We are made up of trillions of cells. To this day, scientists are still debating how many the average human has. It is estimated that the body of an average male contains between 30 - 40 trillion cells. Because we are basically a huge mass of cells, it is important to understand them in more detail so that we can understand both health and illness. This is a very simple info graphic to explain a hugely complex area, but it is a good place to start.
When we are in a state of homeostasis (perfect balance) our cells are healthy and have a good electrolyte balance. The cell should have an alkaline environment within its membrane and a negative charge. Nutrients can pass easily through its phospholipid membrane, into the cell. The cells waste can move freely out into the extra-cellular fluid to be picked up by the lymphatic system to be eliminated.
The electrolyte balance between sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium is really important for maintaining the healthy cell mentioned above. The inside of the cell should have mostly Magnesium (Mg) and Potassium (K). The outside of the cell should have Calcium (Ca) and Sodium (Na). Keeping this balance ensures movement of nutrients and waste, blood sugar balance and the right electrical charge for transmitting nerve impulses.
The problem is that so much affects this balance and causes ill health. The three most common reasons for cellular imbalance is stress, sugar and salt,
Stress can take many forms. It isn`t always that feeling of overwhelm or frustration. Stress can be felt by your body even without you realising you are stressed. Stress can be physical, emotional or environmental.
Physical stress could be an injury or a condition that you have been dealing with. It can be dealing with temperature extremes, travel, inflammation, infection, medication, operations, fatigue, inadequate oxygen supply, blood sugar issues, hormonal imbalances, dietary stress, obesity, food allergies or sensitivities, substance abuse, dental challenges, menstruation, menopause, or poisoning, lack of sleep, over-exertion, Heavy exercise is one of the most stressful things we can push our bodies through, even though it is good for our cardiovascular system, our adrenals don`t like it. The most common form of stress on the body is from dehydration.
Emotional stress could be grief, bereavement, information overload, relationship difficulties (marriage/family/ employer/colleagues), lack of social support, lack of resources for adequate survival, loss of employment, investments, savings, bankruptcy, isolation, sadness, frustration, resentment, fear, shame, anger, accelerated sense of time, worry, jealousy, resistance, self criticism, perfectionism, anxiety, depression, irritability, sense of feeling out of control, worry about the world view.
Noise, air quality, infestations, pollution, natural disasters, war, EMF and crowding are all examples of environmental stress.
The problem is, stress itself is dehydrating. When we are stressed our adrenal organs secrete adrenaline and cortisol and prime the body for action. In order for our bodies to be able to fight or take flight, we need to increase our blood pressure and move our muscles. This requires calcium to be inside the cell. (remember, in homeostasis calcium should reside outside of the cell).
Watch what happens when we perceive stress and go into fight or flight...
As soon as we spring into action to deal with stress (and remember, stress can be dehydration or anything in the lists) Calcium and Sodium rush into the cell and push magnesium and potassium out of the cell. Magnesium attracts water to it, so as it leaves, it pulls water out of the cell with it. The cell has now lost its alkalinity and its negative charge.
The acidic cell can have its homeostasis restored with sufficient pure water, potassium and magnesium rich foods being eaten and the stress being removed (adrenal hormones calming down). Unfortunately, this doesn`t happen. It is more probable that the journey of this poor little cell will continue along the following route...
The cell has a mechanism to try to restore order and get the electrolyte balance back to how it should be. It has something called the sodium potassium pump on its membrane. The only thing is that it takes a great deal of energy for the cell to use this pump. The energy molecule used is called ATP. It takes one molecule of ATP for the removal of three sodium ions. It takes three sodium ions to gain back two potassium ions inside the cell. It is estimated that up to a third of our bodily energy is needed to operate the sodium potassium pump. Some scientists estimate it can be up to half our daily energy requirements. When the cell is exhausted, we feel exhausted and fatigued. What do we generally reach for when we feel this way? Not usually water and leafy green veggies!
That`s right... we reach for something to give us an instant sugar boost or caffeine boost, Exactly the wrong thing to do. Caffeine and sugar are both diuretics, which means that they dehydrate the cell further.
When we are in such a dehydrated state and our electrolyte balance is wrong, our brain steps in. The brain is largely water so it is important it puts a stop to this. Histamine is actually a neurotransmitter and has many roles within the body. One of which is controlling water balance. The brain calls upon Histamine to step in.
Histamine is also used as an immune response to invaders. A histamine reaction is part of eradicating the allergen from the body. Unfortunately, when histamine steps in to help with dehydration, it can cause allergic reaction type symptoms such as hives or rashes. Many allergic reactions are linked to dehydration.
Unfortunately, most people get stuck in the vicious circle above. They start with a stress event and so they suffer cellular imbalances because of the adrenal response to the stress. The dehydrating effect of stress causes them to feel tired and lack energy. They crave a quick fix and reach out for caffeine and sugar, which are both diuretics - dehydrating the cell further. Dehydration is very stressful to the body, so the adrenals produce more stress hormones... on and on it goes.
Thrive Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathic Health Eve Morley BA hons. NT. FNTP. AMNNA. Soc Nat
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