What Is Homeostasis

What is homeostasis? If you're having trouble explaining this concept to your child, start with the word stability. Homeostasis is all about stability.

Explaining Homeostasis
The most accepted homeostasis definition is the body's ability to maintain a stable state of healthy function. Homeostasis is how your body maintains a steady temperature pattern, a stable flow of blood through the body, which provides optimal nourishment and oxygen to the cells while effectively whisking away toxins, and how your body maintains a healthy intake of oxygen and disposal of carbon dioxide. Essentially, homeostasis is the whole of your body's efforts to maintain optimal health and proper balance.

Homeostasis is affected by a lot of factors. Heat, cold, moisture, dryness, nourishment or deprivation, what you eat, when you eat and proper digestion and elimination all affect what your body has to do to maintain homeostasis. Your body produces numerous hormones, chemicals and physical reactions to maintain homeostasis.

The following are two practical examples you can use to explain homeostasis to your child.

Blood Glucose Homeostasis
Your body needs to maintain a specific level of blood sugar, also called glucose, for your cells to function optimally. When you eat something sugary, your body's blood sugar level shoots up, causing your body to produce and release insulin into your blood stream. Insulin counteracts the impact of the sugar. Diabetes is a medical condition where blood glucose homeostasis has failed. Diabetics need to assist their bodies in blood glucose homeostasis through dietary restrictions or insulin supplements.

Temperature Homeostasis
Your body also needs to maintain a specific temperature. Because hot and cold temperatures directly affect your body temperature, your body uses different methods to maintain a proper temperature, such as shivering to warm up or sweating to cool down. 

Sometimes your body wants to be too hot. When you get a fever, your body temperature rises to kill off bacteria or viruses in your bloodstream. Fevers can be uncomfortable, but they are part of the body's defense against illness. Once the bacteria or virus is gone, your temperature returns to its normal level.

Sometimes, your body can't maintain the right temperature on its own. When it's very cold outside, you need to wear a jacket, hat and gloves to keep warm. Without them, your body temperature would quickly drop and you'd freeze or suffer frostbite. A fever can also be too high, which is very dangerous. In this situation, doctors use medicine to keep the fever under control.

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