Airplanes make my mind buzz about fascia
August 29, 2011
Over the past 4 years I've been told I have to simplify all the stuff in my head so people will understand what it is that I know is of the utmost importance. Debbie who helped me write the book "The MELT Method" coming out April 2012 with Harper Collins has even told me not to mention the molecular components of fascia in my teacher trainings as it confuses participants and makes them think they need to know this stuff to teach MELT. They don't need to know all of the ins and outs of fascia to teach MELT, that's true but this stuff is interesting and to me at least... cool.
Thank goodness I have a blog. Not that anyone reads it but what the heck. At least it's a dumping ground to get out of my head stuff that's just always floating around in it. For the few of you who take interest in learning about the stuff inside your body, longevity, wellness, and simply, what I know, I'm in a ranting mood about the functions of the collageno-elastic matrix of fascia at this very moment... ohh, too big a word? Have you stopped reading?
Seriously, I'm going to simplify some profound things about connective tissue because I think I can in one simple blog. Quite simply, fascia or connective tissue is made up of a bunch of "stuff", mostly water - about 75% of what's known as the Extracellular Matrix is nothing more than fluid. Also known as the ECM, this fluid system occupies the intercellular spaces between every cell, nook and cranny of your body. It's the fluid part of fascia that gives support to all of the protein fibers (collagen, elastin...) and molecules within the matrix. WIthin the ECM is something called "Ground Substance" sometimes scientifically referred to as the polysaccharide gel that fills the space between the fibers in the ECM like collagen and elastin and the cells that produce the ECM fluid called fibroblasts.
Ground substance functions to permit diffusion of oxygen and nutrients between another essential thing in connective tissue called the microvacuoles which occupy appropriate space when stress is applied. The adjacent tissues like muscles, bones, and blood vessels keep their distance and connection efficiently due to the microvacuoles being able to morph and adapt to spatial necessity - this morphing is what gives connective tissue its ability to balance tension and compression during movement. The microvacuoles and yet another component called proteoglycans attract water into the ECM producing its cushioning effect while also maintaining space between the collagen fibers. If this didn't happen, collagen would bind causing adhesions that would make our joints too stiff and movement less fluid.
In a microscope, a proteoglycan (PG) looks like a toilet scrub brush. It's a macromolecule comprised of a core protein to which another substance called a glyocosaminoglycan molecule binds to. Also known scientifically as a GAG, these long-chain, negatively charged polysaccharides also help to attract essential water molecules into the ECM helping it to sustain it's gel like, hydrated state. It also helps to inhibit larger molecules and things like bacteria from infesting the vital cells it surrounds.
Hopefully I haven't lost you with this train of thought because I have one more substance to add called hyaluronic acid (HA). This is a main component of the ground substance but different from the other GAGs because it's not bound to protein in order to form a proteoglycan (the gel of the ground substance). These HA molecules attract even larger quantities of water molecules to form the gel that makes joints able to withstand excessive compression - like the compression that happens when you run or walk down stairs. HA lubricates collagen, elastin, and muscle fibers, allowing them to glide with minimal friction so they hold their form and integrity.
So the primary role of ground substance besides structural support is to diffuse nutrients, white blood cells, hormones, antibodies and most importantly, cellular waste. However if the fluid content of this substance is absent, exchange between cells and blood can't happen efficiently and toxicity and dehydration occur.
Proper diffusion keeps cells healthy and functioning efficiently and effectively. High water content is essential for the connective tissue to absorb and disperse shock and vibration through the entire body to reduce friction, heat accumulation, and compression that would damage the "good stuff" this matrix supports like bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.
Which brings me to a very simple point. Water is essential- hydrated connective tissue is essential for cellular repair, transportation, and communication. Without adequate hydration our body ages, becomes inefficient, and chronic pain and disease are more common. So how do we get fluid into the ECM? How can we help the fibroblasts produce the ECM fluid and keep the other stuff like HA, GAGs, PGs and ground substance stable? We should MELT!!! Along with drinking water, eating water filled foods and moving more continuously in a day (the 2 hours a day most people move between sitting most of the day isn't enough), MELTing helps to stimulate the micro and macro molecules and substances in the connective tissue matrix keeping it in a hydrated, by stimulating the cells within the tissue to absorb the good fluids we consume. If we don't stimulate the fibroblasts and just drink water, we just pee more.
So connective tissue is more than just another tissue. It's a fluid matrix with a bunch of cool stuff in it allow us to sustain a stable, balanced, efficient body. It might sound scientific but what the heck, the body is a science project. I'm just trying to explain it simply while staying true to my geekiness that LOVES the science of it all.
Of course I have more to say about this topic but I just had to get this science out of my head so sitting in this middle seat on this airplane seemed productive. Time to get up again and bother the sleeping dude next to me hogging the aisle seat.