Homeostatsis vs. allostastsis: Get your body back to its baseline
by Mark Goudie on Mar 14, 2023
Homeostasis is the body's ability to maintain a stable internal environment. It's regulated by feedback loops that keep things like heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature within a normal range. Allostasis, on the other hand, is the body's response to stress. It helps us adapt to changes in our environment (like a cold winter or a hot summer day) by tweaking our homeostatic mechanisms. In this article, we'll dive into the differences between homeostasis and allostasis to understand how your body deals with stress. We'll also explore some of the ways that chronic stress can lead to allostatic overload and what you can do to avoid it.
What is homeostasis?
Homeostasis is the body's natural ability to heal and regenerate. It is a balanced state of living, where every body system functions optimally.
These days being in a state of homeostasis is becoming more challenging. There are so many social deterrents and environmental factors that prevent us from self healing and regenerating, hence the reliance on western medicine.
Below are a few factors that take us away from homeostasis:
- Stress - continual elevated cortisol levels when physical, emotional, mental or environmental stress are unresolved
- Mineral and vitamin deficiencies - necessary for the optimal function of many biochemical processes which take place in the body continuously
- Daily activities - Using computers, mobile phones, driving a car, being physically inactive alongside exposure to blue light and media
- Eating nutritional empty foods - putting the body under extra stress/pressure to resolve nutritional deficiencies and service basic biochemical needs
- Eating in Excess - Extra stress on body functions to remove waste
- Stimulants - Alcohol, drugs, coffee and refined sugar
- Consuming inflammatory - promoting foods - Dairy, gluten, wheat, meat, sugar, processed foods and more
- Excess chemicals - Daily use of chemical products (over 85,000 chemical are listed)
- EMF (electromagnetic Frequencies) and RF (Radio Frequency) exposure - Mobile phones, mobile towers, high voltage electronic devices and currents
- Excess toxins - Air and water pollution and heavy metal exposure
- Mind cycling - A state of mind that cannot slow down
- Sleep deprivation - Unhealthy sleep patterns preventing the body to heal
- Trauma - Unresolved trauma, limiting consciousness
- Insecurities - Added stress and worry
- Conditioning - Learnt beliefs that create rigidity
- Lack of exercise - Unhealthy weight gain increasing risk of CVD, diabetes, cancer, vitamin D deficiency as a result of staying indoor and lack of stimulation of hormone/endorphins
- An altered state of HPA Axis (Hypothalamus/Pituitary/Adrenal axis) leading to an inability to relax - Living in a constant state of 'doing', not necessarily in a physical way, not giving the nervous system time to settle
What is allostasis?
Allostasis is an altered, false state of being. A state of degeneration. A state of imbalance, but thought to be in balance.
It is fair to say, under the circumstances, most of the population in the western world are living in a continuous state of allostasis. Due to the factors above accentuated by living in desire, eating and doing what we want, rather than eating and doing what we need. This altered state stunts our growth, detracts from our intelligence and ultimately takes us away from our true nature and divine purpose.
Allostasis is aregulated state of affairs whereby an organism adjusts its internal environment to maintain conditions for survival. The concept is analogous to homeostasis, but allostasis encompasses a wider range of regulatory mechanisms that allow organisms to cope with environmental changes.
While homeostasis refers to maintenance of a steady state, allostasis describes the dynamic process by which an organism responds to challenge or stressors.
There are two types of allostasis: primary allostasis and secondary allostasis. Primary allostasis occurs when an organism is first exposed to a stressor and activates its fight-or-flight response. This initial response is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system and results in increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. These changes help prepare the body for action and protect it from further harm.
Secondary allostasis occurs when the stressor persists and the body's response becomes maladaptive. In this case, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated, resulting in increased levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is mostly released at times of stress. Cortisol has many important functions in the body. Having the right cortisol balance is essential for human health and you can have problems if you produce too much or too little cortisol.
The difference between homeostasis and allostasis
There are two ways that our bodies maintain stability: homeostasis and allostasis. Homeostasis is the process of keeping things constant. Allostasis is the process of making changes to keep things in balance.
Here's an example: let's say you're walking along and you see a bear. Your body immediately goes into survival mode and starts pumping out stress hormones like cortisol. This gives you the energy you need to run away from the bear. Once the danger has passed, your body returns to its normal, relaxed state. That's homeostasis.
Now, let's say you're constantly under stress at work. Your body is in a state of high alert and pumping out cortisol all the time. This can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, weight gain, and trouble sleeping. In this case, your body is not able to return to its normal state‚ that's allostasis.
Allostasis is a necessary part of life, it helps us adapt to changes and survive stressful situations. But when we're constantly in a state of allostasis, it takes a toll on our health. That's why it's important to find ways to reduce stress in our lives and promote homeostasis.
How to get your body back to its baseline
The human body is constantly striving to maintain a state of homeostasis, or equilibrium. This means that when something throws the body off balance, it will work to correct the problem and return to its baseline state.
There are many things that can disrupt the body's homeostasis, including illness, injury, stress, and lack of sleep, poor diet of refined foods, plus many others. When this happens, the body goes into allostasis, or crisis mode. In allostasis, the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to help us deal with the situation.
While these hormones can be lifesavers in a true emergency, they are not meant to be used on a regular basis. When the body is in a state of allostasis too often, it can lead to problems like weight gain, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
So how do you get your body back to its baseline? The first step is to identify what is causing your allostasis. Once you know what is triggering your stress response, you can begin to take steps to avoid or eliminate those triggers.
If you're dealing with chronic stress, it may be necessary to seek professional help to learn how to manage your stressors in a healthy way. But for most people, making some simple lifestyle changes can go a long way towards restoring homeostasis.
Some tips for getting your body back to its baseline include:
- Getting enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for restoring balance in the body. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Eating a healthy diet: A diet of whole, unprocessed foods will help the body to function at its best.
- Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It can also help to reduce stress levels.
- Meditation: Meditation can help to calm the mind and body and promote a sense of well-being.
- Avoiding triggers: If you know what triggers your stress response, avoid those triggers if possible.
A naturopath can help you get your body back to a state of homeostasis.
Homeostasis and allostasis are both important processes that help our bodies function properly. Homeostasis keeps our bodies in a state of equilibrium, while allostasis helps us adapt to changes in our environment. Although they are both important, homeostasis is more important for maintaining our health and well-being. Allostasis is important for helping us cope with stressors and making sure we don't get too far out of balance, but it's not as crucial for keeping our bodies functioning properly on a day-to-day basis.