Understanding the connection between brain function, cranial nerves, digestion and immune functions illuminates how and why dysfunction and “dis-ease” occur in the body. Just as our machines need electricity to operate, so do our internal organs and cells require electrical impulses to function.
The degree to which a patient’s nervous system is balanced and well-functioning – or not – is the degree to which they are healthy and able to function at maximum capacity in the world. This illuminates how a whole health coach can guide their patients in using stress reduction to avoid, or reduce the symptoms of, chronic disease.
Many healing arts, such as acupuncture, yoga postures, meditation, chiropractic, breathing techniques, biofeedback, hypnosis, EMDR and others attempt to restore balance to the nervous system as the pathway to improving internal and external bodily function. These methods address the cause of the presenting condition, rather than just treating the pain or symptom of the bodily malfunction.
By looking more closely at the digestive system and its intimate relationship with the immune system and the nervous system, we can easily follow the pathway of how brain function and the nervous system can create a “whole body” systemic cascade of bodily reactions, which over time lead to chronic illness and disease. Our nervous systems are impacted by stressors; however, stress is not limited to just the emotional realm as many believe. The broader topic of stressors and adrenal function are explored throughout NIWH’s health coach and holistic nurse certification programs.
For now, keep in mind that when our stress or anxiety causes our limbic system to send biochemical messages to our cranial nerves, our digestive systems can be functionally affected. The anxiety and stress increases our adrenal function output, and this increase of adrenal hormones and steroids in turn decreases our digestive and immune system functions.
A written schematic would look like this:
Stressor = A limbic system response and/or increased adrenal cortisol secretion. = Decreased digestive function thru sympathetic cranial nerves (vagus nerve) and decreased immune (bone marrow) function.
The effect of a stressor on the body in the short term can be readily overcome by a healthy, adaptive nervous system. It is the longer stress–the chronic ongoing conditions and issues–that place wear and tear on our nervous systems and organs. It is this friction or wear and tear that leads to chronic illness.
By understanding the intimate dance of our body’s organs and systems and how to maintain a balanced, healthy nervous system we can help patients use stress reduction to avoid illness and chronic disease, and to live long productive and disease-free lives!
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