Did you know that the most complex computer system in the world is found inside your body? There is a network of 400 nerves stretching for 45 miles in length, neatly tucked into your frame. At the hub of that network of “wires” is the mainframe—a.k.a YOUR BRAIN. While it is easy to take this elite system for granted, trust me, you shouldn’t. There is much you should know.
MEET YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM.
As mentioned above, your nervous system is composed of your big, beautiful brain, your spinal cord and over 400 nerves! The brain is the boss, and you can think of your spinal cord as the superhighway between the peripheral body and the brain. The complexity of this system is so vast that it’s hard to summarize in a short article. Overall, there are 4 basic functions to this system—movement, perception, cognition, and homeostasis (the state of balance in the body).
Nerves are always buzzing with an electrical energy and wake up with a stimulation that could be mechanical, temperature or chemical in nature. Think of them as an alarm system. There are 3 types of nerves. There are autonomic nerves (they regulate heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and sexual function), motor nerves (control movement or actions), and sensory nerves (control feeling and sensation in the body like pain or touch). Your brain is wired to keep you alive at all costs, and the decisions it makes always have that in mind, even if you are not conscious of it.
The brain receives messages from the body and responds in milliseconds. Sometimes you consciously know about it and oftentimes, you do not. Your brain makes decisions based on its past experiences and references of the current situation. For example, when you touch a hot stove, the temperature is reported via sensory nerves to the brain. The brain says, “Hey, this is a stove, and stoves are hot. Heat burns, so this is dangerous.” In milliseconds, your brain activates the motor nerves in your arm to pull your hand away! How cool is that?? Your brain and nervous system are doing this, all day long, in every area such as body temperature, if you are hungry or thirsty, if you are tired, and where your body is in relation to space! As if that is not enough, we have not even touched on emotional, behavioral, and higher-level thinking. Yup, the brain does that too.
Just to put it all into perspective. While you sit reading this post, your brain is not only reading and comprehending, but also regulating your heart rate and temperature and oxygenation. It is firing the muscles you need to sit in the chair and lean into the computer. It is monitoring things that you are not aware of—like the fact that you are wearing clothes (the brain is smart enough to realize that you do not need to know this). The brain also assesses its surroundings through feeling and awareness to make sure that you are not in danger. That is just a little bit of what is happening in there. Whew!
So, what does our amazing computer system need to stay healthy and function at its peak?
Stimulate thought by learning new things, reading, and thinking. It needs physical activity so we can get adequate blood flow up to the brain. We need to manage stress, so we do not function on high alert which fires up our alarm system, sending messages to our brain (fight or flight reaction). Your brain needs good nutrition, that’s right, back to the vegetables, proteins, and healthy grains. The brain loves Omega 3s found in fish and antioxidants found in vegetables. Pass on the sugar and eat fruit instead. Nuts are great too. Olive oil is a favorite, but we use grapeseed oil a lot in our cooking at home too.
Take care of that brain and all 45 miles of nerves. Your computer system depends on it.