You walk through the door to your house on a hot day and the thermostat is set to 74 degrees or so. That typically feels pretty good. Your body is given a sense of relief and your house feels comfortable. What if you had walked in and the thermostat was set to 74, but it was actually 85 degrees in the house? That means that your air conditioner was unable to restore the temperature to its set point… and you need to call somebody because it is hot out there!
Homeostasis refers to the concept that a body or cell will work to monitor and maintain a certain state of equilibrium in response to various factors. In the case of the thermostat, the specific factor was increased external temperature impacting internal temperature. This happens in people as well. The body has a natural process for increasing or reducing temperature through various systems in order to restore balance.
Processes of Homeostasis
- Clear set points are established
- Deviations in balance are detected
- Behavioral and physiological responses work to restore the body to its set points
Temperature isn’t the only set point maintained by homeostasis. Virtually every system in the body has a sweet spot for optimal performance and health. When this balance is off, so is the body’s ability to protect itself, recover, heal and generally function.
The cardiovascular system relies on adequate blood pressure in order to deliver blood to all of the organs and tissues in the body. If blood pressure is too low, an insufficient amount of nutrients are delivered. If it is too high, the lining of blood vessels can be impacted. This could result in potential heart disease or stroke. Receptor cells within blood vessels help to monitor and regulate blood pressure.
When exercising or during any movement-based activity, the muscles being used require additional oxygen. A release of hormones signals a heart rate increase. Oxygenated blood is delivered where needed. Without this regulatory process, we would not be able to engage in any sort of active lifestyle. Activity level usually determines a person’s individual heart rate. Athletes
or people who intentionally increase their heart rate frequently tend to have lower resting heart rates.
The balance between sleeping and waking is generated by the amount of time since the last adequate sleep cycle, and thus the body’s need for rest
. Hormones build up during the day and pressure is relieved by sleep. Sleep deprivation
can negatively affect many areas of daily life. Because it is so important, the regulatory components will force sleep homeostasis by slowing the body to a point where it has to rest.
The average adult human body contains 50 to 65 percent water. This is the reason that staying hydrated is extremely important. Without adequate fluid in the body, it becomes much more difficult to maintain temperature and blood volume. Lack or overabundance of fluid can affect muscle strength, endurance, alertness, cause overheating and ultimately have serious consequences.
Diabetes is the most common example of a disruption in homeostasis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the cells in the body. Transportation of glucose occurs through adequate levels of insulin. Diabetics are unable to regulate glucose levels without assistance. Manually monitoring glucose levels is required to achieve homeostasis.
Respiration controls the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Breathing is both voluntary and involuntary. It is rare that you “forget” to breathe because the body is naturally adjusting to maintain a proper level of both compounds. When receptors sense a higher influx of carbon dioxide, the body begins to breathe faster or deeper to compensate. Lack of oxygen can result in cramps, fatigue, and numbness.
Thermoregulation is the body’s method of balancing heat that is produced and heat that is lost. As mentioned earlier, the body already has a set thermostat. The setpoint is generally around 98.6 degrees for humans. When temperature drops or rises above this level, the body works to get back to that stable point. Hypothermia and hyperthermia are the results of an inability to restore homeostasis.
Stress can be defined as a state in which homeostasis is threatened or perceived to be threatened. Hormones that affect stress and anxiety
are controlled by receptors that determine the proper balance to stabilize mood. Likewise, when this system is overrun, the disruption can cause an anxiety attack. An anxiety attack is essentially a massive attempt by the body to address a threat that is not real. All of the previously mentioned components of biological homeostasis kick into action, which accounts for hyperventilation, heart palpitations, hot flashes and more.
Factors that Disrupt Homeostasis
There are three main factors that impact the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis:
External Influences: Lifestyle
The choices we make in our activity level and food intake are highly responsible for how the body operates. Alcohol, deep-fried foods and other poor diet choices (moderation is key) promote the build-up of free radicals
which can cause cellular malfunctions. Lack of activity can also affect the strength of your bodily systems. A person who leads an active style will find that the body has an easier time balancing heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure during any sort of physical exertion and in daily life.
Toxins in the environment that we touch or breathe can have an effect on homeostasis. Air pollution such as smog, wildfire debris, vog (volcano fog) and more can impact the body at the cellular level, causing an influx of free radicals. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can also damage cells as well as herbicides, pesticides and heavy metals. Even natural toxins such as environmental allergies and bug bites can have an effect on the body, especially if it is not balancing well.
There are mutations in DNA that can create a predisposition to illness or inability to restore homeostasis. Many of these predispositions can be controlled with proper external influences. Leading a healthy lifestyle, eating correctly and supplementing correctly can help.
CBD and Homeostasis
The endocannabinoid system
works to maintain homeostasis by using cannabinoid receptors to monitor reactions in the body. When a discrepancy is detected, cannabinoids are synthesized to interact with receptors. Then they stimulate a chemical response to address the issue.
The difference between cannabinoid receptors and other receptors in the body is that they incite two-way communication. This means that cannabinoid molecules can exchange information to achieve the desired result and balance. The introduction of CBD oil into this system can increase the effectiveness of the endocannabinoid system. Thus, your body’s ability to remain in balance and achieve optimal health is enhanced.