Your Nervous System Takes Care of You, Here's How To Take Care of It
There are 11 major systems in the body. When they’re taken care of, they run optimally. When they run optimally, you look & feel like your best, sexiest self (scout’s honor). We’ve already learned about the endocrine system, so today, we’re talking nervous.
WHAT IS THE NERVOUS SYSTEM?
Think of the nervous system as your body’s electrical wiring. It is an uber complex system of nerves and cells that carry magical messages all throughout the body, beginning in the brain, traveling down the spinal cord and dispersing through all channels. There are two parts to the nervous system: The Central Nervous System (CNS) and The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The Central Nervous System is made up of the brain and spinal cord, consisting of the brainstem, the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the diencephalon (think, above the shoulders) and the PNS is further broken down into the Somatic and Autonomic Nervous Systems (think, everything below the shoulders).
Throughout all of the CNS and the PNS are little beings called neurons. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in your brain, and another 13.5 billion in the spinal cord. Neurons keep you alive and incredibly safe by firing signals up to 328 feet per second. Think of them as the specialized cell conductors of your entire being: they send messages, along axons, to brain cells, signaling you to take your hand off of the hot stove before you get badly burned, or to, say, stand up if you accidentally sat down on a thumbtack. There are two types of neurons: sensory neurons, and motor neurons. Sensory neurons translate environmental stimuli into neural signals to help our bodies understand our environment better. Motor neurons translate neural signals to activate muscles, tissues and glands for protection -- whether that be in the form of reacting to said thumb tack, or jumping out of the way of the taxi cab that's about to run you over.
WHAT DOES IT DO FOR ME?
It’s your communication center! The reactions your body has to certain environmental stimuli affect your nervous system’s way of protecting you -- by guarding you, or making you susceptible to harm. The nervous system is the guy telling you if and when something is dangerous or life threatening. It helps control your body temperature, by signaling your white blood cells to fend off bad bacteria when the body has been infected by a virus, resulting in a fever. So next time you have a fever, thank your nervous system, and your white blood cells, for working extra hard to keep you safe. Your nervous system also controls unconscious bodily functions, such as breathing, walking, talking, feeling, tasting, sight and sound. Know that too familiar adrenal-burnout sensation of fight or flight? This begins in your nervous system -- the sympathetic nervous system to be exact. The parasympathetic system puts you in a state of temporary paralysis when your life is super in danger. And just as the nervous system amps you up with electricity and fear, it just as easily calms you down and puts you into deep beauty sleep. It's all about balance, right?
WHAT HARMS IT?
The nervous system is hypersensitive to an overuse and abuse of caffeine and stimulants, as well as excessive environmental stimuli without proper escape in the solitude and peace of Mother Nature (looking at you, NYC). If you’re feeling particularly on edge, anxious, depressed, and fearful, get the nervous system back into balance by lowering caffeine intake, begin taking probiotics and eat gut-loving foods such as sauerkraut and coconut yogurt, get your 8+ hours of sleep (!!!), and touch your toes in some fresh grass. Take it easy on the high intensity exercise, and opt for something more calming, like yoga and pilates. Take it easy on yourself -- you don’t want to be short of a communication center!
WHAT NOURISHES IT?
A healthy gut microbiome! And nature! Silence, meditation and a connection to Mother Nature (especially in the form of consuming her abundant variety of whole, functional foods) are the most healing things for the nervous system. It’s pretty simple: anything that doesn’t make you feel nervous and totally wacked out will calm the system back into balance. If you want peace and harmony, you have to keep your nervous system in check...there's no way around it. Keep your electrical wiring firing, sustainably, by balancing out the loud and irritating with the quiet and calming. Like coffee and chamomile tea, honking taxis and singing birds, doing an Iron Man and Iyengar yoga. Eat your greens, drink your detox tea, live your life, feel the love like crazy.