This week's class was cut short. My professor (and it seems like every else in the world--myself included) has a cold and wasn't feeling well. So it seems quite appropriate that we dedicated this week's studies to The Cell and The Digestive System-- both which play an important role in immune function!
It's nice to know the cell hasn't really changed much since Mr. Sewell's 8th grade science class. You've still got the cell wall, the cytoplasm, and everyone's favorite, the nucleus. Also still standing the test of time... the basic components of anatomy. Cells still make up tissues, tissues make up organs, and organs make up systems. I actually wrote this in my notes: "Organs are needed to function." Brilliant. Just brilliant.
One factoid I did learn involves cholesterol. We certainly hear an awful lot about the stuff, and most folks worry about their levels of good vs. bad. But did you know what cholesterol's actual function is? Cholesterol works on a cellular level to keep our cell membranes fluid. It provides stability and regulates fluidity, therefore regulating permeability. Which is a fancy way of saying, it allows stuff (like water and food) to pass in and stuff like waste and bacteria to pass out of our cells. Pretty important stuff if we want to survive. And not get sick.
The Digestive System
So, most of us know how this works... you eat, stuff gets absorbed, other stuff makes its way out. But here's some interesting tidbits:
- The lining of your small intestine has it's very own name-- the lumen!
- As we age, we lose sharpness in three out of 4 of our taste receptors-- salt, sour and bitter. We keep sweet, which might explain why Grandma always has a candy dish.
- We have 3-- count 'em-- 3 sphincter muscles in our Digestive System. The one at the end, well, we're all quite familiar with. But we have one at the top of our esophagus, and another at the bottom that connects with the stomach.
- Do you suffer from acid reflux? It's because your Lower Esophageal Sphincter is weak. Avoid coffee, chocolate, alcohol, smoking, high fat foods and mint. Pregnancy can temporarily weaken your LES as well.
- Some ulcers are caused by peptic acid eroding the lining of your tummy. But did you know others can be caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori? And be careful... these ulcers can be contagious!
- Your long intestine is about 31 feet long... but you can live with a minimum of 6 feet.
- Did you know your liver can be regenerated? If you match a donor, a piece of your liver can be transplanted, and both you and the recipient will survive.
- Starvation is unpleasant in many ways, but did you know not eating affects your immune system too? Actively utilizing you gut through digestion keeps you healthier than say, someone on a feeding tube.
- Digestion can take anywhere from 18-72 hours depending on metabolism and the type of food you eat. That's a long time for that cupcake to hang around.