How Your Organs
Overview of How Your Body's Organs Work
By Dr. Ben
your best health as you age doesn't have to be complicated. Actually,
the secrets to staying healthy as you age are profoundly simple.
But don't expect the majority of licensed physicians to share this
health practitioners understand that using complicated medical jargon
tends to establish themselves as authority figures who should be
respected and obeyed. Explaining simple truths on how to stay healthy
isn't a good technique for building a reputation as a brilliant
you want to be relatively free of the fear of not knowing enough
about your health that you have to rely on others to make big decisions
for you, it's critical that you take some time to learn about how
your body works.
goal of this series of articles is to give you a broad look at the
major organ systems in your body and how they work together to keep
you well. As you read this series, I encourage you to adopt the
mindset of having to learn this material well enough to teach it
to a group of junior high school students - this mindset should
lead to an excellent understanding of how to care for your health.
we look at the major organ systems that work to keep you well, let's
first review some basic definitions.
likely familiar with most or all of the major organs in your body.
Your brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, liver, gall bladder,
spleen, and pancreas are well known examples of organs. Less well
known as organs are your bones and skin.
organs are collections of specialized tissues, and your tissues
are collections of groups of cells. So in reverse order, a simple,
big picture look at your anatomical make-up looks like this:
Your cells are the basic living units that make up your body.
of cells come together to form specialized tissues.
of tissues come together to form your organs.
bird's eye view of your physical make-up is important because it
highlights the following point:
health of every organ in your body is determined by the health
of the cells that make up your organs. When the majority of cells
that make up any organ in your body are healthy, that organ is
likely to be healthy; the converse is true as well - when most
of the cells that make up one of your organs are dysfunctional
or diseased, that organ is likely to be dysfunctional.
all of the above, it makes sense, then, that taking care of your
organs requires that you take care of your cells.
most important determinant of the health of every cell in your body
is the quality of blood that is supplied for ongoing nourishment
and removal of waste products. The blood that your heart pumps to
all of your cells delivers nutrients and oxygen to fuel ongoing
energy production within your cells. Steady blood flow also ensures
regular removal of waste materials from your cells, which keeps
your cells uncluttered and free to function properly.
cells that make up your heart no different than the rest of the
cells in your body - your cardiac cells also require a steady supply
blood, nutrients, and oxygen, and your cardiac cells receive these
things via your coronary arteries. So just as your heart delivers
nutrients and oxygen to the cells of your kidneys, stomach, and
liver, your heart also delivers nutrients and oxygen to its own
over time, your coronary arteries become damaged and less capable
of delivering a steady supply of blood to the cells of your heart,
you may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms
that are typical of a heart attack. Heart attacks are usually caused
by some degree of blockage in the coronary arteries. If the cells
of your heart don't receive steady, quality blood flow, your heart
will eventually lose its capacity to pump blood, nutrients, and
oxygen to the rest of your body.
main point here is this: all of the cells that make up the many
organs in your body have the same basic requirements to stay healthy,
with the first and most important requirement being steady blood
flow. Clearly, the healthier your diet and lifestyle are, the healthier
your blood will be. And the healthier your blood is, the healthier
your cells will be.
true that certain foods and substances are known to have specific
effects on specific organs. For example, we know that eating foods
that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, is good for promoting
optimal brain function. We also know that eating foods that are
rich in vitamin D can help promote healthy bones and teeth. But
it's incorrect to think that these nutrients produce only these
specific results. When you eat foods that are rich in DHA and vitamin
D, these nutrients touch all of your cells, not just the cells that
make up your brain, bones, and teeth.
the same vein, when you expose yourself to prescription drugs, recreational
drugs, and other environmental pollutants, all
of your cells are touched - there is no such thing as a "side" effect.
now that we've hammered home the principle that the health of your
organs is determined by the health of your cells, and that the health
of your cells is determined by all of your daily food and lifestyle
choices, let's move on to an overview of your organ systems.
have eleven organ systems that govern all of your physiological
activities. They are as follows:
System (includes Lymphatic System)
Not included in any of the organ systems listed above are "special
sense" organs that you need to see, hear, smell, taste, and maintain
of your organ systems are groups of organs that work together to
carry out specific duties in your body. For example, your digestive
system is an organ system that requires contributions from a number
of organs, including your stomach, small intestine, large intestine,
liver, pancreas, and gall bladder; all of these organs work together
to digest the foods that you eat, and transfer the nutrients in
the foods that you eat from your small intestine to your cells.
organs contribute essential work to more than one organ system.
For example, your pancreas plays an important role within your digestive
system by secreting digestive enzymes into your small intestine,
but your pancreas is also an irreplaceable component of your endocrine
system, as it produces three important hormones that are secreted
into your bloodstream and have system-wide effects.
it's important to point out that all of your organ systems affect
one another. We've already looked at one example of this: Your cardiovascular
system keeps all of your other organ systems going by supplying
blood, nutrients, and oxygen to all of your cells.
are more examples that illustrate the interdependence of your organ
of your organ systems are regulated by your nervous and endocrine
systems - these two systems are co-directors of all of your
body's moment-to-moment activities.
urinary system is essential to maintaining fluid and pH balance
within all of your organ systems.
respiratory system brings in the oxygen that your cardiovascular
system delivers to all of your cells. Your respiratory system
also plays a vital role in maintaining your blood
integumentary (skin) and immune systems play critical roles
in preventing life-threatening infections of all of your other
muscular system allows you to move (making the rest of your
organ systems relevant to your existence). Your muscular system
also serves as an important reservoir for your endocrine system.
skeletal system provides physical protection and structural
support for your other organ systems.
perhaps the most obvious example: Your digestive system provides
fuel for all of your other organ systems to use to produce energy.
look at each of your organ systems in more detail in future articles
in this series on how your body works.
are the main points to take away from this article:
of your organs are influenced by all of your food and lifestyle
choices. There's virtually no way to affect just one organ system
via a specific diet or therapy. Whenever one of your organ systems
improves or declines in health, the rest of your organ systems
follow suit to some degree.
health of each of your organs is determined by the health of
the cells that make up your organs. And all of your cells have
the same basic requirements to stay healthy.
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our next article in this series:
Your Nervous and Endocrine Systems Work
if you'd like some concrete guidelines on how to optimally care
for the cells that make up your organ systems, please feel free
to view the following resources:
Causes of Disease and Dysfunction
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