The Process of Homeostasis
Have you ever wondered how your body maintains a constant internal environment? The answer is homeostasis. The process of homeostasis is one of the most critical parts of staying healthy and under control. It works in many ways throughout the entire body, each system playing a different part. However, sometimes homeostasis does not fulfill its job of maintaining a perfectly stable environment, leading to varying malfunctions inside of the body.
The Endocrine system plays a vital role in the body, focusing mainly on the secretion and production of hormones. These hormones help regulate body temperature, manage moods, and control metabolism. (Leslie) Throughout the body, there is a multitude of glands and organs that work together to balance the hormones. The head of the system is called the hypothalamus, and its function is to control the pituitary gland, which determines the hormone levels in the bloodstream. (Leslie) One of the more familiar glands is the thyroid. The thyroid is accountable for the development of the body, the function of the heart, and metabolism. (Leslie) Each of these glands release hormones into the body allowing for a chain of reactions to occur. As one gland or organ releases a hormone, another one is receiving a message to do the same. Without sending messages back and forth, the hormone levels in the body would become either too high or loo low, depending on which glands were functioning.
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How it works
However, since the body tries to maintain its stability, the production of hormones are always being regulated. As one hormone reaches its peak level in the bloodstream, a signal is sent to the head of the system, the hypothalamus, indicating for the levels to decrease. (Leslie) This is called negative feedback, which moves the body back towards homeostasis as it moves away. Nevertheless, there is another type of feedback which continues to move the body away from equilibrium. Positive feedback in the Endocrine system leads to more hormones being produced, resulting in a more intense sensation. (Leslie) An example of this is childbirth, which progresses as the hormones in the body increase. (Leslie)
While hormones levels are stable most of the time, there are some cases where they are too high or too low, and the body is not able to increase or decrease them. This happens when a person has diabetes. Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce the hormone insulin, leading to high levels of glucose in the blood stream. Glucose levels are governed by two types of hormones, ones that store energy and ones that use energy. (Erika) After eating, the levels of glucose rise, sending a message to the pancreas, telling it to release insulin. Insulin is a storage hormone, which informs other cells in the body to absorb the sugar. (Erika) As the blood glucose levels begin to drop, a different type of hormone, called glucagon, is released. (Erika) This hormone has the opposite effect on the body, as it is the one that uses energy. The pancreas determines that energy levels are low, and it triggers other cells to release the built up glucose. (Erika) Glucagon also stimulates the production of more glucose from other energy sources, such as protein. (Erika)
Developing diabetes means that the body is unable to lower the amount of glucose on its own, because it has an insufficient amount of insulin working. However, discovering that insulin reduces blood sugar led to the first effective treatment for diabetes. (Erika) With the correct dosage of insulin, the body is able to regulate and maintain homeostasis. (Erika)
There are two types of diabetes that make it difficult for the body to sustain equilibrium. Type 1 diabetes signifies that the body is completely unable to produce insulin. The immune, or lymphatic, system attacks the cells inside the pancreas that create the hormone. (NIH) Since there is no insulin in the body, a person with T1D has take insulin every day to move their body back towards homeostasis. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults, but if you have a parent or sibling with T1D, you are more likely to develop it. Many experts believe that Type 1 is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses. (NIH) These viruses can trigger the shutdown of the pancreas, leading to no insulin being produced.
Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes. If a person has T2D, the body does not make or control insulin very well, which is called insulin resistance. (American) People who are older, are obese, or have a family history of diabetes are at higher risk of developing Type 2. (Medline) Being physically inactive or having a condition, such as high blood pressure, also increase the chances for developing Type 2 diabetes. (NIH) Gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, can lead to the development of T2D, as well.
Having diabetes causes the body to stray from homeostasis, possibly leading to many complications. However, this does not mean that the body won’t be able to reach equilibrium again. Many preventive measures, such as insulin pumps and shots, have been created, making sure people are able to stay healthy and under control. By managing what you eat and how much you eat of it, diabetes is extremely tractable. A person just has to be willing to work to maintain their body, making sure everything runs efficiently.