Avoid Homeostasis at All Costs

We often hear about the human body’s desire or continued efforts to maintain homeostasis or balance. Homeostasis also spelled homoeostasis (from Greek: ὅμοιος homœos, “similar” and στάσις stasis, “standing still”), is the property of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant.

The concept is after all rather intuitive, that the body likes to maintain a constant level of activity and health. The reality is that the ultimate homeostasis in a living body is death…..quite the paradox.

The functions of the body rise and fall. They adapt and change, they are either building themselves up and getting stronger, or breaking themselves down and recycling.

Hormones for example, are pulsatile in nature, meaning they are secreted then shut off, secreted and then shut off again due to different stimuli rising and falling throughout the day and night as needed. It is only when they are stimulated too frequently that we see an issue of over exposure and do we then run into problems like hormonal resistance as in insulin resistance, thyroid resistance (hypothyroid), or adrenal resistance leading to adrenal fatigue to name a few.

When there is constant hormonal activation we can also see that each hormone’s counter balance hormonal counter part gets thrown off, as in insulin suppressing human growth hormone or cortisol suppressing testosterone. Yet another way our system is thrown off via constant hormonal secretions is due to the “bullying effect,” I call it. Many hormones will change their active personality in the constant presence of certain other hormones. An example is when insulin is constantly circulating you start to see cortisol start to gang up with insulin to promote weight gain, oxidation and inflammation. Another example is when insulin and thyroid gang up and different thyroid states makes insulin either more resistant or over reactive, both causing weight and energy issues.

As it stands, when insulin is on the playground it causes fat gain and will trump all 8 of the other fat burning hormonal players as they run and hide from the bully. Then when insulin has one of it’s bully partners with it, like cortisol or thyroid hormone, then these usually powerful fat burning, feel good, hormones are even more reluctant to return to the playground and play.

This example is specifically using hormones to illustrate my point but the same model can be outlined for neurotransmitters in your brain and body affecting mood, mental clarity, memory, and hinder the warding off mental decline and dementia. The nervous system also works in a pulsatile fashion building to a point of potentiation as it transmits it’s nerve impulses and signals throughout the body. If there is too much build up or excitement, or if that excitement is prolonged too long in that brain neuron then the brain cell can actually die in an excitotoxic reaction just as too little stimulation can cause neuronal atrophy and cell death as well.

Enzyme reactions, cellular energy and repair, muscle contractions, even our sleep patters all change and vary frequently throughout the day and many moment to moment. A snapshot of any one alone could give you a very poor indication that something is off or wrong when really it is just in mid cycle or swing. It is the overall picture of health or function that people label as homeostasis, but there is much more to health than simply staying alive and the truth of the matter is the body appears to be always striving to move towards homeostasis but never actually gets there or it would die.

The key takeaway here is that your body thrives on variation. Variation in your diet, your workouts, your thoughts, energy, sleep, body temperature, and activity are crucial to a well functioning, healthy body. Using a long term plan with true health promoting goals that incorporate regular changes and encourages variables in all of your efforts will prime your body to stay in functional shape or what we know as health and wellbeing. Try and keep things constant, comfortable or the same for too long and your body will rebel, resist and start to break down causing all of your well intentioned efforts to backfire.

Ever do, “all the right things,” to lose weight, get in shape, or reduce stress only to see no change or get worse? Ever do “X” routine that helped you before only to not “work” this time? There is a reason for this, your body is different and you need to meet that change with more directed change to stay a head of it. In time, it will come around but you may have to do some healing and create some new habits and use some very new approaches to your wellbeing.

You can totally do this, but you do need a plan, time, and some consistent effort and change to earn back your body’s trust and health. So go for it! Try something new, make a plan, and give it an ever changing run, you will be happy that you did.

Dr. Don

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