At some point in your life (maybe now), you’ve probably thought about getting yourself in shape.
But have you ever thought about getting your cells in shape?
What would that even mean?
I’m going to try to answer this question without giving you flashbacks to high school Biology class. (Although if you’re a geek like me, you enjoyed high school Bio class!)
Inside each of the trillions of cells in your body, there are incredible mini-factories that take in nutrients and produce energy. The effect produced by particular cells depends on how they are organized and where they are in the body.
The nucleus of a cell is yet another incredible internal level of cell organization. Inside the cell, the nucleus contains our DNA, which acts as a blueprint for the rest of the cells to translate information into the product of that cell, tissue or organ. We’ll come back to this blueprint.
One thing all cells have in common is cell signaling. They respond to signals that may be chemical (such as neurotransmitters), electrical (like how the heart beats), or mechanical (such as our sense of touch or hearing).
At the big picture level, this is how our bodies adapt to our environment (both internal and external). This process goes on 24/7, day and night!
When it comes to supporting all this constant cell function in our bodies, I think of three areas:
- Hormone balance
Of course I think of my favorite human body topic! Hormones act as messengers, accomplishing some of the cell signaling mentioned earlier. Hormones help cells talk to themselves (autocrine), their neighbors (paracrine), and even organs that are far away (endocrine).
The latest concept of “Why do we age?” is that cell signaling decreases over time, due in large part to decreasing hormone levels. Replenishing hormones to any degree often helps our cells be in their best shape and work optimally.
The liver works around the clock to bind, break down and eliminate not only toxins we take into our bodies but also normal waste products formed by constant cell function. Many religious and non-religious traditions have fast days or days of abstaining from certain foods as part of a “cleansing” process. In addition to doing everything we can to lower our toxic burden, we can help our cells stay in shape by doing an occasional detoxification program.
Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are essential to optimal cell function. Some micronutrients help cells function – such as Vitamin D, sodium, potassium and magnesium – and some have direct roles activating or inhibiting enzymes. Macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats – are essential for proper cell function. What we eat and the supplements we use are critical to keeping our cells in good shape.
Remember how I said your DNA is a blueprint? Think of an empty lot, then imagine laying down a blueprint in the middle of that lot. Will a house suddenly spring up? Nope!
The house needs materials, construction work, and – mostly – a good contractor. Guess what? YOU are the contractor!
When it comes to getting in shape this summer, if you were looking for that ONE single perfect exercise that will get your body in shape, you know it does not exist. Similarly, there is no one single step you can take to keep your cells in good shape. Pay attention to your hormone balance, your toxic load and what you can do to lower it, and your nutrition.
Yes, we want to look good. This summer, in addition to working on the outside appearance of your body, I invite you to take some time this summer to work on spiffing yourself up at the smallest level of your body – your cells.