Homeostasis is our body’s innate ability to self-regulate and self-heal. If our body senses it is under attack, homeostasis ‘signals the troops’ to defend us against the invader. This may mean we experience unpleasant symptoms –usually caused by inflammation- while the war is raging, but as soon as the battle is over, homeostasis switches to producing different chemicals to trigger the healing process.
A powerful example of homeostasis in action is our Autonomic Nervous System. Our ANS is an in-built primitive stress response designed to get us out of danger quickly. The ANS is divided into two branches: the SNS and the PNS. The SNS is the Sympathetic Nervous System. From an evolutionary standpoint, the SNS was designed to help get us out of danger quickly: survival of the species! The SNS response produces chemicals to help us ‘fight or flee’. Our primitive stress response switches ON mechanisms considered essential to help us get out of danger quickly: pupils dilate and muscles contract, while digestion, reproduction, and immune function [both considered unnecessary to help us ‘fight or flee’] are switched OFF.
When the danger is over, the other branch of the ANS, the PNS [Parasympathetic Nervous System - often called 'rest and digest’] kicks-in, and everything calms down. The PNS is the healing branch of the ANS.
One of the key 'fight or fight' stress responses is to pump out the hormone cortisol. Cortisol was a life saver when it came to out-running a sabre-tooth tiger or marauding tribesmen. However, in our current high-stress culture, the exact same fight or flight response is triggered anytime we have an argument, watch scary news bulletins, feel anxious about the mortgage payments, or worry about our children’s safety. All too soon, we can end up in ‘cortisol overload’, meaning our body is rarely, if ever, in ‘rest and digest’ healing-mode.
Better than having your own doctor 24/7
When you have ‘well functioning homeostasis’ it’s better than having your doctor on call 24/7. Better, because it won’t make mistakes and it will prescribe exactly the right chemical in exactly the right quantity at every stage of the process [‘iatrogenic illness’ –medically-caused illness - is a leading cause of death in the West!].
In order to maintain effective homeostasis, our cells need adequate supplies of oxygen, water, nutrients from food, and an environment free from harmful toxins; whether the source be physical, chemical or emotional.
When the body has its needs met, it is extremely well equipped to self-regulate and self-heal. However, in our modern world, there are many things that can block homeostasis.
Blocks to Homeostasis
Deficiencies in essential requirements needed to maintain good health are blocks to homeostasis. Likewise, harmful toxins – whether the source is e-smog, too much junk food, or your mother-in-law;) are also blocks to homeostasis.
If you are having difficulty maintaining a normal weight, something is blocking homoeostasis. When homeostatic processes work well, our appetite signal is switched ON when we need nutrients, and switched OFF when we have enough. Likewise, physical discomfort is caused by some homoeostatic process reacting to something that needs to be brought back into balance. When balance is resumed, the discomfort eases.
Chronic weight problems, and chronic physical symptoms are a sign that something is blocking the homoeostatic process.
The problem with our high-stress world
Cortisol is only supposed to be produced in short bursts. Too much circulating cortisol – the 21st century plague? - irritates the lining of the gut wall and is a risk factor for intestinal permeability aka ‘leaky gut’. Having a leaky gut allows large undigested food particles into the bloodstream, where they have no business being!
Stress, ‘leaky gut’ & food intolerance reactions
1] When we are under stress, digestive processes are switched OFF – [paradoxically, doctors continue to prescribe 'antacids' for the symptoms of over-acidity, when the symptoms are often caused by having too little acid, caused by eating when stressed!]
2] When we are stressed, our body produces cortisol. Too much cortisol damages the lining of the gut wall.
3] When we are stressed, we don’t chew our food properly. This compounds the problem of the stress response shutting down the production of the acids and enzymes needed to break down our food. As a result, large undigested food particles end up in the intestines and escape through the ‘leaky gut’ wall into the bloodstream.
4] Large undigested food particles should not be in the bloodstream. If large undigested food particles do end up in the bloodstream, IgG antibody’s ‘tag’ the invaders. This triggers a flood of inflammatory reactions.
5] The problem becomes circular: having chronic stress -too much cortisol - and an undiagnosed food intolerance
can soon lead to multiple food intolerances!
Too much circulating cortisol is considered to be a major contributor to many health problems. Some of which are:
- joint aches and pains
- increased anxiety
- increased risk of osteoporosis
- increased chronic symptoms
- weight gain, especially around the abdomen
- increased blood pressure
- intestinal permeability [often called leaky gut syndrome]
Too much cortisol is a major block to homeostasis.
The Major Blocks to Homeostasis
1] Having an undiagnosed food intolerance
2] Having intestinal permeability
3] Having a Candida overgrowth
4] Nutritional deficiencies
5] Too much stress
To me, it is infinitely more sensible to remove the major blocks to homeostasis, instead of treating symptoms. The body is our best doctor: why try to compete with it? Why not remove the blocks stopping it doing its job, while supplying it with what it needs to do that job? When its needs are met, the homeostasis process will do what it is supremely well-designed to do: self-regulate and self-heal.
Click here for info on the ‘Rain barrel analogy’.