How the Nervous System Works and Affects Everything in the Body

February 4 2013 | Brain Health | Nervous System

The human nervous system is an amazing network of organs, nerve cells (neurons) and and neurotransmitters, connecting the brain and spinal cord to the entire body.

It runs on electricity, sending and receiving signals at lightning speed to keep every part of the body functioning effectively.

The nervous truly helps regulate everything happening in your body, whether it’s occurring consciously or unconsciously. It is divided into two branches: 

  • Conscious/voluntary — controls perception, analysis, memory, movement
  • Unconscious/involuntary (also called Autonomic) — takes care of all of the things you don’t think about, such as your heartbeat, digestion, regulating body temperature, breathing, etc.

Your Autonomic branch is further divided into two smaller branches:

  •  Sympathetic 
  • Parasympathetic

The Sympathetic nervous system gets you prepared for activity. It increases mental activity, heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the bronchials, slows or halts digestion, stimulates the release of stress hormones, makes goose bumps on the skin and more. When we’re excited, stressed or scared, the sympathetic nervous system gears us up for action (fight or flight) but shuts down digestion and elimination.

The Parasympathetic nervous system helps you wind down, relax and digest your food. It relaxes mental activity, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, increases the flow of blood to the extremities, constricts bronchials and stimulates digestion. As we relax and unwind, the parasympathetic nervous system moves blood to the digestive organs, relaxes muscles and allows elimination.

Nervous System Sending Messages

A stimulated nerve cell fires an electrical impulse that moves across the cell. At the end of the cell, this electricity triggers the nerve to squirt neurotransmitters (specialized chemicals) into the gap between this cell and the next one. These chemicals fill the space and either stimulate the next cell or prevent it from firing another electrical impulse, depending on what is needed.

Neurotransmitters control or regulate all kinds of things, including depression, addictions, mood, appetite, sleep, certain diseases of the brain and nervous system, and ADHD. Key neurotransmitters include:

  • Serotonin helps control mood, hunger, sleep, pain response and more.
  • Acetylcholine aids in memory and muscle movement. When the brain is short on acetylcholine, memory suffers.
  • Dopamine is responsible for sexual arousal and muscle coordination. Parkinson’s disease sufferers lack this neurotransmitter.
  • GABA helps prevent anxiety and increases mental clarity.
  • Epinephrine is released during times of stress. It can raise blood pressure and heart rate. It also opens the bronchioles to help restore normal breathing.
  • Norepinephrine helps maintain constant blood pressure when levels get too low.

As you can see, the vast network of the human nervous system affects or controls EVERYTHING in the body. It pays to take great care of your nervous system with a healthful diet, the right supplements and plenty of rest.

Go here to learn more about nervous system health and here to see some herbs for the nervous system.   

 


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