Our bodies are very complex and sometimes I wonder if we really have a grasp of our physical make-up. For instance….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. When I read this I thought about how this applies on other levels of existence as well. For example–instead of saying microscopic parts, we can say: Imagine billions of individuals, each with its own identity, working together in an organized manner for the benefit of the total being (the whole world)….If we (as human beings) can be as organized as our internal organ systems, we could do quite a lot of good in the world. Anyway, when I think about knowledge and education I feel strongly that it needs to be relevant and useful to our everyday lives—to our overall progression, growth, and well-being. When I attended massage therapy school some years ago I studied anatomy and physiology quite intently. In New York State, Massage Therapy is treated as Alternative Medicine so we are required to study many of the traditional medical sciences–and I have to say that I was totally thrilled! I remember (looking back) at certain times in my life—when I was in school—wondering of what use certain courses of study would be; but when I was in Massage Therapy school everything I learned was relevant and useful. I mean—knowing how our body is put together and how it works seems quite important and relevant. I think that it is one of the most important things that we can learn; so I would like to share some knowledge about our physical body to help us better connect to this very essential part of who we are (in this human life). So Edith Applegate goes on to say: The human body is more complex than the greatest computer, yet it is very personal. The study of the human body is as old as history itself because people have always had an interest in how the body is put together, how it works, why it becomes defective (illness), and why it wears out (aging). The study of the human body is essential for those planning a career in health sciences just as knowledge about automobiles is necessary for those planning to repair them. Knowledge of the human body is also beneficial to the non-health care professional. Using this knowledge will help keep the body healthy. It will help you rate your activities as being beneficial or detrimental to your body, communicate with medical personnel, understand treatments that may be prescribed, and critically evaluate advertisements and reports in magazines. 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). The structural and functional characteristics of all organisms are determined by the chemical make-up. 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). So the eleven systems are 1: the Integumentary System: skin, hair, nails, sweat and sebaceous glands–and its functions are to cover and protect the body and regulate temperature. Today I’ll be getting into specifics to show more directly how foods support our organ systems….So what foods help to support the integumentary system? Foods with Vitamin A. For example: yellow, orange, and green vegetables; milk and cheese (to name a few). Next is 2: the Skeletal System: bones, cartilage, and ligaments. 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. Next is 3: the Muscular System, comprised of muscle tissue. 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. Next is 4: the Nervous System: the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and sense receptors. 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. Next is 5: the Endocrine System: the pituitary, adrenal, thyroid and other ductless glands. 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. Next is 6: the Cardiovascular System: the heart, blood vessels, and blood. Its function is to transport material from one part of the body to another; and defend against disease. Since heart disease is so prevalent in our society today, I will share the many different foods that can help prevent heart disease:
Flaxseed (ground): Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, and phytoestrogens..
Oatmeal: Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber.
Black or Kidney Beans: B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.
Almonds: Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Walnuts: Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Red wine: Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids). A glass of red wine could improve “good” HDL cholesterol.
Tofu: Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Brown rice: B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.
Soy milk:Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens.
Blueberries: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber. Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too!
Carrots: Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.
Spinach: Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Broccoli: Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
Sweet potato: Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.
Red bell peppers: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
Asparagusz; Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.
Oranges: Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
Tomatoes: Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
Acorn squash: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Cantaloupe: Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber…..
Papaya: Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Dark chocolate: Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.
Tea: Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids). Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.
Studies suggest that flaxseed lowers the risk of blood clots, stroke, and cardiac arrhythmias. It may also help lower total and LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, and even blood pressure.
Phytosterols are plant sterols that chemically resemble cholesterol — and seem to reduce blood cholesterol. All nuts and seeds, including wheat germ, have phytosterols.
Carotenoids are heart-protective antioxidants in many colorful fruits and veggies. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene are carotenoids.
Polyphenols are another set of antioxidants that protect blood vessels, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Omega-3 fatty acids (found in flax seeds) and alpha-linolenic fatty acids (found in plant foods like walnuts) help boost the immune system, reduce blood clots, and protect against heart attacks. They also increase good HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, protect arteries from plaque buildup, are anti-inflammatories, and lower blood pressure.
B-complex vitamins–like Vitamin B-12 (folate) and vitamin B-6 –protect against blood clots and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Niacin (vitamin B-3) helps increase HDL “good” cholesterol. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.
So as we can see, there are so many foods which can help to keep our hearts healthy. We really can eat our way to health. So next is 7: the Lymphatic System. Its components are: lymph, lymph vessels, and lymphoid organs. 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 such as these assists 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. The lymphatic system requires a sufficient supply of liquids to function at its optimum level. 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.
Next is 8: the Digestive System: the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, and pancreas. 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:
1. Yogurt: Yogurt provides probiotics—healthy, or “friendly,” bacteria that promote digestive wellness.
2. Rice – Unrefined rice comes loaded with fiber, gentle on your gut and is good when you have diarrhea, nausea, or sour stomach. Drinking the water the rice was boiled is also good for stopping diarrhea.
3. Tofu – Tofu is rich in protein and vitamins and is reputed to contain a number of anticarcinogenic nutrients. Most people easily digest tofu.
4. Dandelion greens – A great source of vitamin C, dandelion greens and a traditional blood purifier and digestive aid.
5. Sunflower seeds – Sunflower seeds have protein, as well as phosphorus, potassium, and omega-6 fatty acids.
6. Sea Vegetables – Sea vegetables such nori, arami, wakame, dulse, and kombu come with almost the entire spectrum of mineral elements needed for human nutrition. They also contain almost all major vitamins, including B vitamins.
7. Miso – A fermented soybean paste that is easily digested. Miso includes powerful digestive agents such as lactic acid bacteria, fermentation molds, and enzymes, its action in the bowels also helps break down foods in a fast and efficient way.
8. Flaxseed oil – Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil strengthen the immune system, regulate blood pressure and stabilize cholesterol. Flaxseed oil helps lubricate the intestines and increases the ease of bowel movements.
9. Tempeh – Because of its high protein content and some vitamin B12, tempeh makes an excellent meat substitute.
10. Papaya – Papaya extract is sold at health-food stores and is taken by many people for its healing and stimulating qualities. If you suffer from a bloated or queasy feeling after eating a large meal, eat a papaya and see how fast the feeling goes away.
11. Garlic – In Chinese medicine garlic is used to combat infectious diarrhea, chronic cough, asthma, pneumonia, indigestions, intestinal gas, and skin rashes. Ayurvedic doctors use it for colds, asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and nervous conditions.
12. Turmeric – Turmeric’s antiseptic and antitoxin properties are believed to do their good work without altering the healthy balance of intestinal flora.
13. Bananas – Bananas are highly effective in people with diarrhea, helping tilt the balance in the colon in favor if helpful “friendly” bacteria. Bananas are also believed to help prevent stroke.
14. Basil – Basil is valued for its anti-infection and soothing properties, and is widely prescribed for coughs, colds, indigestion, diarrhea, arthritis, colic, stress and food poisoning…the fixed oil of basil possesses significant anti-ulcer properties, especially the type of ulcers produced by aspirin and alcohol abuse.
15. Sage – Sage leaves contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, and are especially useful for relieving menopausal symptoms. Studies show sage combined with alfalfa eliminated hot flashes and night sweating in 2/3 of test subjects.
Next is 9: the Respiratory System. Its components are the air passageways and lungs–and its function is to exchange gases between blood and the external environment. Foods that support this system are:
Yogurt and Kefir: Yogurt and kefir are cultured milk products that provide rich amounts of protein, calcium and probiotics — healthy, or “friendly,” bacteria that promote digestive wellness…. probiotics may help prevent respiratory infections. Researchers found that children who consumed probiotics developed fewer respiratory infection symptoms and absences from day care than children who did not. Probiotics may also help reduce your frequency or severity of cold symptoms.
Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables supply rich amounts of antioxidants — nutrients that support your immune system’s ability to protect your body from infections, disease and toxins associated with cancer. The antioxidant vitamin C, prevalent in red bell peppers, citrus fruits and juices, papaya, kiwifruit, leafy greens, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, may provide help alleviate inflammation in your respiratory system. In general, incorporate a variety of colorful, whole fruits and vegetables, which tend to provide the greatest antioxidant benefits, into your meals and snacks regularly.
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.
Next is 10: the Urinary System: the kidneys, ureter, urinary bladder and urethra. Its function is to excrete metabolic wastes; regulate fluid balance and acid-base balance. You can promote optimal health of your urinary system with certain foods–for example:
Purple-Colored Foods: Purple and blue fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, plums, figs, eggplants and purple cabbage…The antioxidants in these foods reduce inflammation and improve urinary tract health. Researchers noted that the cranberry extract most likely had its effect by preventing attachment of the virus to the cells that line the kidney’s tubular structures.
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. Probiotics have been found to decrease the incidence of bowel conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, inhibit urinary tract infections and boost the immune system. Along the same lines, probiotic foods contain compounds, such as inulin and fructooligosaccharide that feed the good bacteria. Inulin can be found in many foods, including leeks, asparagus, onions, garlic and bananas.
Coriander: Coriander, the seeds of the cilantro plant, have a cooling effect that alleviates irritation from urinary tract infections. Allergies, rashes and stomach irritation also respond well to coriander.
Garlic: A study found that garlic improved symptoms associated with kidney injury caused by temporarily decreased blood and oxygen supply.
Diuretic Foods: Foods that promote the production of urine, called diuretics, benefit urinary system health by flushing the kidneys and encouraging elimination of toxins. 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–number 11 is the Reproductive System: the testes, ovaries, and accessory structures–and its function, as we know is reproduction. According to Cynthia Staad, a holistic health counselor practicing in New York, 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 contents…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. Staad 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.
So we can see (once again) how well [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 do their jobs and keep us well. What I hope you get from all of this information that I’ve been sharing is that you feel empowered to do all that you can to keep yourself well. By eating whole foods: whole grains; fruits and vegetables (all of the different colors—green, red, yellow, orange, purple, etc.); nuts and seeds; legumes and dairy–we can 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!
Many thanks to author Edith Applegate, webmd.com, curepure.com, and to livestrong.com for provided us with this valuable information.