Homeostasis and Healing in the Human Body
by Sue Hughes, MSEd, HHP, CNC
Homeostasis and healing: one of these cannot exist without the other. Homeostasis is also known as equilibrium or balance. The body is in a constant state of adjustment to achieve homeostasis in order to keep us alive and healthy. To help us heal. So, when left to its own devices, we can pretty much count on our bodies to do the “right” thing for survival and healing. Pretty amazing, eh?
Homeostasis and healing: amazing but complex
Yeah, pretty amazing. But it turns out it isn’t as simple as it sounds in today’s world. For example, would you say that your body is “left to its own devices”? Not likely. Which is why, right about now, you may be of the opinion that I’m putting the body on a bit too high a pedestal, especially considering so many of us are sick, or even just tired. Realistically, if the body’s so good at this thing called “maintaining homeostasis” then wouldn’t we all feel our best all the time?
The short answer: No.
The longer answer: In its effort to maintain a state of equilibrium, the body must manipulate itself a bit. For instance, our blood has a very tiny margin of error when it comes to keeping us alive, so first and foremost nature has assured that it contains correct levels of necessary substances, like nutrients and enzymes. This means that even if we aren’t providing the body with these critical vitamins and minerals via our diet or nutritional supplementation, the blood will still make sure it maintains the levels necessary for survival. Actually, even if we are taking in plenty of fresh, whole foods or supplemental vitamins and minerals, many times poor gut health inhibits the absorption of these substances. So you could think you are doing the right thing, when in fact, what you are taking in isn’t reaching the bloodstream! (Click HERE to read an in-depth post on gut health.)
How your body’s attempts at homeostasis and healing might lead to you feeling yucky (temporarily!)
To keep our blood levels good enough for the land of the living, nature has wired us with a safety mechanism that allows the blood to pull nutrients from our tissues when necessary. This means nutrients are pulled from the muscles (the heart is a muscle), the bones, or other important tissues to correct itself. Sounds pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say? But the problem is that although blood tests may stay mostly within the “normal” range, yet undiscovered deficiencies probably lurk elsewhere in the body. These deficiencies negatively affect all sorts of things like bone density, cardiac health (blood pressure), cholesterol levels, emotional health and hormone balance (of course this list is not complete!) So those nasty symptoms or chronic conditions that have suddenly snuck up on you as the decades have passed? You guessed it. It’s probably due to the cumulative effect of the body’s effort to maintain homeostasis!
Is there anything else, besides nutrition and gut health, that negatively impacts homeostasis and healing?
Yes. Stress plays a HUGE role. That’s because stress, whether emotional or physical, actually speeds up the body’s use of nutrients! No big surprise here, I’m sure, especially if you’ve already read my other posts about the health effects of stress. In fact, stress is considered the #1 culprit behind imbalance and disease! So it’s mega important to find ways to modulate how your body handles the stress it encounters, whether that be via meditation and yoga or simply taking up a hobby that will help put your mind at ease during challenging times. And although regular exercise can be an amazing contributor to the good health of the body, that, too, must not be overdone and should be in balance with sleep and relaxation. Where some is good, more is not necessarily better!
So where a lack of proper nutrition contributes to imbalance, things like stress actually pull from the nutrients that the body already has stored. So it can be a double-edged sword: you aren’t eating well or your gut isn’t absorbing the vitamins you are taking in, then you add to the equation stress in the form of emotional trauma, toxin exposure, inadequate sleep or even prescription medication, you are now automatically speeding up the depletion what already is not there! The more stressed we are, the faster we burn through nutrients. And many prescription drugs, in order to “do their thing” to control the numbers rather than correcting the root cause of these numbers (the “numbers” to which I refer are blood pressure, cholesterol, blood test values, etc), will actually rob the body of essential nutrients in this process.
So the way I see it, nature did things perfectly. Providing us with an awesome safety mechanism to keep us alive and well is brilliant for those times when nourishment is temporarily difficult to come by. But today, although food is not all that difficult to come by, proper nutrition and healthy absorption is consistently difficult to come by!
Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. Don’t work against her.
The first step toward homeostasis and healing is to acknowledge that everything we put into our bodies and do to our bodies plays a role in our health – working for it or against it. Every system, every cell in our body works in conjunction with every other cell to make us move, think, react, to make our heart beat, and to keep us alive and well. So as nature lives up to her responsibility, we alone are responsible for providing the tools (nutrients) our bodies need to make this homeostasis thing work as it was intended. If we don’t do this, we may live a long life, but we will experience deterioration over time, as the blood eventually will have nothing left to pull from and, at best, we will be hobbling along, alive but unable to function healthily and happily. And that, my friends, is not what nature intended!
Healthy regards and thanks for reading,
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