What is the Concept of Homeostasis?

Homeostasis is mainly achieved through negative feedback mechanisms that counteract stimuli coming from the external environment. Read to learn more about the concept of homeostasis.
What is the Concept of Homeostasis?

Last update: 16 October, 2021

The concept of homeostasis refers to a series of processes that occur within our body. These are processes that allow us to maintain a balance between our internal environment and the outside environment.

The word homeostasis comes from the Greek language, where hómoios means equal and stásis, stability. It’s a concept that was first described in 1926 by the scientist Walter Cannon.

This set of processes are essential for survival, as they allow us to adapt to all the changes that occur in the environment where we live. For example, temperature changes. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about homeostasis.

What is the concept of homeostasis?

As we have already mentioned, the concept of homeostasis refers to the tendency to maintain stability within our bodies. In other words, it’s the ability to adapt to the changes that occur externally.

In reality, this term encompasses all the self-regulating mechanisms that we possess. These mechanisms cause a dynamic equilibrium to exist, which varies according to the conditions of the environment. We mentioned temperature homeostasis earlier, but another example is glucose concentration, for example.

Homeostasis is necessary because our bodies have rather narrow limits. In the case of temperature, if we weren’t able to regulate our body temperature, we’d be totally vulnerable.

If we were in a place where it was very hot, our bodies would be unable to control it. Therefore, our temperature would also increase, which would end up causing all our tissues to suffer damage.

A woman in the desert, feeling hot.

How does it work?

To understand the concept of homeostasis, we’ll explain the example of temperature. Most of the processes that enable homeostasis work thanks to negative feedback. This means that they act in the opposite way to the signal that triggers them.

In other words, let’s imagine that the body temperature rises because it’s very hot outside. What would happen is that our body would try to lower the temperature. To do this, the stimulus must first be detected.

There are a number of sensors that allow us to detect this type of change. They’re in charge of informing our brain of any alteration such as heat. Then, the control centers, which direct the response to such a change, are set in motion.

It’s the effectors that are in charge of carrying out this response. In our example, they’d be the sweat glands. Sweat is used to eliminate body heat. Therefore, the cycle is closed and a stable balance is maintained.

Glucose homeostasis and diabetes

A doctor checking a patient's blood sugar.

Glucose is the molecule that our cells use as fuel. That is, they need it for energy to perform all their functions. Insulin is the hormone that allows glucose to pass from the blood into the cells.

Under normal conditions, when the concentration of glucose increases, the pancreas stimulates the secretion of insulin so that it can pass into the cells. What happens in diabetes is that our body doesn’t secrete or can’t use insulin. As a result, blood glucose levels rise.

In this case, the negative feedback loop is broken. And, if this is sustained over time, tissue damage occurs. In addition, symptoms such as thirst or increased urination occur.

Conclusions regarding the concept of homeostasis

What we must remember is that homeostasis is the set of processes that take place in our body and that allow us to maintain a dynamic balance depending on external conditions. All of these are essential for life.

It might interest you...
Insulin Resistance: Find Out Why It’s So Common
Step To Health
Read it in Step To Health
Insulin Resistance: Find Out Why It’s So Common

Recent medical advances are addressing conditions that were deadly only a few decades ago. However, currently new conditions are appearing in which...