First off, what is this thing called homeostasis?
When you’re well and feeling great, it’s because all your body systems are doing their work. You’re not too hot or too cold. You’re not hungry or feeling bloated. Your skin is comfortable, not dry or flaky. Your heart is pumping normally like it should. It’s not running slow or racing - unless you’re doing something vigorous and it’s therefore beating fast to pump oxygenated blood to where it’s needed.
You don't even think about your knees or your hands or your neck because all your joints are functioning efficiently.
And life is good.
Now, how does all this happen?
There’s a MASTER CONTROLLER that’s actively monitoring and managing all your body systems, all the time. Even when you’re asleep.
The goal of this master controller is what biological science calls homeostasis. That term comes from two Greek words for ‘similar’ and ‘stable’. ‘Stasis’ sounds like the word ‘static’ which we all know means unchanging.
As BiologyDictionary.net says, “Homeostasis is an organism’s process of maintaining a stable internal environment suitable for sustaining life.” Or to put that another way, homeostasis is the work your body is doing all the time (without even being asked to!) to function properly and make you feel well.
But what if your Master Controller went on strike?
Let’s use BODY TEMPERATURE as an example. Your normal temperature is 98.6F. But if it rises to 102F, heat fatigue sets in and you start to sweat excessively, your skin gets a flushed color and your brain tells your muscles to slow down. Your muscles might start cramping, possibly accompanied by nausea and/or light-headedness.
If your core temperature continues upward towards 104F, you’ll typically experience heat exhaustion then heat stroke as your body reacts in increasingly bad ways to your crazy high internal heat levels.
As your core temperature continues to go up, things will keep getting worse for you. Including dizziness, weakness, confusion and disorientation, fainting or seizures, and then you fall into a coma. Above 105F your body will start to shut down.
That’s what would happen if your Master Controller went AWOL. You’d soon be experiencing life-threatening conditions, organ failure and then death.
Thankfully, we’ve got these thermoregulation mechanisms in our brains. Specifically, in your hypothalamus. They’re at work 24/7, keeping your body in homeostasis… keeping all your systems working and adjusting their settings when needed.
“So, apart from temperature control, what other balance-maintaining systems do I have?”
BLOOD SUGAR: When your glucose levels are too high, your pancreas kicks in and releases insulin, the hormone that lowers your blood sugar level. But if the level is too low, another organ (your liver) gets to work doing something entirely different. It converts the glycogen in your blood back to glucose, which is the only form of sugar your body can directly use. Neat, eh?
BLOOD PRESSURE: If your BP isn’t right, your heart will send a message to your brain to fix things. If BP is too high, the message is ‘slow down’. If BP is too low, the heart is told to speed up. And it’s all automatic. That’s homeostasis at work.
CALCIUM: Did you know that calcium is the most important element in your body? -- and that it has its own regulatory system? If your blood calcium level goes down from what it should be, your parathyroid gland swings into action and releases parathyroid hormone (PTH) which takes calcium out of your bones and releases it into your blood. When the level is right again, the parathyroids stop making PTH because their work is done.
INFECTIONS: When dangerous bacteria or viruses get into your body, your lymphatic system is automatically activated. Its job is to fight the infection so you become well again. So your body gets back into… there’s that word again, balance.
BREATHING: Your breathing is managed by your nervous system. Whether your body needs more oxygen, or less, your nervous system will up-regulate or down-regulate your breathing pattern. All on its own!
pH LEVELS: Your body is designed to function best when there is a finely-tuned balance between acidity and alkalinity in your body. Specifically between 7.38 and 7.42, which is quite a narrow window. Your lungs are constantly monitoring those levels. Then if your pH level goes outside that range, your lungs will expel either more carbon dioxide or less, whichever is needed to restore the healthy balance.
“So what causes our bodies to get out of balance?”
Now that’s a great question. An important question.
Sickness and injury certainly will mess up your inner balance. Pollution and a toxic environment will, too. Also, any injury. Chronic stress can. And so can sleep deprivation because our bodies do so much health and healing work while we sleep. We need a decent night’s sleep. Alcohol, also. We know it changes the way we feel which is one reason that people drink.
Another significant cause of trouble is that Western diets have such high levels of sugar and fat, not to forget all the chemical additives used in the global food industry today.
Confronted with a list like that (and it’s an incomplete list!), it’s easy to understand that maintaining the body’s inner balance takes constant work, 24/7, although most of the time we are completely unaware of it.
Maintaining homeostasis in all our biological systems has never been more difficult. Could that help explain why some diseases are afflicting our people at record levels, despite record expenditures in the healthcare sector? I’ll leave you to think about that.
The “Master Controller” has a scientific name
Unknown until the early 1990’s, it’s now called the Endocannabinoid System. It was discovered by scientists when they were researching the effects of cannabis on the brain. The ECS is a network of receptors throughout your body. Some in your brain, some in your nervous system, some in your immune systems.
And here’s the amazing thing. These receptors respond to cannabis-like chemicals in the brain called endocannabinoids. Endo in Greek means within. So these endocannabinoids are produced naturally in the brain.
Back to our Western diets for a moment….
In Western diets, there is a higher-than-desirable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This results in reduced endocannabinoid levels (that’s called endocannabinoid deficiency), which in turn makes it harder to maintain homeostasis these days.
When there’s an endocannabinoid deficiency, a wide variety of health troubles start. As the journal Cerebrum  reported in 2013, our cannabinoid receptors are widely dispersed throughout the body’s various balancing systems and that accounts for what they called the “bewildering variety” of physical and mental effects the ECS controls... which is why CBD proponents report that it’s been useful for such a “bewildering variety” of different health needs.
Why wait till your system is out of balance and you feel lousy?
There are many things we can do to take care of ourselves and help the Endocannabinoid System to serve us well. Eat a balanced diet including green leafy vegetables and healthy fats. Cut out junk food. Don't overdo caffeine or alcohol. Stress management. Aerobic exercise.
Supplementing with CBD Oil is another option that many who’ve tried it are recommending.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.*