All of us visualise in our ‘mind's eye’ the brain as a physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually intelligent organ. Yet, in reality, our brain is nothing but a mute, fleshy mass. We also ‘mirror’ the brain as the most complex object in the cosmos, what with its convoluted network being monumentally astounding. Nothing in technology can match our brain’s fascinating repertoire — most notably the organ’s enormously interconnected neurons.
This is one part. On the other, our body is no less intricate — it is also nothing short of a multifarious, complex network. As Michael Hyland, a psychologist, reckons our physical aspect is nothing but ‘intelligent body.’ He also formulates that while there is no exacting ‘dividing wall’ between our brain and the rest of the body, our intelligence is not confined to the brain alone, but fairly disseminated throughout the body by way of an extensive connectivity spoor.
You may also think of the whole element called ‘body intelligence’ as ‘violin notes’ within a multitude of musical nuances. However, unlike an orchestra, our body’s melodious extravaganza does not employ a conductor. Our psyche’s ‘sum of the parts and parts of the whole’ credo composes music by itself just as each note croons the entire melody and responds in harmonious synchrony. The notes are biochemical or electrical, structural or functional impulses, all right. The communication is as amazing and complex — reaching the crescendo from the physical body to the conscious and unconscious mind. You may also seamlessly connect such a pattern as the finest paradigm of complexity in all its astounding grandeur. What next? As our body’s information stream materialises from the realm of the biochemical, structural and mental knowledge systems, it, as a collective symphony, outlines, profiles and synchronises them all.
Medicine today is a-changin’ — it is also increasingly relating to health as not just the absence of disease, but also taking it to the next level to combat illness or disease from the inside out. It is, however, one thing to decipher the ‘alive and kicking’ body’s astonishing talent to uphold conditions good enough for life, but another when it comes to treating it when things go awry. For instance, the human body manufacturers only fifty to a hundred millionth of a gram of thyroid hormone, each day. Yet a ‘tiny’ excess, or reduction, in this `minuscule’ amount can affect our health and well-being. This holds good for our brain too — albeit the thinking organ seems stable, it is incessantly formed out of a flurry of conscious interactions and memories.
To regulate itself, our body draws on the biochemical aspect. It fuels our internal processes. It, likewise, supports the organs and body systems at the structural level, while governing thoughts, desires, actions and emotions at the psychosocial level. Picture this. You return home exhausted, after a hard day out, or as the Beatles echoed, “Eight days a week.” A good night’s sleep will allow your biochemical ‘heating system’ to cool down, your body and mind to rest, relax, recuperate and absorb events. When your daily, or weekly, ‘grind’ becomes far too intense, unremitting, or repeated, your body and mind’s amazing facility to adjust can get besieged. This may inexorably lead to loss of poise, or equilibrium.
Everyone knows that our body and health are closely connected at every level to our cells, tissues, organs and functional internal processes, as also external, or environmental, influences. While our genes control the mode through which we respond to external stress, or pollutants in the air, our emotions influence the manner in which we network with others around us — be it family, friends, or colleagues. Put simply, our emotions affect our immune cells and vice versa.
When stress and our emotional bearings begin to upset the ‘applecart’ of our cell or tissue chemistry, our body, like our mind, is threatened. Just think of it — work pressures, juxtaposed by irregular eating habits, may result in tummy disorders. On the physical plane, when you ‘catch’ a cold, after exposure to an infected person, the whole process reflects how well you are adapting, or not adapting, to external incursions. In like manner, a biochemical disorder, such as food sensitivity, or allergy, can trigger emotional consequences, like depression, the common cold of psychiatric illness. In addition, modern-day dilemmas such as old age, loneliness, or post-retirement blues can destabilise our immune system and throw the door of our immune resistance to illness ajar.
Our body is just as knowledgeable as our brain. Our body also relishes challenges, just like our brain loves crossword puzzles. Challenges are like natural tonics to the body — they are the precursors, or beacons of hope. They augment recovery from illness states and improve our resilience quotient. They also lead to better immunity, enhanced fitness and more fitting survival attributes. On the contrary, when the sequential system that integrates our body’s innumerable workings goes kaput, it sets up the ‘soil’ for illness to emerge and take ‘root,’ unless treated with appropriate medical measures. Why does this happen? Most likely, because one is often ‘easy-going’ to take note of the body’s inherent, or subtle warning or distress signals to changing internal and external conditions.
There is also expanding knowledge that suggests that illness or disease first begins owing to a network, if not intelligence, fault. This, in turn, leads to biological illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or cancer. Such disorders, of course, can be managed, if not cured, by replacing a ‘missing’ substance, reducing blood pressure with an anti-hypertensive medication, joint repair, treating a blocked artery, or ‘scouring out’ a cancerous tumour, with surgery.
One may well ask — what if the internal fault affects the information in the whole network? In such an instance, no single organ or biochemical system can be ‘aimed’ at and treated, because the information system that harmonises health and healing processes is stretched over the whole network. This is where a diversity of treatment approaches plays a critical role. This includes medicinal and surgical treatment, dietary and lifestyle changes, among others.
The connotation is obvious. We need to give our body what it needs to work well and steer clear of factors that impair it. This includes eating well-balanced and healthy food, performing regular exercise, practicing yoga or meditation techniques, listening to soulful music, giving up smoking, avoiding alcohol, socialising with friends, watching a slapstick or comedy show, or making nutritional changes.
The bottom line: the more we nourish ourselves, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, the optimally healthier we will all be.