The human balance: How does our body achieve balance?
The human body is a crazy, fascinating thing. It works hard to keep all its systems balanced. As students, we know it’s not easy to be balanced. Let’s look at how the human body works, and how it is able to keep that balance.
As with many other complex life forms, humans are made of living biological units called cells. Cells are basic units of life—all living things are made up of one or more cells.
- Humans are made up of more than 30 trillion cells—of many different types. Your muscle cells and brain cells are worlds apart.
- Similar cells in your body with similar functions and structures work together to form tissue, like muscle tissue or nerve tissue. Tissues work together to do a particular job. For example, your heart pumps blood throughout your body, and your lungs oxygenate your blood. These tissues are collectively called organs.
- Different organs also work together. Your circulatory system, which includes your heart, your blood and blood vessels, and your lungs, transports nutrients and oxygen through your body, among other functions. These organs are collectively called organ systems.
- Finally, an organism is a collection of organ systems working together to form an entity, such as humans, animals, plants, fungi or bacteria.
As you see, the human body is a very complex system. All humans are formed from a marriage between two cells: a sperm and an egg. Doesn’t it make you wonder how all these different types of cells, tissues, organs and organ systems cooperate and coordinate with each other in almost perfect harmony? How did we develop to be this complex machine with a high cognitive function? And what happens when a part in this complex machine fails?
Let’s define health and disease. A human is healthy when all these parts work well and in harmony with each other. This is called homeostasis—keeping a relatively stable environment, suitable for continual maintenance and growth. The keyword here is relatively, which is important because, depending on the specific system, the body is tolerant towards some turbulence. For example, your body can tolerate a dramatic change in external temperature. When the environmental temperature changes suddenly, your body will immediately work to compensate the negative change and return your body to a favourable temperature.
You have hardwired mechanisms that counterbalance negative changes in your body. Some of these changes encompass a relatively generous range, as with temperature, but some encompass a much narrower range. For instance, blood pH (i.e. its acidity) is tightly controlled between 7.35 and 7.45. Your body keeps a close eye on these levels. A sudden change in pH can be fatal: think alcohol intoxication, as an example. If you binge drink too fast, there may be no coming back. Unfortunately, this is not as uncommon as we’d like to think.
Basically, for all intents and purposes, homeostasis means health. A severe deviation from a homeostatic state causes unease… so we call it a disease. Diseases can be caused by a multitude of sources. It can be external such as viruses, bacteria and fungi or internal such as cancer, genetics and old age.
Fardad is a science student here at Concordia. He wants to share his research and learning about the science field with the Concordia community.