The Function of the Body

There are 11 principal physical systems within the human body. Each of these structures has related functions indigenous to that system. However, organ systems need to work together to survive. For instance, bones without muscles would fall down as would muscle without bone. Imagine a pile of bones trying to move with nothing to attach to.

Picture skin without bones and muscles to cover. Think about food sitting in the body with no way out. The cooperative relationship between the systems presents the highest level of organization within the body.

The 11 major organ systems of the body are:

  1. Integumentary — the skin and related structures

  2. Skeletal — bones, cartilages, and joints

  3. Muscular — muscle tissue

  4. Nervous — brain, spinal cord, nerves, and sense organs

  5. Endocrine — all the glands that produce hormones

  6. Respiratory — lungs and all air passageways

  7. Cardiovascular — blood, heart, and blood vessels

  8. Immune — lymph, lymph vessels, and lymph structures

  9. Digestive — teeth, esophagus, stomach, and associated glands

  10. Urinary — kidney, bladder, and related ducts

  11. Reproductive — ovaries, testes, and all reproductive structures

The Integumentary System

The integumentary system is primarily the skin, and it provides a protective covering over the entire body. Skin regulates the temperature of the body, metabolizes food from the sun, and excretes waste through sweat. Skin is a receptor for stimulus from the environment and communicates this information to the nervous system. Reflexology is a powerful stimulus that works to support the efforts of the integumentary system.

The Skeletal System

The skeletal system is all the bones, joints, and cartilages of the body. The skeleton contains 206 bones that are attached by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Bones provide support for motion and leverage, as well as protection for the body and its organs. Bones also store minerals and produce blood cells.

Fact

Bones are classified by shape. The four main shapes are flat, long, short, and irregular. Flat bones are compact in shape and are found in the skull, shoulders, ribs, sternum, and pelvis. Long bones are very long, weight-bearing bones such as those in the legs and arms. Short bones have small block shapes, such as the wrist bones. Irregular bones have many shapes, such as the vertebrae or the kneecaps.

The Muscular System

While bones provide leverage and make up the frame of the body, they cannot move by themselves. The muscular system provides the movement necessary for the body through the contraction and relaxation of muscles. When muscles contract, their function is to perform motion, maintain posture, and produce heat.

Muscle tissue can be classified as cardiac, smooth, or skeletal. The functions of these muscles are distinct. Cardiac muscle is found only in the heart and it is involuntary. Smooth muscle lines the walls of organs and is also involuntary in movement. Skeletal muscles are the most abundant muscles, and these are voluntary.

Muscles that move voluntarily can contract by the use of your conscious mind. Walking, running, talking, or any conscious intent of motion is the voluntary use of skeletal muscles. You can decide not to move out of your seat to greet a friend or to shake hands upon an introduction.

Cardiac muscles and smooth muscles take direction only from certain systems and are not controlled by you. You can hold your breath until you pass out, but the lungs will continue to pump against your will, as the smooth muscle takes over responding to the lack of oxygen.

The Nervous System

The nervous system is responsible for the proper function of the body. The activities of the body are regulated through this system. This structure detects and responds to changes in the internal and external environments. The nervous system promotes reasoning and memory.

The nervous system has two major divisions. There is the central nervous system (CNS), which is the brain and spinal cord; and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which is composed of the spinal and cranial nerves. There are further divisions within the PNS creating voluntary and involuntary responses through specific nerves.

The essence of the nervous system is its ability to keep communication active among all systems in the body. A breakdown in contact would lead to anarchy within the body. This system takes into consideration all of the body's needs, continuously supplying what is necessary for proper function. Reflexology works with the 7,200 nerve endings in the feet, affecting the nervous system and all related areas.

Essential

The nervous system is like a computer. The brain is the mainframe. The nerves are the connecting wires that reach out through the body to all the systems that are connected to the brain. Sensory nerves send messages from the body systems to the brain and motor nerves send the brain's response back to the body.

The Endocrine System

The endocrine system controls and integrates body functions through hormones that are secreted into the bloodstream. The endocrine system — together with the central nervous system — holds the primary responsibility for controlling the complex activities of the body. Both are communication networks. The CNS transmits its messages through electrochemical impulses while the endocrine system employs chemical messengers in the form of hormones released into the bloodstream.

There are many hormones, and they affect the body in various ways.

This system can be characterized by four basic actions:

  • Hormones control the internal environment of the body.

  • They help the body cope with emergencies.

  • Hormones assist in growth and development.

  • They are essential in the process of reproduction.

All hormones are essential in the maintenance of homeostasis, as they alter cell activity to promote balance. Endocrine glands are ductless, meaning the chemicals move directly into the bloodstream. The body controls the production of these chemicals, only producing what is necessary. Reflex points relate to the hormone-producing glands; reflexology helps to maintain the desired balance.

The Respiratory System

This system supplies oxygen to the blood and eliminates carbon dioxide. The organs of the respiratory system carry air in and out of the lungs. The process of respiration involves three procedures. The first step is breathing, the act of exchanging air between the lungs and the atmosphere. The other two steps, known as external and internal respiration, involve the exchange of gases between the lungs and the blood, and then the exchange of gases between the blood and the cells. Reflexology helps to create a healthy environment for breathing, with constant reminders by the giver to relax and breathe.

Alert

The respiratory and the cardiovascular systems have equal input in the process of respiration. Homeostasis depends upon the participation of both units. Failure of either system will disrupt the harmonious operation of the body.

The Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system transports respiratory gases, nutrients, wastes, and hormones. This system protects against disease and fluid loss while regulating body temperature and acid-base balance. While the cardiovascular system provides nourishment and life to all parts of the body, it also transports energy for thought and action.

Cardio means “heart” and vascular denotes the blood vessels — these are the principals of the cardiovascular system. The heart is built to pump large quantities of blood that is carried by the vessels throughout the body for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to occur. Arteries carry blood out into the body and veins bring the blood back to the heart.

Working together, the lungs and heart cleanse the blood and the circle continues infinitely. Reflexology promotes circulation, augmenting the work of the cardiovascular system and supporting the heart and the vessels.

The Immune System

Lymph vessels and organs work with the cardiovascular system as they transport food and oxygen to the tissues of the body. Both systems remove waste as well. However, the lymph system moves in only one direction, toward the heart. The fluid recovered from the tissues, known as lymph, is returned to the circulatory structure to be used again. The lymph nodes filter out bacteria before the fluid reaches the blood for reuse. Reflexology works to keep the pathways clear, allowing for smooth transition of lymph.

Fact

Lymphocytes, working with substances from the blood and other organs, seek out and destroy invaders. T cells are produced in the lymph system and, with other fighter cells, work to eliminate foreign matter that weakens the body.

The Digestive System

The digestive system begins with the mouth and travels throughout the body ending with elimination. Many organs are involved with the function of digesting and eliminating. This system works by breaking down food to be digested and then absorbing that food into the body. The nutritional substances are converted to replenish and refuel our cells giving vitality, strength, and continued growth.

Digestion is a process involving certain activities such as the following:

  • Ingestion — eating.

  • Movement — muscle contraction.

  • Digestion — chewing, swallowing, and gastric chemicals.

  • Absorption — digested food moves into blood and lymph.

  • Elimination — waste products leave the body.

The alimentary canal and the accessory structures are composed of the organs used in digestion. The canal consists of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. The accessory organs are the teeth, tongue, salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and the pancreas. Each of these formations performs an essential job within the digestive system. Reflexology works with the digestive system to bring about homeostasis within each organ, assisting in the overall proper function of these structures.

The Urinary System

The urinary system removes toxins from the blood and maintains the acid-base balance of the body. This system regulates the chemical composition, volume, and electrolyte balance of the blood. The urinary system works in conjunction with the respiratory, integumentary, and digestive organs to eliminate waste. The excretory organs of these systems offer other avenues for the waste products of metabolism to be released. A primary function of reflexology is to remove toxins and help to re-establish harmony. Reflexology supports and enhances the urinary system.

The Reproductive System

This system can be divided into two branches: the male and female reproductive systems. The organs are different yet the functions are basically the same. Reproduction is procreation, the continuation of our species, the sustaining of human life. This miraculous process not only reproduces cells, but also allows genetic material to be sustained through generations.

Fact

All of the body systems work together to produce homeostasis. All systems interact; none can exist without the whole. Reflexology treats the whole person and supports the work of the body in its entirety.

The functions of the organs in this system are to produce sperm and ova, to secrete hormones, and to produce materials that support these functions through storage and transportation of the reproductive cells. The reproductive system interacts closely with the urinary, nervous, and endocrine systems.

The many hormones necessary for reproduction and development play an integral part in the operation of this system. The nervous system is involved in the regulation of these activities through the impulses of the nerves. Some of the organs of the urinary system are involved with the reproductive system as well.

  1. Home
  2. Reflexology
  3. Understanding the Body as It Relates to Reflexology
  4. The Function of the Body
Visit other About.com sites: