Nervous system functions

By Kathy Jean Schultz

A river of nerves flows from the brain down through the spinal cord, then branches out to the rest of the body in a network of streams, connecting the foot, the head and everything in between.

Every part of the body is operated by messages that travel along this river of nerves. The brain sends instructions down through the spinal cord to the organs and muscles. When one of the little streams is blocked, messages are delivered slowly or not at all. Also, blood needs to be able to flow freely, carrying oxygen to all cells and helping to get rid of waste. Blood vessels contract and relax in this process and their resiliency is important. Stress can tighten up the cardiovascular system and restrict blood flow. Circulation becomes sluggish. …

Chemicals called glucocorticoids impact the nervous system and are called the “stress hormones” because they fill up the body during stress. If a circus tiger escapes and charges down the street, glucocorticoids flood the bloodstream of anyone in its path, resulting in the familiar “adrenaline rush.” In a state of relaxation, adrenaline does not rush.

The immune system can function better without annoying interruptions from glucocorticoids. Now, a tiger does not have to get loose for the average person to feel stress. The sight of a nosy neighbor, an ornery boss, or an ex-lover will increase glucocorticoid secretion quite handily.

Excerpt from Romancing the Rubdown, by Kathy Jean Schultz, © Ventura County Reporter, June 1998