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January 24, 2019

What makes body temperatures get out of control?

Driving along Haile Selassie Road is stressful. It is the major access road within the central business district for public transport vehicles to drop and pick passengers.

The air is thick with smog from the hundreds of diesel vehicles, maintained to Kenyan standards. On a warm afternoon, You’ll be left weak and gasping for air.

Somewhere deep within Central Bank, there must exist a room where economic policy including interest rates are set.

The building from outside is sealed so that it is likely that the room is air conditioned and cool but eventually air from outside still seeps. The nearby air as we have explained is not good quality and the weather has been rather unpredictable. Could that affect their thinking? After all interest rates have rocketed in the past few weeks to unsustainable levels, the same period we have been waiting for el-Niño to strike.

Within the human body the brain is the primary organ responsible for managing affairs. The brain is made up of many specialized areas that coordinate the workings of the body. The cortex is the outer part concerned mainly with voluntary movement and thinking. Many people use their brains for movement but avoid thinking. Then there is the brain stem that connects the brain to the spinal cord. Between the cortex and the brain stem is the mid brain and the cerebellum, which have the control function.

At the base of the mid-brain is the hypothalamus, a small cone-shaped structure that projects downward and ends in the pituitary stalk that connects it to the pituitary gland.

The major function of the hypothalamus is to control body temperature, hunger, thirst and sleep. It is able to do so because it is the link between the nervous and endocrine systems. So it is able to coordinate the firing of nerves, which is the way the brain works; with the endocrine system, which releases hormones and chemicals, which is how most of the organs of the body such as the stomach, kidney and liver communicate. The hypothalamus is not unique to humans, all mammals have one.

When the hypothalamus is not functioning properly the symptoms are mainly due to the abscence of hormone. So there may be symptoms of cold intolerance, fatigue, constipation and mental depression. If a tumour is the cause of the problem headaches, loss of vision, poor growth in the case of children have been documented. Of interest is that the hypothalamus is a part of the stress system of the body, which coordinates the adaptive response to real or perceived stressors.

When there is chronic stress hormones that slow down reproduction and growth hormones are released. Within the big muscles of the legs and arms insulin action changes so that more fat is deposited within those muscles.

It is one of the ways that being obese leads to depression and anxiety, which in turn makes them more obese, a vicious cycle. A rare condition that occurs only in men is Kallmann’s syndrome, where the hypothalamus is dysfunctional and such men have low levels of sexual hormones coupled with an inability to smell.

Because the symptoms of poor hypothalamus function are so generic, it can be difficult to pick them up. Most people will be treated for a variety of common conditions before it is shown to be the cause. Urban life is much like this. We expect certain key institutions to know exactly what they are doing and manage things within a narrow set of parameters.

Often they do not, perhaps because one thing is piled on to another without sufficient thought to what may happen ultimately.

The initial diagnosis is one of a common condition, or the latest fad is the deemed the cause, when maybe what is needed is to reflect back and understand the entire system and how it functions best.

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