous system and act in response to impulses received from the brain. Likewise, white blood cells and lymph cells provide feedback to the brain, because they are capable of secreting almost all of the hormones, endorphins and messenger chemicals the body produces, and can also read these substances when sent by other cells.

The hub of this system is the glands that answer the phones, so to speak, in the body’s defence system. These are the adrenals, pituitary and hypothalamus. These are the organs that dispatch epinephrine and cortisol to activate the body’s defences when a threat is sensed, whether physical, emotional or health-related.

This switchboard gets its instructions from the emotional centres of your brain. It doesn’t know the difference between a hungry tiger and an unsatisfied emotional need or constant low-level stress. All that this system knows is when we achieve what’s called consummation, when we’ve done something to remove the danger or relieve the tension. If we can’t do that, the system stays active, and that activity wears down all of our body’s defence systems.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger