Homeostasis is not the Same as a Homeostatic State

One word we often hear in naturopathic medicine is homeostasis. It is important to differentiate this from a homeostatic state. The first describes a system is in a responsive and dynamic state of harmony and balance, the second describes a system that is stuck in disharmony. Often homeostasis and a homeostatic state occur simultaneously while the system tries to make its way toward more optimal function. The human body is always in a state of evolving, creating and destroying to maintain optimal function. A good example of this is the skeletal system in which anabolism and catabolism are continually redefining the boney structures.

Homeostasis is defined as:

The tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.

Homeostatic is defined as:

  1. Pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition.
  2. Showing little or no change.
  3. Lacking movement, development, or vitality.

In situations of disharmony on any level, be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual/energetic, we want the individual to be resilient and have the ability to respond and the resources available within themselves to do so.

If there is a deficiency in elements needed to create the response, or an excess or toxicity blocking the response, then the naturopathic doctor must make available what is deficient or assist with the removal of the excess/toxin.

In any give circumstance, however, the stasis response may not be clearly indistinguishable from the static response. Ask the question, ‘Why is this person manifesting this symptom pattern? Why do they need to do this in order to survive?’

Often therapies are applied to suppress what is thought to be a static situation, e.g., recurring anxiety, chronic diarrhea, persistent insomnia. It may be necessary to assist with such symptoms yet simultaneously activate and/or unblock the challenges to homeostasis, such as reset the autonomic nervous system, introduce probiotics, or implement healthy sleep hygiene.

These concepts are fundamental to the practice of naturopathic medicine. Over time the naturopathic doctor will develop increasing abilities to assess, differentiate and manage the ever changing balance between stasis and a static condition within an individual person at any given time. This is not only the science but also the art of practicing naturopathic medicine.

To learn more about how to assist the harmony of homeostasis from your elder NDs contact the Naturopathic Legacy Project here.


Dr. Verna Hunt BSc DC ND

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