You most likely have heard of homeostasis in school. Just like most other medical terms, homeostasis has its own dictionary definition, but dictionary definitions are usually not so helpful when it comes to things like this.
Following a dictionary definition for medical terms makes it difficult for a reader to understand the real concepts of how the word looks and operates in the body.
According to biology dictionaries, the definition of homeostasis is “the tendency of an organism or a cell to regulate its internal conditions, usually by a system of feedback controls, so as to stabilise health and functioning, regardless of the outside changing conditions.”
But we are talking about asthma, so In terms of asthma, the best way to explain homeostasis is to refers to it as how your body’s respiratory system functions correctly without any increases in inflammation or experiencing adverse effects of other parts of the pathophysiology of asthma.
If you’re still very confused with this above definition, you have absolutely nothing to worry about because as you read further would be breaking it down so that you can clearly get the meaning of what we’re talking about and understand how they relate to your body function.
The human body naturally seeks to maintain a certain level of normalcy. What I mean is, take for instance when it rains and your outside, your body automatically does a few things to keep you protected.
The first thing that happens is that a sensor automatically detects what is going on around you which is rainfall and cold weather.
The sensor, in this case, is your skin and it is your skin that will tell your brain that the weather is cold and it is wet outside.
Once the signal is sent to your mind internal organisms will begin to react to the stimulus does your brain would help your skin increase its temperature by burning calories and fat stores at that moment to help your body stay as warm as possible.
Whenever there is cold, and you find yourself shivering it is just a way of your body trying to warm up itself so that you do not fall sick or freeze from the cold so that is like your body increasing circulation so that your temperature can stay normal like it would in a warm weather.
In asthma the homeostasis of the smooth muscle in your lungs is interrupted when you are exposed to irritants such as dust or tobacco smoke or allergens such as pollen and symptoms can occur such as:
For people with asthma, the homeostasis of the smooth muscle in their lungs is usually interrupted whenever they are exposed to irritants like tobacco smoke, or dust, or allergens like pollen. When this happens, symptoms can occur such as:
- Chronic cough
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Immediately it stops raining, and the weather begins to get warmer your body immediately stops trying to increase your temperature and how it does this is by using what is known as a negative feedback mechanism.
This negative feedback mechanism is simply a response to the fact that your body has stopped experiencing the same stimuli. Immediately your body begins to warm up, and the rain has stopped, then the shivering stops automatically.
While the explanation might still be a little confusing, the fact remains that how this homeostatic function is very straight forward and easy to understand.
When it comes to asthma to get home you started functioning correctly it may take a rescue inhaler or maybe a medication that tries to control the patient’s homeostasis balance.
Because homeostasis is a very broad term people tend to be confused about whether or not it has the same bases when you try to relate it with asthma and other things.
The simple answer is yes your body needs a sensor in whatever situation you find yourself that has a link with homeostasis. With the rain example, I gave before your skin is the sensor, and with asthma, your smooth muscle please the role of the sensor.
Apart from the sensor and internal mechanism is also needed in the real example the internal mechanism is a complicated process through which your brain tries to increase your body temperature or even the pathophysiology of asthma.
Then there is also the need for a reverse feedback mechanism which is the case of how your body tries to stop increasing your temperature when the weather gets warmer or how a medication works to return your body to a healthy state of homeostasis in the case of asthma.
It is not crucial that you bother yourself too much about any of the internal mechanisms for you to fully understand what goes on in your body when homeostasis kicks in.
Just remember that when there is an external stimulus for instance what your body tries to do after sensing it is to adapt so that things are kept constant your body will try to keep you at the same temperature whenever it rains for example.
Asthma can be considered a case of homeostasis gone wrong because the body fails to readjust itself to a change in stimuli which is what results in symptoms that are unhealthy.
Understanding homeostasis as a “Mechanism” and a “State.”
In the rain example I shared with you above, we described homeostasis as an organism, or better still the way the human body reacts to extreme changes so as to achieve a level of equilibrium
There are many different ways we can explain homeostasis as a mechanism. Another Very Wonderful example is a fluid balance.
The human body seeks always to keep enough fluid handy so that it can sustain itself running smoothly and it would also do it best to expel more fluid whenever you have too much water in your system so that a balance can also be maintained.
This fluid balance is also very important to people dealing with asthma because dehydration can have a negative effect on the respiratory system.
The process with which the human body uses to measure the exact amount of fluid needed, and expel the excess so as to maintain a balance is a wonderful explanation of homeostasis as a mechanism.
However, there is also this considerable caveat that throws off the question of what is homeostasis. Homeostasis as a term can also be used to refer to a state of equilibrium that your body seeks to achieve through the mechanisms we have discussed above.
So, we can say that homeostasis is that place where your body wants to be, that point where your body has the right amount of water that makes it fully hydrated, well-nourished, and also having all the right nutrients and vitamins to function properly.
We can also describe homeostasis as that perfect midpoint where you do not suffer from too little or have too much of anything in your body at that point your body is capable of functioning perfectly. In the case of asthma, you can think of homeostasis best in relation to a person’s oxygen level.
If you can measure your oxygen level with something like a pulse ox machine and you notice it drops too low, what your body will do immediately is seeking to increase the oxygen level either by making you take bigger breaths, or increasing your breathing rate automatically.
If everything goes perfectly as everybody would like, the human body is able to control things so as to maintain the perfect state of homeostasis through the Homeostatic mechanisms.
But of course, we already know that things do not always go so perfectly; that is why there are a few different ways that the human body can reach an homeostasis imbalance. To understand this better, think of an asthma attack.
For one, as a human being grows older, the person’s negative feedback mechanism usually does not function as well as it used to before.
Your body doesn’t really know when to strive for normalcy unlike when things were still functioning well this explains why you see a lot of elderly people shivering more than young people do even when the weather is not so cold.
As your body finds it challenging to understand when it needs to readjust to stimuli a person becomes more prone to illnesses and conditions.
Also, more older people find themselves taking dietary supplements because their body finds it hard to realise when they need more nutrients or even to know when their body has achieved enough nutrition or also maintaining a homeostatic balance.
When an asthma patient fails to take their asthma medications that were specially designed to help them achieve homeostatic balance what would happen is a development of increased symptoms as well as poor control.
Above all, it is important to understand that homeostasis itself is a very complicated process. But anytime you ask yourself what is homeostasis, just recall that homeostasis can be many different things.
You can think of it as the natural Balance of the human body whenever things are running smoothly and perfectly and also when your body is in harmony.
Homeostasis can also be used to refer to the complicated mechanisms that help to keep the human body reacting appropriately to external stimuli.
We hope that this article has been very helpful with making you understand what homeostasis is and how it works and we also hope that it is helpful to those dealing with asthma.
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