Connective Tissue: It’s What Holds You Together
Your body is comprised of four kinds of tissue:
- Muscle: made up of cells that contract so your body can move.
- Nerve: made up of cells that transmit signals.
- Epithelial: made up of cells that cover surfaces and cavities in the body, but that allow nutrients and waste to be absorbed and secreted.
- Connective: made up of cells that support and hold together other tissues.
The last type, connective tissue, is both the least understood and most complex of all the tissue types.
What is Connective Tissue?
Think of connective tissue as the “glue” that holds your body together. Without it, your muscles wouldn’t work, and your organs wouldn’t stay in place.
Connective tissue is made up of the following:
- Ground substance (which is an amorphous, gel-like material)
- Protein fibers
In connective tissue, protein fibers and cells float within a matrix of gel-like “ground substance”. What distinguishes one type of connective tissue from another depends upon the number of cells and fiber it contains relative to ground substance.
Types of Connective Tissue
There are three categories of connective tissue: loose, dense, and specialized.
Loose connective tissue is the most common type of connective tissue in your body. It holds your organs in place and attaches epithelial tissue (the tissue that covers all of your body’s surfaces) to underlying tissue.
Loose connective tissue forms an irregular, fibrous network throughout your body (like the strands of a rope if you were to untwist it). It derives its properties from three kinds of connective fiber:
- Collagenous fiber, which is made of collagen and gives loose connective fibers their strength.
- Elastic fiber, which is made of protein and elastin, and makes loose connective tissue stretchy.
- Reticular fiber, which attaches loose connective tissue to underlying tissue.
Loose connective tissue supports your internal organs, blood vessels, lymph vessels, and nerves.
Dense connective tissue (also known as fibrous connective tissue) forms the ligaments and tendons that attach your muscles to your bones.
Dense connective tissue contains a higher proportion of fibers relative to ground substance than loose connective tissue does.
There are three kinds of dense connective tissue:
- Dense regular makes up your tendons and ligaments.
- Dense irregular makes up the dermis layer of your skin, as well as the membrane that surrounds many of your internal organs.
- Elastic makes up stretchable tissue like arteries, vocal cords, and bronchial tubes.
Specialized connective tissue forms a wide variety of tissues that range from flexible to rigid. Types of specialized connective tissue include:
Adipose connective tissue, which stores a type of fat called triglycerides. It lines your organs and body cavities to provide insulation.
Cartilage, which provides flexible support for structures like your nose, ears, and trachea.
Bone, including both spongy bone (which forms your bone marrow), as well as compact bone.
Blood and lymph, which are connective tissue in the form of fluid that supply nutrients to different parts of your body.
Are There Health Conditions Related to Connective Tissue?
When the collagen and elastin that make up the body’s connective tissue become inflamed, it’s referred to as connective tissue disease.
Given the wide variety of connective tissues found within the human body, it’s not surprising that there would be some 200+ conditions that can impact a person’s connective tissue.
Proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices can be important factors in both the treatment and prevention of connective tissue disease. Maintaining properly balanced hormones can also be helpful in preventing age-related issues relative to connective tissue.
To learn more, call Renew Youth at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.