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01 February 2006

Your weird body explained

Your body's weird. Your legs kick out as you fall asleep, the sight of the lass from accounts makes your heart skip and you often get gut feelings. What's it all about?

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You're at your office's end-of-year bash, wearing silly hats and slugging cocktails containing umbrellas, fresh fruit and rum - you get the picture. The boss gets up to Say A Few Words and drops a line about "streamlining operations next year," and there it is - the gut feeling.

A little tingle somewhere between your navel, your spine and your memory of all the Dilbert cartoons you've ever read tells you there'll be some retrenchments in January.

How weird is that? And what about the other strange things your body does? We're not talking about sudden urges to ask Lucy in accounts to a Salif Keita concert, or the need to advise the TV on the finer points of Springbok rugby.

What about all the involuntary, visceral rumblings, gurglings, spasms and jerks? Here's a quick tour of your body and five strange sensations, explaining why it's strange, but still pretty wonderful.

Why love makes you head for the fridge
Three hours in the sack and you manage to avoid the most cardinal of all male sins - rolling over and going to sleep - because despite Steenberg Hotel's famous lamb shank, a generous and colourful order of veggies you're starving.

So, into your shorts and downstairs for a little something, as Pooh Bear says - in this case, some cheese and a banana, plus half a litre of milk from the carton. Back upstairs, feeling rejuvenated and well, recharged.

First thing the next morning, feeling a little sore, but oddly pleased with yourself, and while making a restorative cup of tea for you and her upstairs, you're back into the fridge, cramming in a slice of pecan nut pie, a slice of cold roast beef and another slab of cheese. Why all this? Well, to quote Lou Reed, love is chemical.

The exertion that so rightly accompanies lovemaking requires your muscle to work, and they burn energy by oxidising blood sugar. Afterwards, your blood sugar is low, making you feel hungry. Simple. Go easy on the saturated fats, Romeo.

Why you get gut feelings
Your boss may look like a worn-out Bryan Ferry, but his throw-away remark about streamlining gives you a funny feeling in your tummy, and that feeling's never, ever wrong. It's a primitive fight-or-flight response.

Just like Clint Eastwood's jaw clenching and unclenching in the classic Hollywood “slow burn” as Bruce Dern walks into the saloon, your brain sends a message down a secure phone line to a veritable Pentium IV network of nerve cells in your belly called the enteric nervous system.

When you're nervous or even aroused, your belly can produce sounds that would make a plumber reach for his calculator. The enteric nervous system is telling your digestive system to clear the decks for action, be it amorous, combative or simply asking young Lucy out.

Why you yawn when you exercise
You probably noticed this, especially when you were last unfit - oh, ten years ago. Your workout's under way when suddenly you start yawning like you're sitting through Police Academy reruns. It's a shortage of oxygen resulting from being a couch potato. It's the same thing that makes you sigh deeply occasionally (that and Kerry MacGregor).

Why your limbs “go to sleep”
You always thought this was because your girlfriend's head on your arms shut off the blood supply to the lower limb. Wrong. It's something called referred sensation and it happens when a nerve is compressed, then bounces back into the right shape.

Your brain goes "Ah, incoming mail," and by the time it realises it's just neurological spam, the tingling passes and you wonder what all the fuss was about. Either that, or you admit defeat and fetch you girlfriend a pillow.

Why you hear mosquitoes inside your head
It's called tinnitus, a basket term for a number of conditions that produce a number of noises, mostly of the high-pitched, Isobel-Jones-infotainment sort, but also some clicking, pounding ones, like crickets playing castanets.

It's most likely because you have nerve endings in the ear that have been frazzled by too much Massive Attack and are sending gibbering pleas for mercy to your brain, which your brain interprets as external sounds. When you hear the whine, look around for mozzies, infotainment or alien motherships.

If you see none of the above, resolve to give your ears a little time out from your new stereo.

(William Smook, Health24)

 
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