128 – Homeostasis

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Recently thinking about balance caused me to wander toward a related word that is a very important biological concept.

A word that biology textbooks mentioned and defined Chapter 1 or 2 as an important term – then seldom resurfaces. Teachers knowing its importance will regularly reinforce the concept throughout the course. Textbooks stressing this important concept are rare, therefore outside the mainstream – so less used by teachers and students.

The word – homeostasis – does not pop into everyday conversation. We don’t hear it on the news broadcasts or read it in news articles. Homeostasis may appear as a Jeopardy answer in the form of a question, but not as a category.

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Homeostasis is a word that many do not know, but a word people know examples of while not associating the examples to the word. Homeostasis has to do with balance, but not in the same sense as the actions when trying to walk a railroad track or balance beam. Not in the same sense as balancing daily life activities – but homeostasis is very much about life.

Although our body is constantly producing heat, homeostasis is the mechanism that keeps our body temperature relatively the same by releasing heat. If the body temperature lowers, a homeostasis mechanism adjusts to keep heat in and produce more heat. After all, have you ever shivered?

Because reptiles don’t have an automatic mechanism to regulate body temperature, they adjust by responding with behaviors – sunning on a rock to increase their body temperature, or seeking cool shade or a hole in the ground to keep their body from overheating.

To maintain a relatively constant body temperature, the organism must have senses to detect external and internal temperature, plus ways to transmit those information/signals to bring about a response to maintain the balance – that’s homeostasis.

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We take in water – most commonly through food and beverages. Our cells also constantly produce water. Our blood is over 50% water and continuously passes through our kidneys. Kidneys remove excess water from the blood so, we release water from the body as the main ingredient in urine. That’s homeostasis.

Water moves in and out of our body – yet, a mechanism is in place to keep the water level within us relatively constant. We get thirsty and retain water when we need water. We eliminate excess water when necessary. That’s homeostasis.

Many cells have water continuously entering. So they don’t explode from over-swelling, a mechanism for removing water is in place. That’s homeostasis.

Plants take in water through their roots and release water through their leaves – so plants must have a mechanism for regulating the two. Did you imagine a similarity our kidneys have with plants? Yes, homeostasis links those ideas.

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All living things require constant energy to survive. No matter if the food is caught, prepared, or made by the organism, food is the energy source. That’s homeostasis.

Our cells constantly use food from the blood to make the energy required to sustain life. After we eat, our digestive system prepares the food so cells can use it. The final products of digestion move into the blood for transport to the cells for their use or to storage for later use. Insulin plays an important role in maintaining the sugar level in the blood. That’s homeostasis.

Living things have many examples of homeostasis – and maintaining body temperature, water, and food levels are a few examples – but there are many others.

Homeostasis very much relates to our health. If homeostasis is interrupted or disrupted, something is wrong – disease, illness, conditions. Some illnesses involve a disruption in homeostasis and in the mechanism for restoring the normal state. Then again, sometimes correcting one problem amplifies another.

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Yes – homeostasis is a concept in biology and life because it is important to all living things. Important to birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, single cells, insects, worms, sponges, jellyfish, clams, crabs, plants, and more. Yes – homeostasis is important to all living things.

The teacher in me came out for this walk – but maybe my thoughts have given you something to ponder. For me, that is a good thing. After all, I like walking on the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

See what other bloggers have posted about Homeostasis

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86 thoughts on “128 – Homeostasis”

  1. Beautiful, Frank. I too associate homeostasis with Biology textbooks, haha. But you have really opened it like a bud to encompass the entire world. You made homeostasis seem like a beautiful world. More than equilibrium, it’s what makes us and the natural world be! Beautiful. Hope you are well, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lenora,
      Thank you for the kind words. Your bud analogy made me smile. 🙂 As a concept, “homeostasis” explains much of what’s happening in the biological word … and an explanation doesn’t have to be complicated. Even as a biology teacher (now retired), I admit it took me a while to truly see it as a concept. Once I did, the world opened up to me. Hope all is well with you! Thanks for the pleasant surprise seeing you first for my morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the explanation, Frank. It’s one of those terms I had a woolly understanding of. Mick’s just opened the patio door to let some cool air in. Homeostasis! Have a happy weekend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jo,
      You’ve got the idea! Although the term is more for the living world, to me i is a synonym for balance and equilibrium – so applicable in many ways! I could go into the homeostatic value of cake, but I will resist the urge. Enjoy your weekend.

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    1. Marina,
      Aboslutely – I see equilibium, balance, and homeostasis being very similar – but homeostasis centering on living things and the processes they do to maintain equilibrium. Yamas!!! …. OH … as I type this – one of Hera’s species is featured on the morning news (promoting pets from the shelter).

      Like

  3. This one made me think again – as I often do – of just what an amazing “machine” our bodies are…..things in balance cause perfect timing and rhythms with function but being delicate, a small imbalance can cause havoc. When the world is out of balance it’s the same as when our bodies are not in tune. Another subject that brings many related things to mind………..stretching our thinking which is excellent exercise! Thanks for that Frank.

    Hugs, Pam

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pam,
      Stimulating thought is what I like to do … so thank you! 🙂 You’re are so right … the human body is an incredible machine. Here’s a documentary for you (50 mins) with that title!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExSkrchJqHE ,,,, Living things are constantly dealing with small imbalances and working to bring it back into balance. It’s easier to think of balance as a range, rather than a point. Think about when you get blood test results. The report shows your value (at the time of the test) related to a normal range.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan.
      No doubt – our bodies are not only complex, they are incredible. Yes …. so much going on not only as you relaxing starting your day with a cuppa and some blogging, but also while you sleep … and apply that thought to the rest of the living world. An amazing thought! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course it wouldn’t be in early grades. I’m guessing high school. I always get something wonderful from your walks. Sometimes I learn, sometimes I reflect, sometimes I just feel good, sometimes I remember. Best to you, Frank.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This post takes me back to when I was your student. I remember the homeostasis lectures from biology and anatomy. I appreciate your comments Haub healthy balance is wolverine him to life itself. Cheers!

    Luke

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Luke,
      Good to hear from you and rekindle your memory. Interestingly, in my post-Luke teaching era, I came across a text/program that actually focused on homeostasis as a theme across all of biology. It was actually its own unit of 3 chapters, which applied the concept to plants, microbes, and all animals – including humans. Making big-picture connections is important. I still recall the day when I asked, “What is the purpose of energy systems in living things?” …. and a student answered, “To maintain energy system.” … that big – real big! Hope all is well with you … cheers.

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  5. In a world where so many have so little knowledge or understanding of science, who deny the validity of science, who politicize both science and religion, more light is needed. Policies need to be made from an enlightened perspective. Sometimes it seems that we are going backward. Even I, with my limited background in science, can see that something is amiss!

    An occasional science post would be great, Frank! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Homeostasis is perhaps the most important balance. I must admit that the last photo you shared made me what to get up and stretch out!! It also reminds me of how our older daughter once said when she wasn’t very old that she wanted to be a contortionist when she grew up. Thankfully she chose a different, better-paying profession!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve always had trouble keeping warm thus I’m more a poikilotherm. I do however live and breathe homeostasis. Being keenly aware of it since my father had to be on dialysis (10 years before MRSA did him in)… Homeostasis was part of his and by association our lives. Measuring fluid intake is never fun. Thanks for this little post to remind me that we are always striving for that “sweet spot”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Murisopsis,
      Dialysis is a great example of homeostasis – which is a process – and when the kidneys are not able to work as planned, an external dialysis machine is required to maintain homeostasis – which is a process – an ongoing process working against the chaoa taking us our of balance. Homostasis is not static – but a process constanting working to counter the trend forward chaos. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Homeostasis and homeostatic make one think of a stable (static) condition, but as you’ve aptly described, it is really a process – many things in motion to achieve this delicate balance within a particular living body. That is probably a worthy metaphor for…something!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. When I first saw the title for this post my eyelids fluttered and I thought oooh biology lesson! But it wasn’t. (it was but . . . ) It was a life lesson. There was a time when someone was ill, it was referred to as the humours were not aligned. That’s what we are. We are unaligned. Not just our bodies but our world. Homeostasis is that state that we need to reach to heal. Or rather it is the process by which we can begin to heal. When the humours are happy it is a much better world… And funnier too!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Frank, you must’ve been a good teacher. You have a way of explaining complex things such that the average person can understand them. That’s a gift, you know! I’m kind of wishing I’d had you as one of my teachers — then, perhaps I’d have appreciated complicated subjects like homeostasis more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debbie,
      Thanks for the kind words. Biology teachers have a way of making things harder than they are. Students get more new words in Biology than they do in the foreign language class down the hall. I must admit – I’ve been there, done that – but eventually saw the light and got away from that traditional model. You feeling an understanding with this makes me smile! Thank you for that!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for the lesson on homeostasis and the examples. I never thought much about this before. I guess that’s why so many places took our temperatures before allowing us to enter the building during the pandemic, looking for an indication of illness. It seems that all of nature strives for balance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara,
      The processes to maintain homeostasis are not static, but constant. Good example about temperature. Some also say that a fever is another way to lead us back to normal – yep – that’s part of homeostasis, too! Glad you enjoyed the teacher side of me.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You know Frank, it’s something most all of us have studied and promptly forgotten LOL. The teacher in you DID come out and quite well. Some great images to illustrate the post as well. Terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tina,
      Homeostasis is unquestionably one of those words students will quickly forget. However, I’m more confident knowing that examples stick in one’s memory – then additional examples make sense. Yes – I used that forgotten word in the title and as a concluding statement in many paragraphs – but it’s the examples that I hope stick. Examples that people can apply to any living thing. Thanks for walking along!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Having studied a lot of biology and chemistry and also being in health care, I right away knew what homeostasis is.
    And now when I look at the word itself, I see Home and Stasis, Home is a place of goodness and comfort, and stasis means stillness…sort of. Its when the systems are all functioning properly and in perfect harmony with eachother. Just like we feel good when we get to our homes after work, or something like that.

    I am always in awe how all living things are made to function, its sort of miraculous!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think I had a general sense of definition in the word, Frank, but I would have struggled to give a coherent answer! I think this is better than any textbook definition could be, and I wonder if I would have been more adventurous in my science education if I’d had teachers who presented info as thoroughly and clearly as you do! This was a delight to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debra,
      Thanks for the kind words about this wonderful word. As I mentioned, typical textbooks mentioned it early, but (in my opinion) eluded using it again in the countless examples throughout the book. It was until the last part of my career did I find a text that actually emphasized homeostasis – so much so that it not only was an entire unit of three chapters (unit 2), but then reinforced (and the students would note) throughout the rest of the text. Absolutely brilliant. Biology teachers (and texts) also get caught up in all the new words they will give students at the expense of emphasizing the concept. Ooops … I better get off my pulpit.

      Like

    1. Ally,
      Glad you enjoyed the walk. Balance is a good synonym for homeostasis. However, homeostasis typically involves processes of regulating within a range. Some adjustments are slower than others … but equally important. Interestingly, homeostasis is an important concept that doesn’t even enough attention.

      Liked by 1 person

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