Got G.A.S.? and What you might not know about Michael Jackson

Hans Selye 1907-1982

Hans Selye 1907-1982

…and, of course, by GAS, we’re talking about the General Adaptation Syndrome discovered by endocrinologist Dr. Hans Sylye.  To me, this guy comes across as almost a prodigy and certainly a cerebral powerhouse.  Hans Selye entered a German Medical School in Prague at the age of 17 where he graduated first in his class.  Later he earned a doctorate in organic chemistry.

Bust of Hans Selye at Selye János University, Komárno, Slovakia

Bust of Hans Selye at Selye János University, Komárno, Slovakia

The clinician teaching board reviews, Dr James, had a fun way to describe the GAS and it’s effect on the body by using a somewhat benign example involving a couple who had broken up but are currently at odds and fighting over their DVD collection.   There may be a knock at the door, a fight ensues and the fighting may bring a person from say a calm baseline of zero to an exacerbated 10 on the stress scale.  The thing is, when the fight is over for that day and people go their separate ways, the persons stress level doesn’t necessarily go back down to zero but rather, stays elevated at maybe a 4 or a 5 – kind of ready to jump back into action should the need arise.

"Stress plays a factor or role in any disease"

“Stress plays a factor or role in any disease”

As with many things in life, the stress Dr Selye talks about doesn’t have to be real so, any perception of chronic stress would constitute a state of Alarm which can eventually cause a neuroendocrine response, often from the pituitary which suppresses the thymicolymphaticus system and reduce the resistance of the body to disease.  Other contributing mechanisms would include lymph involution, decrease in WBC, increase in eosinophils, increases in (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and increases in cortisol.

Essentially, with regards to survival, it’s more important to be able to fight off a lion than to fight off a cold which is why immunity decreases in patients with chronic stress.  Dr Selye’s work goes a little beyond the basic flight or fight notion.  As a chiropractor, we learn about Selye because he shows a direct link between the immune system and the nervous system.

I think most people are aware  that we have a brain and a spinal cord.

The brain and spinal cord make up the Central Nervous System

The brain and spinal cord make up the Central Nervous System

once nerves leave the Central Nervous System (CNS) they become part of what’s known as the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and innervate with every organ and muscle in the body.

Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

But, there’s also another set of nerves that run parallel to the spinal cord known as the sympathetic chain ganglion which are also known as the intermediolateral cell columns.   I was trying to find a simple picture of the sympathetic chain ganglion.  This was the best I could do for now –

Sympathetic Chain Ganglion with organ innervation

Sympathetic Chain Ganglion with organ innervation

Admittedly, this model is a bit more confusing than the CNS and PNS but it does give a little better idea of how our nervous system controls so many functions and organs of the human body.  The Sympathetic Chain Ganglion in this picture is shown running from T1 to L1 – or from the first thoracic vertebrae to the 2nd Lumbar vertebrae, about the middle portion of your back.    That ganglion of sympathetic nerves and the whole fight or flight system is to the human body what nitrous oxide is to a car.  In a fraction of a second heart rate & blood pressure increase, pupils dilate, sphincter muscles in arterioles that precede capillaries can constrict to shunt blood away from lower priority areas of the body (we don’t care about digesting your food when mama bear jumps out of the woods and attacks you)  smooth muscles in the lungs relax to allow more oxygen into the lungs and so much more – it’s quite a well orchestrated and impressive chain of events.

By the way – that spinal cord is rather small.  Take two of your favorite #2 pencils and put them together, look at the two eraser heads side by side.  That’s about the size of the spinal cord.  It is bigger in some places and smaller in other places but still much smaller than one might imagine.  I never realized the size until I saw it for myself along with transverse sections of the cord during gross anatomy.

I can’t find any pictures online which show with any relativity the transverse size of the spinal cord so, you’ll have to take my word for it.  It’s absolutely mind boggling – the degree to which scientist have dissected that little cord to learn what every little column & tract does and what everything is connected to.

Cross Section of the Spinal Cord

Cross Section of the Spinal Cord

I have absolutely no idea how all of that was figured out but I’m sure it would make fascinating reading 🙂

If you think of a fuse box in your house, it has wires that go from the fuse box to your air conditioner, stove, washer & dryer, the bathrooms, etc.  This is much like the spinal cord which has wires in the form of nerves which go to your arms, legs, fingers, toes and also (as we have seen above) to your heart, lung, kidneys, bladder and reproductive organs.

So, if you come into my office and we want to check the wiring in the posterior columns of your spinal cord we might strike a 512 Mhz tuning fork and press the handle against your big toe since the sensation of vibration is conducted through the wiring of the posterior column.  We may also check two point discrimination and position sense to further evaluate those posterior columns.  Elderly people often lose the sense to vibration first and that has been what I’ve found with geriatric patients I have tested.  It’s all pretty amazing.

Michael Jackson’s Birthday!
michael-jackson-mus-jy-0182_61285906

While I was escaping the realities of my life via blogging it came to my attention that today would have been Michael Jackson’s 56th birthday.  Back in 1982 MJ’s Thriller album was the only album by any artist that I had to buy twice.  At that time the music medium I used was cassette and I played his Thriller cassette so many times that the tape eventually wore out and broke which is why I had to buy a second Thriller cassette.

MJ had a form of Lupus called Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLS).  The more common variant people are usually referring to when they mention Lupus is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).  The DLS and vitiligo give some insight into some of the changes the public would witness over his lifetime and judge without really known what the heck they were talking about.

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