Posted by Bill Sandweg on 10 May 2021.
Our bodies are beautiful machines that evolved over millions of years to keep us alive and healthy. My practice requires me to do a lot of studying about the human body. I am continually amazed as I come into contact with the autonomic processes that go on behind the scenes. For example, our kidneys have to excrete just the right amount of water to keep our sodium levels within the normal range. Our immune systems keep constant watch for foreign invaders. The autonomic system watches and controls our blood pressure, our heart rate, our respiration rate and so many other bodily functions that we take for granted and almost never notice. If even one of these processes stops working properly, we will get sick and may even die. But like finely tuned machines, most of the time they just keep on working exactly as nature intended.
Even though these systems have been developed over millions of years and almost always work just fine (at least while we are younger), we can and do often make things hard on them. My title for this post is intended to emphasize how all the systems in the body are interrelated. If we let one fall into disrepair or damage it through abuse, other systems will feel the effects.
I am reminded of this on nearly a daily basis in my general science reading. We live in a world quite different from the one our bodies evolved to handle. For millions of years, our ancestors had to work hard to find enough food to keep body and soul together. They evolved to take maximum advantage of every calorie they could find. Calories that were not needed were stored as fat for next week or next month when they might not be able to find enough to eat. If their bodies lost too much weight, the system would go into economy mode by slowing its metabolism to make energy use more efficient.
Fast forward to today. Today, thankfully for most of us, getting enough to eat is not the problem. The problem is just the opposite. We eat too much food and much of it is highly processed and rich in fat and calories. Our thrifty bodies dutifully store the extra energy as fat and resist our occasional efforts to slim down. The fat stores go beyond that necessary to get through the next month or so of lean times. The fat starts to clog our arteries. It begins to put extra stress on our heart and lungs as we have to move all this extra weight around. Some of the fat is stored in the liver and interferes with its function. We become even more sedentary and our hearts and lungs, which need motion and exertion, lose their ability to do their jobs properly.
As I remarked in a different post, every step we take away from the environment in which our bodies evolved, takes us further into the unknown where our bodies don’t work as well as before. For example, that immune system standing guard on the lookout for invaders doesn’t have much to do in our increasingly antiseptic world. The result is a rise in autoimmune diseases in which the immune system gets confused and attacks its own body. Think Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
While there are a few “back to nature” types, they are in a minority. Most of us do not want to go back to the bad old days of our ancestors. On the other hand, we really should be careful not to let the modern world destroy the ability of our bodies to keep us healthy. That means moderation. Moderation in the foods we eat and the amount of those foods. Moderation in what we drink. Moderation in activity levels. Get up off that couch. Start moving that body and maybe it will be able to take care of you for a long time to come.