Studies in the Osteopathic
Basic Principles: Volume
Louisa Burns, M.S., D.O., D.Sc.O.
THE BLOOD PRESERVES AND DEFENDS LIFE.
The Function of the Blood.
normal cells of bodies so complex as ours live in an environment of lymph
or of blood. The blood is the source of the lymph, so it is not far
wrong to say that the blood, by way of the lymph, feeds the body, and is
its most vigorous defender in times of danger. Since the blood receives
the lymph after it is drained from the cells, it is also true that the
blood drains the wastes from the cells, as well as brings them their food.
The products of the metabolism of some of the cells of the body are of
the most vital importance to other cells, and the products of the metabolism
of all the cells may become of great importance in the metabolism of other
products of the metabolism of the ductless glands, and of many other tissues
of the body which furnish an internal secretion, are absolutely essential
to the maintenance of normal function of all the other parts of the body.
The ill effects of various mutilating operations is largely due to the
lack of the normal internal secretions from the removed organs. In
many instances, doubtless, the lack of the internal secretion is preferable
to the presence of an abnormal organ, which is a menace to life itself,
but the cells of the body have lived together so long, and have become
so thoroughly adapted to living in an environment composed of one another,
that not any organ of the body is to be considered as absolutely without
effect upon body metabolism. The substances thrown into the blood
by that tissue from time immemorial, and the other cells of the body have
become so thoroughly adjusted to this substance, however inert it may seem,
that its lack must never be considered a thing of no consequence.
The internal secretions of all the tissues of the body affect all other
tissues of the body to a certain very variable extent.
The Blood Plasma.
blood plasma carries dissolved in it all the substances needed for the
nutrition of every part of the body. Among all the diverse structures
of our complex bodies, there is not one which does not find its requisite
food stuffs in the blood stream. Yet it must not be considered that
the complexity of the tissues which are nourished from the blood is indicative
of any comparable complexity of substances found in the blood. The
serum compounds are comparatively simple, and from these the cells build
up their own variable and complex structures. There are only twenty-six
letters in the English alphabet, and yet from these letters, many books,
no one like any other one, have been written. Many books contain
quotations from other books, and many cells use as foods the substances
prepared for them by other cells. Many books are antagonistic to
other books, and the compounds formed by some of the cells of the body
are toxic to other cells of the same body.
plasma and all the elements floating in it contain a certain proportion
of inorganic salts. These are of considerable importance in the bodily
economy, quite apart from their function in supplying these substances
in proper amounts to the cells for their food. The osmotic tension
of the body fluids varies according to the amount of inorganic salts dissolved
in these fluids. The maintenance of the normal interchange of food
stuffs and katabolic products between the cell and its environment is very
dependent upon the maintenance of a normal equilibrium of internal and
external osmotic tension. The blood serum provides these salts to
the tissues, and the rapidity of the circulation of the blood prevents
an unequal distribution of them, even when the various tissues are undergoing
metabolism with very unequal vigor and quality. The function of these
inorganic salts and their ions has been made the subject of recent experiments.
This work has added much to our appreciation of the exceeding importance
of these salts in controlling the activity of the muscles and glands of
the body, and in maintaining the blood pressure at a normal point.
of the serum globulins, the fibrinogen, may attract our attention for a
little time, because of its importance in maintaining life under circumstances
of accident, etc. Under normal conditions, it is simply one of the
food stuffs of the cells. But when there is an injury to the blood
vessels the fibrinogen, after being acted upon by the ferments set free
by the injury, and by the calcium salts, becomes transformed into the fibrin
of the familiar blood clot. The body is thus protected from the excessive
hemorrhage from slight injuries, and the repair of wounds is facilitated.
The formation of the clot is described very fully in the text books on
physiology, so further discussion of the matter is not needful here.
corpuscles which float in the blood stream are of great importance in the
processes of recovery, no less than in the maintenance of normal metabolism.
erythrocytes are chiefly, if not entirely functional in carrying oxygen.
The erythrocytes vary with many nutritive conditions, and the amount of
hemoglobin which each one carries is also subject to marked variation in
abnormal nutritive conditions, and to some variation even in health.
The amount of oxygen which is supplied to the tissue is absolutely dependent
upon the amount of hemoglobin present in the blood, provided the supply
of oxygen in the air in the lungs is normal.
character of the katabolic products of the cells of the tissues depends
upon the oxygen supply. If oxygen is carried to the tissues in quantities
equal to their demands, the katabolic products of the cells are normal,--that
is, they are inert, almost harmless substances, usually neutral,
or only very faintly acid in reaction. Carbon dioxide, water, urea,
etc., are the most familiar of these. A deficient supply of oxygen
to the tissues results in the excretion by the cells of partially oxidized
compounds, acid or acid-forming compounds which are characteristic of abnormal
conditions of metabolism.
of these acid products are decidedly toxic in their effects, and these
are the cause of the symptoms of auto-intoxication, of delirium in some
fevers, of coma in diabetes, and of other symptoms produced in conditions
of faulty oxidation processes.
acid products reduce the alkalinity of the blood, and thus facilitate the
deposits of urates in the joints and elsewhere. The bactericidal
power of the blood varies with its alkalinity, partly because the phagocytes
are not well nourished when the blood is deficient in the alkaline salts,
partly because bacteriolysis depends upon a supply of nascent oxygen, and
partly because most bacteria thrive best in an acid or very faintly alkaline
lack of erythrocytes or of the hemoglobin content of the erythrocytes is
therefore a serious menace to health.
phagocytes are, according to Metchnikoff, the most efficient guardians
of the body against bacteria and other parasites. They are very efficient
in the repair of wounds, also, but they are not helpful in their accustomed
manner when the blood stream is not kept well supplied with food and oxygen,
or when it is permeated with the toxic substances resulting from abnormal
metabolism or the retention of the waste products of normal metabolism.
The Blood a Scavenger.
blood, with the lymph, acts also as scavenger. If the drainage of
any cell or cell group be insufficient, or if the blood be filled with
waste products of metabolism, the cells are practically forced to work
in the presence of their own katabolic products. Their function is
thereby impaired, and, if the abnormal condition be long continued, their
structure is impaired also. It is not possible for any cell or cell
group to maintain normal function in the presence of its own katabolic
products. Even unorganized ferments, non-living as they are, are
unable to affect the substances to which they are best adapted in the presence
of the products of their past activity. The functions of blood and
lymph in removing the products of cell activity are not the least important
of their duties.
The Blood and Health.
order that the blood shall be normal in quantity and quality only a few
conditions are needful, unless the patient is suffering from some malignant
blood disease. The most important requisite for the maintenance of
a plentiful supply of good blood is that the blood shall be kept rapidly
moving under a normal pressure. This condition is said to be the
most important because if it is present the other conditions are almost
sure to follow. For example, if the blood flows freely through the
splanchnic region, a normal hunger is almost certain. If the blood
flows freely through the lungs, normal breathing is practically assured.
If the sensory nerves are freely supplied with blood at normal pressure,
they will perforce carry impulses to the nervous system which will assist
in orienting the individual into a normal relation with his environment.
These things are not absolutely dependent upon the normal circulation,
but they are largely affected by these factors.
Food and Blood.
the best conditions of circulation, however, are not enough to keep good
blood very long in the absence of proper food. Under normal circumstances,
the appetite may be considered a fairly efficient test. But it is
scarcely possible to find the really normal appetite. The lives of
civilized people are so complex, so hedged about by conventionalities,
that it is not at all easy for the unhampered appetite to find appropriate
food upon our tables. If foods of the several classes,--fats, proteids,
carbohydrates, fruits, etc., were set before us daily from childhood, we
should probably choose wisely that which our bodies require. But
this condition is not found in the average household. Children are
taught a fondness for the most unwholesome foods, and the utmost
endeavor of the modern cook seems to be to spoil the greatest possible
amount of good food in the preparation of the most injurious dishes
short of actual poisoning. Because of this factor in education, and
not because of any untrustworthiness on the part of the untrammeled appetite,
the study of dietetics is essential to those who endeavor to live the race
to higher plane of moral and mental and physical strength.
abnormal conditions, either of disease or accident, a well chosen diet
may add to the blood those elements from which the tissues may be built
with the least expenditure of energy by the digestive and eliminating organs.
The diet should always be adapted to the requirements of the individual
Origin of Hemoglobin.
is derived for the most part from the chlorophyll and chromophyll of plants,
and from the hemoglobin and myohematin of flesh used as food. Therefore,
these foods are indicated in the presence of a low color index. The
use of flesh foods is subject to certain limitations; these should be considered
in connection with each case. If any essential element of good blood
is lacking, the diet should be so regulated as to supply the foods from
which these elements may be built up.
is needless to say that the best of blood cannot supply to the tissues
oxygen which is lacking from the air in the lungs. Normal air to
be inspired, and normal habits of breathing are essential to good blood.
Coagulation of the Blood, in Tigerstedt’s Physiology, p. 157, Edition of
The Hourly Variations in the Quantity of Hemoglobin and in the Number of Corpuscles
in Human Blood. Herbert C. Ward, American Journal of Physiology, Volume
XI, No. 4.