The Central Body System – The GI Tract

Dr. Rishi Verma, MDFeatured, Gastro-Intestinal, Immune System, Nervous System

The Big Picture

Congratulations on making it through the first four weeks of my blog. Some of the information may have seemed kind of dry, but I really needed to set the foundation for the landscape of medicine we work in. This will make the rest of the journey not just about learning about your body (which you most certainly will), but you learn how you can play an active role to improve our health care system for you and the coming generations.


A blog for the person who wants to learn


My goal over the next year is to take you on a path of learning how your body works. The focus will be specifically learning how to work with your body for encourage optimization of human function. Most postings will be done by myself. I will periodically include postings from colleagues to fill in gaps of my expertise. One thing I can promise is that I do not, and will not sell supplements or products from my blog or website. I am not in the business of selling product, and you will not see such bias in my writings.

Well then, as one of my favoured blog writers likes to say … ‘let’s get stuck in.’


Where do we start?


We must start our understanding of the human body with the system that is not just physically but emotionally at the center of our body – the gut.

The gut (collectively – the mouth, stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver, and gall bladder) is more important than it was traditionally thought to be.

In medical school, we spent countless hours on the digestive roles of the tract, and only briefly touched on other things it does.

In fact, the only structure in the body that rivals its importance and complexity is the brain.

It is also quite clever that the body was designed to that the brain and the gut have similar formations as an embryo, and share many of the same messengers (neurotransmitters). The reality is that the brain and the gut are really the central command stations in the body, and strongly dictate the overall health or sickness of the being.


A dragon with many heads


The first and most obvious role of the gut is digestion.

Digestion is the process of ingesting food, and then, physically and enzymatically breaking it down into fully absorbable components.

The workings of your digestive tract is such an important and complex area that I will devote a full posting to it next week (which will still barely scratch the surface).


Rest and Digest


I predict that half of my readers are familiar with the term autonomic nervous system (ANS), but most of have heard of it’s evil agents of disruption – adrenaline and cortisol.

Now, let’s not be so quick to label them as evil.

In medicine, here is one concept that is accepted universally:

The body, under correct circumstances, will engage a series of opposing systems designed to bring the body to homeostasis. In other words, homeostasis is the natural tendency of animals to maintain internal stability.

That means that adrenaline cannot by definition be bad for you. Adrenaline is a highly effective, short acting hormone which is designed to liberate quick energy stores, raise blood pressure, and get somebody on alert. We certainly would want to that to happen periodically, but you can imagine that if we drive in that zone for too long, the system can overheat.

Conclusion: Nothing in the body is bad, but anything in severe excess or deficiency can be disruptive.

I am currently very interested in how to track if the body is in homeostasis, and am using a very cool wearable technology currently to learn more. I will be posting my experience with this wearable technology in two weeks in my blog.


Neuroimmune modulation … say what?


Yes, you heard me – neuroimmune modulation. See, we doctors like to use big words to make medicine more daunting than it needs to be. The words are actually quite simple, but the devil is in the details.

Neuroimmune modulation is simply the concept that the brain and the immune system work together to control all aspects of our immune system. The term gastro is often added in front, since the system utilizes the gut primarily for production of neurotransmitters to be the messengers to do all of their work.

Conclusion: The gut and brain are connected sysems which control all major processes from our thoughts to our muscle function to our mood to our sleep … basically everything that makes us a being.

This process is clearly very cool, and deserves a week by itself, which will then wrap up brain month. This last posting will also be a good segway into a later month on brain function.

Until next week,

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Dr. Rishi Verma, MD

Medical Director
Dr. Verma is one of Vancouver’s most regarded physicians in the field of integrative medicine. He is medical director of a group of six doctors, and is active in teaching doctors how to improve their delivery of health care. He also runs a busy integrative medicine practice with a dedicated group of clients.