When we first learn about human anatomy in school, it’s easy to think of each organ as its own little world doing its job in complete isolation from the rest of its neighbors. However, as we get older, we start to realize that things are connected inside the body. You will begin to notice that as you feel more stressed out that you often catch a lot of minor colds, that you have trouble keeping warm, that you can’t concentrate, and you may even begin to break out like it was freshman year of high school all over again (no thank you!)
The truth is, all of the parts of the body are intricately connected. What is going on in the brain will affect all of the communication to the rest of the body. Your digestive system (your “second brain” as I call it), also plays a crucial role in how you feel and how your organs operate.
The Power of Hormones
What exactly connects the different parts of the body so closely together? Those would be your hormones, chemical messengers that regulate how your organs function. Your glands are the things in your body that release hormones, and they have a big say in how healthy your body is. Some of the most important glands in your body are your thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. They release things like T3 and T4 hormones, thyroid stimulating hormone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and even steroids.
These chemical affect almost everything inside your body, from how well your metabolism works, the strength of your immune system, whether you feel sexually aroused, how fast your heart beats, and even whether your skin is soft or dry and flakey.
Your Body the Ecosystem
Another important thing to understand is that hormones communicate and respond to each other. In fact, it’s often critical that you have a certain balance of hormones inside your body in order to feel healthy. For instance, if your estrogen levels start to rise, it will cause the rise of a carrier protein called thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG for short). TBS sucks up T3 and T4 hormones. These are the hormones your thyroid produces and which are necessary to regulate your metabolism. If your T3 and T4 levels drop, you’ll suffer all of the delightful symptoms of hypothyroidism. You may begin to feel exhausted, weak, even depressed!
The body truly is an ecosystem. When even one small part starts to break down it creates a cascade effect that often results in a wide range of symptoms. That’s why women with autoimmune disorders have so many different symptoms that fluctuate in intensity and have trouble explaining exactly why they feel so lousy. It’s because lots of things inside the body are going wrong all at the same time!
If the previous blog post, I discussed the difference between integrated medicine and conventional medicine. Integrative medicine looks at the body as an ecosystem. We realize that symptoms often point to a variety of underlying issues, whereas conventional medicine just tries to stamp out symptoms or will only address the area that is the most clearly broken.
I invite you to embrace the integrative approach and to see your body for the amazing, beautiful, fantastical ecosystem that it is. Health is multi-faceted. This is both more daunting but also a lot more exciting than what we learned in high school anatomy!