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The Body’s Major Systems and the Path to Great Health: Part 1, Systems

By Dr. Molly Casey

Systems of The Body

Whether you live the urban or rural life, you’re probably aware that different systems comprise the infrastructure for communities to thrive: electrical and gas systems for heat, a highway/road system for transportation, a supply chain that delivers food to your local grocer. These are examples of the network of interconnected things that make our lives liveable -- hopefully more comfortable than not. Our bodies are no different.

The body is one large operating system made up of specialized subsystems working together to create a whole, functioning human being.

There are 11 major subsystems within the body that facilitate our daily walk on this earth: cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, integumentary, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary.

To enjoy the greatest possible health, there are five systems that must be strengthened or addressed first for an optimally functioning body -- the ones that provide the most bang for the buck, if you will.

This series will look at those five critical systems and the prioritization of daily habits that feed the functioning of these systems -- all of them. Implement these concepts and your body, your system, your machine, will experience the tuneup that it needs to carry you the distance on your health journey.

We all want to live longer, healthier lives, right?

Nervous System

The nervous system structures include the brain, spinal cord, and the miles of nerves that travel to every single organ and cell within the body. The nervous system function provides communication from the brain to every system, organ and cell of the body -- and then carries information back to the brain. Humans live their entire lives through their nervous system: You distinguish the color red from yellow (or blue or green) because of your nervous system, your heart beats because of your nervous system, you feel pain and pleasure because of your nervous system. The level of functioning of the nervous system directly drives your quality of health and life. Assuring it has the opportunity to perform at its highest level is of the greatest importance. There’s no way to overstate the importance of the nervous system.

Respiratory System

The body’s respiratory system includes the trachea (the windpipe), airways of the respiratory tree – bronchi and bronchioles -- and lungs. Air breathed through the nose and mouth travels into the lungs, the major respiratory organ. In the lungs, the air moves through the bronchi and bronchioles (think of a tree-like structure) and it completes the function of ventilation (breathing) and respiration (moving oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the bloodstream). The respiratory system is responsible for the body’s pH levels, which is the balance of acids and bases directly affected by levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Every cell of the body needs oxygen to function. Though cells can live off of varying levels of oxygen, cellular function is given a greater chance to be optimized when appropriate levels of oxygen are provided.

Urinary System

The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The main organ of the urinary system, the kidneys filter blood and remove fluid waste and toxins from the body, and help maintain proper water, salt, and mineral balance of the body. The ureters are the ducts that carry fluid from the kidney to the bladder for removal. The bladder is a pouch that stores the fluid to be excreted via urine. The urethra is a tube through which the urine leaves the bladder to exit the body. The body must be properly hydrated, and the urinary system provides maintenance of optimal water/fluid balance that can positively or negatively affect every aspect of your health.

Gastrointestinal System

More commonly called the digestive system, the gastrointestinal system includes the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Its function is to digest food, absorb nutrients, and separate out and prepare for excretion that which is not usable. Food must be broken down into usable parts for energy. Digestion begins when you see the food and salivation starts; you don’t even need to physically put it in your mouth for that to occur, then it continues with chewing as the chemical process of the saliva breaks down the food for use; it continues throughout the stomach and intestines until the unusable parts come out the other end. When looking at overall functioning and health, this system is a major one because the body needs nourishment and the digestive process provides it.

Circulatory System

The circulatory system is the heart, blood vessels, and the blood itself. The function of this system is to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cells of the body and remove waste, including carbon dioxide. The heart pumps blood through arteries to the rest of the body. The exchange between cells or delivery of that newly oxygenated blood occurs through capillaries. Blood returns to the heart through veins after being brought to the lungs for the re-oxygenation process. Because all cells require oxygen, this carrying and exchange system is of great importance when looking at overall health and functioning of the body as a whole.

It’s All Important

Your body is one complex system comprised of many subsystems. Health is a journey, a process. There is no one end place or destination to get to. Having the highest quality experience of health requires that we spend some time educating ourselves minimally on how this complex system works.

In learning and understanding a bit about the basic foundation of how the body works, you can begin to understand how to best promote the strength and functioning of the system. Then you can begin to link and associate certain health practices as being more important for overall improvement in function. When one understands why they are doing something, the compliance level jumps much higher and the desired results are much more likely to be achieved -- the healthier and happier you’re likely to be.

You don’t need to become an expert, but you do need to know the basics if you want better health. Now we know why these systems are important. The next step is knowing how to get the most out of them.

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