Monday, August 7, 2017

Homeostasis - Using it to Your Advantage

Homeostasis is your body's way of balancing things out. It is the name of the processes that happen when your body does something to maintain stability. If something swings one way, homeostasis would be the process that your body uses to counteract that action to return to normal and maintain a standard state of being. For example, when you get too hot your body sweats to return its body temperature to normal. Producing sweat, in this case, is an act of homeostasis to maintain the right body heat. Another example could involve the immune system. Your immune system fights off disease to return to normal. This is called homeostasis. Wikipedia explains homeostasis as the characteristic of systems within the body where a variable is regulated to stay near a constant value.

Long term effects of homeostasis

Khan Academy tells us that homeostasis usually involves negative counteractions to maintain stability. This brings the body back to a certain value (like body heat). When the counteraction process is positive, the value that the body regards as normal could change from its original point. 

For example, exercise temporarily increases your heart rate. Homeostasis is the process where your body brings your heart rate down (a positive counteraction) to achieve balance. This positive counteraction can change the standard (resting) heart over time. The effects of the counteraction (or homeostasis) can often outweigh the initial stimulus that caused it. This happens because your body adapts to minimize the effects of the stimulus in the first place. In this example, your heart rate will decrease after regular exercise because of the repeated homeostasis brought on from the exercise. 

You can therefore find that homeostasis often has a cumulative effect.

Diabetes: Failed homeostasis leads to disease

When your body cannot restore itself to a state of homeostasis (balance), disease is the result (or cause). Diabetes is an example of how the lack of homeostasis leads to disease.

How diabetes is caused by the lack of homeostasis

When blood sugar levels are high (from eating), insulin is released to restore balance. It does this by telling the body to absorb the sugar out of the blood and into storage. When blood sugar levels are low, glucagon is released to make the body release this energy from storage. When your body can’t restore this balance, blood sugar levels can remain high (either because not enough insulin is being released or your body is not responding to it properly). 

Homeostasis is critical for survival.

Using homeostasis to your advantage

Exercise is not the only thing that can take advantage of the positive effects of homeostasis

Exercise owes almost all of its benefits to the cumulative effect of homeostasis. For example, the endorphin rush that makes you feel so good is your body's way of compensating for the pain and exhaustion that exercise physically induces. The release of endorphins is often accompanied with pain as the body tries to balance out its effects. For example, eating chilies and getting a tattoo are both accompanied with endorphin release. This is what makes these activities addictive.

In another example, your muscles get stronger as a result of the exercise that breaks them down, in an attempt to re-establish balance. We increase the intensity or difficulty of an exercise as we get used to it, forcing our bodies to adapt further towards a homeostatic, balanced state of being.

Your body tries to stabilize itself by increasing its strength or endurance as a result of the opposite happening during exercise. Your immune system also gets stronger, because exercise momentarily challenges it.

Homeostasis and skin

We discuss the idea of training your skin to either produce less or more oil here. It is premised on the theory that you can train skin in the same way that you train muscle. People who have dry skin can increase oil production by washing more regularly. Conversely, people who have oily skin can train it to produce less oil by stripping less of that oil away in their daily routines. I tried out this theory and my skin majorly improved in two weeks.

This takes advantage of your body's innate tendency to balance things out. People with dry skin tend to use a lot of moisturizer, which the body balances out by producing less oil. When I used less skin cream and showered twice a day instead of once, my body balanced out these actions by producing more oil. The effects to this were cumulative, and after a few weeks my skin was less dry than it had been in years. People with oily skin can use the same principle by removing less of the skin's natural oil layer. It will attempt to reach a state of homeostasis by producing less oil.

In the same way, long term exfoliation increases the thickness of your skin. It temporarily thins your skin, which causes your body counteract by thickening it. It slightly overcompensates for this action in order to protect itself from the next exfoliation. Over time, the skin gets thicker as a result of cumulative homeostasis.

During your exercise routine

You can use this principle during exercise as well. I used to drink less water when I first started exercising and after a few workouts, I felt less thirsty. People who train often on an empty stomach are better adapted to it and will probably feel sick if they didn't, since their bodies have establish that specific procedure as their standard condition. Because of homeostasis, the best time to work out is actually the time that you work out the most often. You will have unknowingly gotten so used to working out at a certain time that those times become the best time for performance. Your body makes the most energy when it anticipates the most activity, in order to maintain balance. For this reason, Healthy Way recommends training at the same time of a particular event that you are preparing for to maximize performance on that day.

Response to exercise

In our research on the best weight training workout split for muscle growth, some studies had to be distinguished from others depending on whether their subjects previously trained or if they were untrained. The long-term homeostasis responses from trained athletes changed the way that their bodies responded to exercise. People who previously trained where able to recover from exercise stimuli more efficiently than people who didn't.

Absorption and digestion

My father always told me that the diets that some people eat every day could make other people sick, because their systems are so used to it. This is extremely true. Your body gets used to certain foods and becomes better at digesting these foods. This is a great concept to understand for people who battle to digest certain foods or supplements. By using smaller quantities, you can train your body to get used to breaking down a particular source of food for nutrients. By increasing the quantity and quality of certain foods over time, your body gets more adept at digesting it and using it.

This is why you need to balance out supplement consumption with real food. If you don't eat enough real food regularly, your body can lose its ability to digest it properly.

Train for pain

You can increase your pain tolerance by taking advantage of the fact that your body will adapt in order to restore a sense of balance. Most fighters develop a greater pain tolerance for this reason.

Hot and cold

Your body tries to cool you down when the environment is too hot. It also tries to warm you up when it gets too cold. It takes a lot of energy to change body temperature, and people who are exposed to larger temperature differences burn more calories because of this. This homeostatic response can therefore be used to burn extra calories.


Not all cases of homeostasis are positive. Homeostasis can lead to dependency as it causes changes in the body to restore balance from products that were originally meant to boost it. A good example of this would be caffeine. It gives your body energy. Your body attempts to restore its natural energy balance by decreasing its natural energy production, minimizing caffeine's effects and increasing the rate at which caffeine is eliminated from the body. The longer and more often you consume caffeine, the less of an effect it will have on you. If you consume it long and often enough, your body will adapt so much that it will not be able to maintain its own energy levels without it.

Because of the above, it is therefore advisable to regularly consume nutrients that the body needs and cannot produce on its own (like protein, essential vitamins and anti-oxidants), but cycle other things that have an immediate positive effect without letting the body balance out its effects. This prevents your body from getting too accustomed to something. The long-term homeostasis counter-effects can accumulate to an extent where products that were meant to increase certain functions end up causing dependency.

By cycling caffeine, you can maximize its effects during the times that you need it the most. This applied to many other non-essential nutrients and chemicals. The rule of diminishing results as a result of homeostasis is the reason why you should cycle creatine.

It is clear that you can get the results that you want from your body by doing things that will force its homeostasis processes to elicit a particular response. This is useful because you can change how parts of your body work and what it does by applying the homeostasis principles explained above. STAY STRONG!