Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Deep-Tissue Dive into PNI

So you get the military metaphor of how the systems of the body work together. But your inquisitive mind wants to dive deeper. Exactly how do the brain and spine interact with the immune, digestive, and endocrine (hormonal) systems? Good question!

The Spine and Digestion

The brain and spine together make up the Central Nervous System (CNS). The CNS directs the enteric nervous system (ENS), which controls digestion. This is why spinal misalignment can cause chronic digestive issues.
But there is yet another avenue for the spine to affect digestion. The spine is part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which controls feelings of stress and relaxation. An unhealthy spine can overstimulate the part of the ANS responsible for your stress response (fight-or-flight). This could cause you to feel anxious for no apparent reason. And when you are anxious, you do not rest and digest—the functions characteristic of the relaxation branch of the ANS.
Interestingly, poor digestive function might underlie spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal cavity) and osteoarthritis, both causes of chronic back pain. The inflammation characteristic of both disorders is often triggered by leaky gut.
With a weird name and even weirder symptoms, leaky gut is a disorder in which the intestinal lining becomes inflamed, allowing partially-digested food particles to leak into the blood stream. The immune system will try to neutralize the foreign particles by recruiting other immune cells to the site. And because people with leaky gut tend to eat multiple times a day, multiple days a week, inflammation never stops.
So not only can the spine cause bad digestion, but bad digestion can cause a “bad” spine. On a positive note, an aligned spine and healthy digestive system will reinforce each other. This is why Dr. Hamilton recommends an anti-inflammatory diet and regular chiropractic adjustments!

The Spine and the Endocrine (Hormonal) System

As we know, the spine is a part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). A healthy ANS releases the right balance of hormones to circulate the bloodstream. But a misaligned spine can cause ANS dysfunction and hormonal imbalance.
It doesn’t stop there. Hormonal imbalance obstructs immune cell function. Immune cells need to gather information in order to function properly. They rely on hormones for information, so all immune cells have hormonal receptors—some more than others. Therefore, hormonal imbalance can misdirect immune function.
Because menstruating women have cyclical hormonal changes each month, they are particularly susceptible to immune problems related to hormonal imbalance. This may partially explain the sex difference in incidence rates of autoimmune disease, as seventy-five percent of all cases of autoimmune disease occur in women. 

The Spine and Immunity

A healthy spine not only boosts immune health through hormones, but also through digestion. Because a misaligned spine hampers digestion, it weakens your microbiome. Microbiome?! Yes. You are a living, breathing superorganism that provides a home to millions of micro-organisms (i.e., good and bad bacteria and viruses). In fact, some researchers estimate that only ten percent of the cells in your body are human. Take a second to digest that!
Researchers have now discovered that seventy percent of the immune system lies in the digestive tract microbiome. Your overall health will reflect that of your microbiome.

But what are the practical implications?

Ok, so this is all cerebral and good. The body is integrated—maybe even more so than you ever knew. But beyond cultivating an appreciation for the complexity of the body, what good does this knowledge do?
As mainstream medicine moves closer to an integrated view of the body, hopefully doctors will prescribe fewer prescriptions. And hopefully more patients will decide to visit integrative health practitioners (like chiropractors). But the effects of an integrative view of the body reach way beyond that.
How we view the body affects our daily choices. As opposed to an integrative view of the body, the dualist philosophy dissects the body into individual, isolated parts.  A recent groundbreaking study showed that people who ascribe to the dualist philosophy make poorer nutritional decisions than those who believe in a fully integrated system. Perhaps the belief that the mind and body are inherently separate leads to the notion that nutrition does not involve the brain, warranting less care and logic when it comes to dietary decisions.

So a belief that the brain and body are fully integrated may improve our nutritional decisions. Not only that, but it is quite plausible that this belief will help us make other important decisions in our quest for optimal health. You might decide to visit Dr. Hamilton, who will jumpstart the body’s healing process by aligning your spine!

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