Your Body Knows Best

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc

Here are some facts about your body which you might not know:

1. Your body contains an ‘appetite control centre’ designed to make sure that you eat the sort of foods you need — in the right quantities. It is our appetite control centre which makes us avoid certain foods when we are ill and makes us choose other foods which our bodies know we may need. So, for example, if you have hepatitis (a liver disease) you will not want to eat fatty food because with your liver in trouble your body will not be able to deal with fatty foods. If you listen to your body — and eat only what your body wants and in the amounts it wants — then you will never get fat. But many of us ignore our bodies. We eat at meal times rather than when we are hungry. And we eat to cheer ourselves up or because we are bored. The result is that we get fat.

2. Skin keeps the rest of the body neatly wrapped, protecting muscles and bones from injury and the weather. It also stops everything falling into an unsightly heap on the carpet. The skin on your palms and the soles of your feet is one twentieth of an inch thick but the skin on your face is ten times thinner. Peeled and stretched the average person has enough skin to make a couple of pillowcases. If you use your hands a lot to perform heavy, manual work you will eventually develop patches of hard skin. The patches of hard skin will develop in precisely the areas where your body needs to be toughest. The same thing happens elsewhere. So, if you do a lot of walking you will develop thick areas of skin on your feet. These will ensure that your skin is hard wearing in places where it needs to be hard wearing. It’s like having a pair of shoes that automatically strengthen themselves in the places where they look likely to wear out. In addition your skin also has an inbuilt mechanism designed to stop you getting sunburnt. If you spend a lot of time in the sun special cells will release a substance called melanin which slowly turns your skin brown and provides protection against damage. Dark skinned people — who come from sunny countries — are born with a protective layer of melanin in their skins.

3. Your body can survive only if its internal temperature remains within a narrow temperature range — above 30 degrees C and below 45 degrees C. So how do you survive when the outside temperature is lower or higher than these limits? Easy. Your body contains a thermostat which maintains a stable internal temperature. When the outside temperature is too hot you lose heat through sweat. And when the outside temperature is too low you automatically shiver to keep yourself warm.

4. The human body has enormous, hidden strengths and far greater power than most of us ever realise. We tend to think of ourselves as being delicate and vulnerable. But our bodies are tougher than we imagine, far more capable of coping with physical and mental stresses and far better equipped for self-defence. As proof of this there is, for example, the true story of the nine stone mother who lifted three quarters of a ton of motorcar off her nine-year-old son, Jamie. Few of us fulfil our physical (or mental) potential or succeed in harnessing the powers we have available within us. Very few of us know the extent of own strength. Only if we are pushed to our limits do we find out precisely what we can do. The story of the nine stone woman who lifted her three quarters of a ton car off her young son is not unique. I know of at least three other cases where parents have done the same thing. Here are some other examples of human beings finding superhuman powers. A zoologist working in Africa was being chased by wild animals in the dark. He leapt up into a tree. The following morning, at dawn, he discovered that he had leapt twelve feet into the air. When he finally got down from the tree he could not even reach the branch he’d leapt onto. A 70-year-old Irish farmer woke to find his home on fire. He climbed onto the roof and walked along a telegraph wire 9 yards along. Then he climbed down the telegraph pole to the ground. He had never walked a tightrope in his life. During the Second World War a special agent on a ship that was being attacked by a German submarine dragged a safe onto deck ready to throw it overboard. When the attack was over — it took four men to carry the safe back down again. A farm labourer whose arm had been chopped off in an accident walked several miles to the nearest hospital — carrying his severed arm! An 87-year-old widow, trapped in her bedroom by a fire, knotted sheets together and climbed down them to safety.

5. In an emergency your body makes a number of preparations to help you cope. When you are in danger your body responds as though a soldier reacting to the command Battle Stations. Your pupils dilate so that your vision becomes more acute. Your hearing becomes sharper. (Animals prick up their ears but humans have lost this skill). When you’re trying to listen for important sounds — or see things that might help save your life — your heartbeat will temporarily slow down and your breathing will stop for a moment or two to help you look and listen for vital clues. The flow of blood to your brain increases so that you can make decisions more rapidly. The flow of blood to your skin is reduced (and you go pale). This means that if you’re injured your blood loss will be kept to a minimum. Acid will flow into your stomach to ensure that any food there is turned into sugar rapidly — to provide you with energy. Your muscles will be tensed — so that you can run or fight. Your breathing rate will go up so that your lungs bring in plenty of oxygen. Your heart rate will go up so that the supply of blood to your organs increases.

6. You know your own body better than anyone. If you feel that there is something wrong then there is probably something wrong. Don’t let your doctor dismiss your fears. And mothers always know when their baby or infant is ill.

Based on Vernon Coleman’s books `Coleman’s Laws’ and `Bodypower’ – both of which are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Copyright Vernon Coleman November 2021