The human body is a complex structure that can be difficult to fully understand. The body comprises various biological cycles and systems, and self-defense mechanisms are just one such system.
Self defense mechanisms are physiological and psychological strategies that are brought by the unconscious mind as a natural survival skill.
These mechanisms protect us from physical harm and help us lead a healthy life.
Here are 10 fascinating things your body does in self-defense.
Although it can cause discomfort, fever is another nonspecific defense mechanism of the body in response to numerous traumas. It causes a modest rise in body temperature to reduce the replication of viruses and other pathogens. It is usually caused by an infection like the flu or a urinary tract infection.
When the viruses and bacteria invade the body and cause injury to the tissues, the immune system responds by producing several circulating substances called pyrogens.
These chemicals affect the brain’s hypothalamus that regulates body temperature. They alter the temperature sensors and trick them into thinking that the body is cooler than normal. In response, the hypothalamus raises the body’s temperature and you get a fever.
A fever with an unknown underlying cause or that lasts longer than a few days should be thoroughly checked by a doctor to rule out the possibility of a serious medical condition like HIV and some cancers.
When suffering from a cut or wound, your skin becomes vulnerable to attack by bacteria and other micro-organisms that can enter through the wound. To protect against infection by the pathogens, your body develops a scab in order to quickly close the wound.
Basically, a scab is a mesh of fibrin protein in which platelets are stuck. Platelets are tiny structure in blood that aid in wound healing.
A 2008 study published in the journal Frontiers in Bioscience notes that platelets aggregate and form a procoagulant surface favoring thrombin generation and fibrin formation to prevent blood loss at the site of injury.
Platelets also help combat bacteria and contribute to protection against infection.
Gradually, as the wound heals, tissue regeneration pushes out the scab which eventually falls off.
Sneezing is another natural mechanism that the human body does in self-defense.
Normally, one sneezes when the nasal passages fill up with too many allergens, microbes, dust, animal dander or other irritants. Through sneezing, the body gets rid of them.
Sneezing is a common symptom of colds and chronic allergies. Some people even sneeze when they eat a really big meal or when they’re exposed to sunlight.
The process of sneezing is very powerful. The air from a human sneeze can travel at speeds of 100 miles per hour or more. This can spread germs a long distance and is the reason why experts recommend covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze.
The powerful force also causes the eyes to involuntarily close to protect them from microorganisms and particles spewed out from a sneeze.
Hiccups are an involuntary action that almost everyone experiences in their lifetime. It is also considered a self-defense mechanism.
Eating very fast, swallowing large pieces of food or overeating can lead to hiccups. This is because such acts can irritate the pneumogastric nerve, which is closely linked to the stomach and diaphragm. A bout of hiccups works as a natural mechanism to protect your diaphragm and stomach.
A 2012 study published in Insights & Perspectives reports that hiccups are triggered by the presence of air in the stomach in infants. For adults, hiccups reflect a persistence of an infantile reflex and a reminder that we may have eaten too quickly.
5. “Pruney” Fingers
Surprisingly, even the wrinkles that appear on the skin of your hands or those pruney fingers also play an important role in your body’s self-defense toolkit.
When the body comes in with an increased amount of moisture, the brain understands that the environment might be slippery. This leads to change in the skin on your hands, making it winkled.
Wrinkled fingers can better grip smooth surfaces, causing less accidents and falls.
A 2011 study published in Brain, Behavior and Evolution reports that wrinkled fingers and toes have a better grip on wet objects.
Another study published in 2013 in Biology Letters theorized that wrinkled fingers and toes might have helped our ancestors handle tools in rainy conditions or have steadier footing in wet conditions, providing an advantage over others animals.
6. Blinking Eyes
Blinking may not seem to be that helpful but it is vital to your overall health. It provides your eyes with necessary fresh moisture that protects your eyes from being strained and irritated.
In fact, when you blink, your eyes get covered with a layer of tears (which is filled with protein and moisture), water (that washes dirt and debris out of your eyes), and an outer layer which contains an oily substance that lubricates your eyes and prevents chafing on your eyes.
Not blinking enough can lead to dry, sore, irritated eyes and blurry vision. Moreover, it can cause eye strain and potentially damage to your eyes.