Body Inc.


Fun February Facts: Feb 24th is National Tortilla Chip Day, was the beginning of the Gregorian Calendar in 1582 (announced by Pope Gregory XIII via the papal bull Inter gravissimas), in 1803 the Supreme Court of the United States establishes the principle of judicial review via Marbury v. Madison, in 2011 saw the final Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery and is the 1938 birthday of Phil Knight, co-founder of mega corp Nike.

Speaking of epic corporations, on to Your Body Inc…
There are some pretty cool analogies out there that help things make a little more sense when you think about how your body reacts responds and adapts to everyday life. One of my favorites is the body-corporation comparison which is pretty cool when you see all the parallels that exist. For the sake of brevity and to prevent getting too sidetracked with details and offshoots as I’m often prone to do, I’ll try to keep this down to the basic concept. It’s not a perfect analogy but hopefully it helps give you a different look at how the body often works…

You Are A Corporation

Think of yourself as a corporation, with your body as the physical building. This physical structure (building) is comprised of many individual parts that are connected, creating an intricate system (and sets of systems) that work together and provide a home/environment for all the workers and departments, just like your body houses many parts and systems that are all connected and provide a home for organs, cells and their systems.

The structure of your body tissues, bones, muscles, skin etc. is like the framing, exterior/interior walls, elevator shafts and all the components/structure of the building.

Our nervous system and all the nerves that run throughout the body is like electrical system that connects the building’s power.

Your blood vessel and capillary system is the elevators, hallways and offices.

Your lungs and airways are the ventilation system.

Your filtration and water system (kidneys and cellular fluid) is the plumbing.

That’s all pretty straightforward. Without good functioning structure, electricity, clean air and plumbing, a building doesn’t function well and the corporation ends up struggling to work around less than ideal conditions and frantically trying to fix the problems to get the company back on track. Without the physical infrastructure in good working order the corporation is in trouble no matter how great the workers, business plan or ideas are. Having construction going to rebuild something (injury) often massively impacts the efficiency of the workers and departments, particularly the ones in close proximity or those who rely upon that injured area for their day to day function.

Then we look at different departments within the corporation and this is where it gets fun.

Your brain and all it’s parts/lobes/sections is the collective head of the corporation: the CEO/president/owner and a group of board members that oversee and make big decisions. They are always concerned with the welfare and success of the company and plan ahead. They take in feedback from reports throughout the corporation all day long every day and use this current information along with historical data, integrate it into the goals of the company (both short and long term) to make small and big picture decisions about how to direct the company. These guys ultimately control everything that happens in the corporation.

The Sales Department is the body’s drive to bring in income (energy). The hormones that make us hungry (Sales Managers) govern much of how much drive there is to get currency into the body. Without adequate income the corporation can manage but it will start putting more and more pressure on the sales managers to get revenue up.

Your lymphatic system is the janitorial service in the building which cleans up/takes care of everything and repairs damaged things. They end up being busy all day long in a giant corporation like yours and are constantly mopping up spills, cleaning and fixing things around the building.

Your immune system is the security system for the building that watches out over everything around the building and inside the building. These guys are also busy. Most of them reside around the perimeter and in places where there’s open access (warehouse) but they have inside guys that patrol the grounds and halls, looking for anyone up to no good. In a company this big and successful, there’s a lot of need for sharp security. These guys have a great memory and will be a little more skeptical of everyone, particularly if the company has been infiltrated in the past (autoimmunity/allergies).

Our reproductive system works on expanding our gene pool and bringing in other resources just as advertising and public relations work on the the image, development and expansion of the company. After the corporation has established itself it puts a lot of time, energy and attention into financing and supporting these expansion efforts.

The digestive system is like the warehouse with shipping and receiving, where we process new nutrients and resources and ship out product/extra goods. The liver is the adjacent processing department that looks everything over and decides where everything should be delivered. This is a busy place and is highly watched over by security because it’s the most commonly infiltrated by bad guys. Most of them get dealt with quickly because security is pretty tight but often people sneak through, particularly when the immune system is busy trying to oversee the receiving and processing of lots of shipments (food) coming in, particularly when filled with weird packages and strange delivery guys (chemicals). Shipping is also a busy place as well, storing packaging and removing products all day long.

Then there’s accounting, which ends up being a big player your corporation because they oversee the budget (a.k.a. health) of your company, by managing all of the expenses and the income of the corporation. Your body has an integrative system that reports to CFO (who’s has an office up in the brain) which oversees all of the accounting department and all of the general energy balance of the company. If you start running at a deficit, accounting is going to start letting the corporate heads know who is overspending and where they think things should be cut back to make up for it. This is where you see much of the body corp adjusting to things like when we undergo stress, diet, exercise or anything else that influences cash/energy flow. The big wigs in the company are so savvy that if they see the sales and advertising teams spending a lot of money (exercising) without listening to suggestions to stop (fatigue, injury) then it will save money by cutting back on janitorial services and building repair. If the sales team stops bringing in money (a diet) then it will even order the building manager to turn down the thermostat (reduce thyroid) to save on some expenses in a different department (metabolism). The finance of the body corp is much more active and upstream than most of the other departments and workers ever realize.

Hormones and neurotransmitters are the communication avenues such as email, phone and fax. Nearly everything in the body corp runs through these communications and virtually nothing happens that wasn’t communicated first. Integrative and efficient communication is the key to a successful company. If a hormone or neurotransmitter gets secreted too much or is in the blood too often, the cells on the receiving end get resistant to it. This is akin to a colleague calling every 5 minutes for something. Eventually you’ll just stop answering the phone and ignore them (caffeine tolerance) .

Cancer is a bad employee. We have an internal auditing system that keeps a pretty good watch out for these guys skimming resources and money from the system. In a corporation this big, almost daily someone is found causing trouble and security quickly escorts them from the building (usually through a top floor window). Every once in a while however, an employee finds a way to hack deep enough into the system to steal energy and develop some power, all while escaping detection. This is usually when your corporation has to call in outside help to deal with this big, complex and insidious problem. You just hope to get to this rogue employee before they’ve recruited and trained other leeches throughout the body.

A little work day example that ties some of this together:

Let’s say the warehouse gets some resources in (e.g. paper and office supplies) in and calls up the different departments/offices/workers throughout the body to say “hey got some goods for you.” They take the phone call, say “great, we need some supplies and the shipment comes to the office. This is like food coming in and insulin calling the cells to tell them they’re getting a shipment of glucose. When the need of supplies matches the influx of supplies, everything works out nicely. But what happens when the warehouse keeps getting office supplies (food) trucked in and keeps calling (secreting insulin), trying to deliver more office supplies? If the workers don’t need any supplies they’ll take a little bit extra until their office gets overcrowded then they will answer that phone call with a “no thanks.” When the warehouse doesn’t take no for an answer (because they need to deliver all these incoming supplies somewhere) they keep calling, emailing and faxing, trying to see who wants all these goods. Eventually, the workers get tired of dealing with that constant distraction so they stop answering the phone all together when the see that warehouse caller ID pop up (insulin resistance). The warehouse guys need to get it out of receiving so they have already started walking around in the hallways and elevators looking for someone that needs it (elevated blood sugar and triglycerides). Eventually, if everyone turns them away they find a closet (fat cell) to store it for later use or keep wondering the halls hoping someone will take it (diabetes). In the mean time, you just hope they didn’t bang their delivery cart (often an LDL particle) into too many walls (arteries) or other workers (cells), leaving damage that needs to be repaired (by our handymen cholesterol). Alas, they did bang a few walls because the halls were really busy and tight (aka high blood pressure) with lots of delivery and janitorial guys clogging up the halls. All the while, some office managers have noticed that many of the workers and departments are running low in some other supplies like paperclips (zinc) so they put in an order for some. The problem is, the warehouse is only getting in massive amounts of blank paper (empty calories) so they try harder to ship it that out to the cells, which only deny it more because they need zinc, not glucose. The call goes out for supplies again, this time with some urgency, because now they’re running low on staples (magnesium). More and more delivery guys crowd the hallways, rushing even faster (resting pulse rate increased), banging their carts around, causing more chaos so now security (immune system) comes around to see what’s going and direct traffic around the damage that needs to be repaired (by more cholesterol workers). And so it goes. All because the company was taking in more paper (calories) than it needed or could use.

I could go on for quite a while because it’s pretty fun to find all of the parallels. Hopefully, although not perfect, it helps us get a feel for how things happen in the body.

The moral of the story is simple. Your body is like a corporation because of it’s complexity, relationships and interdependence. Ultimately it is just trying to keep things running smoothly and successfully. When things don’t run smoothly things get changed, either from a more simple worker or department perspective (ground level up) or from a more complex philosophical and strategy perspective (top level down). Either way, nearly every department is dependent on many others and helps the corporation react and adjust when under stress or challenge. No department acts alone just as nothing in the body happens in isolation.

When something happens in your body think about how a business would react. More often than not the economics and function of a corporation can give some nice insight into what your body might be doing to give a good report to it’s stockholders.

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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