HOMEOSTASIS AND DISEASE
Homeostasis, from the Greek words meaning “same state”, refers to any process that living things use to actively maintain the stable conditions necessary for survival and well-being. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-homeostasis/). The concept of homeostasis can be applied to all living things. For instance, the Earth exhibits homeostasis of its temperature through thermal radiation. Excess heat that is absorbed from the sun radiates into space in order for the Earth to cool. Much the same, in order to sustain life, the human body automatically adjusts itself enabling it to maintain a steady temperature and proper amounts of water, salt, sugar, protein, fat, calcium and oxygen necessary for survival. Homeostatic reactions work on the basis of positive and negative feedback. When an organism experiences a change in stability, it will automatically react with equal but opposite force.
The concept of homeostasis was recognized in Chinese Taoist tradition as yin and yang. Yin and yang represent “the reciprocal interaction that can be witnessed throughout nature, including the functions inside of the human body, a feedback loop where opposing forces do not exchange in opposition but instead exchange reciprocally to promote stabilization” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism). Yin and Yang represent the dual nature of the universe. Everything has its opposite.
In looking at the symptomatic picture of three homeopathic remedies, nux-vomica, sepia, and bryonia, one can observe the polarity of their nature. The nux-vomica individual is robust yet he is over-sensitive (to music, noise, light, stimulants, medicines, drafts, touch, food, people); he has a strong sexual desire yet becomes impotent; he feels a strong urge to pass stool or urinate yet strains to do so; he craves rich foods, alcohol and stimulants yet these contribute to his digestive issues; in fevers he has intermittent chills and sweat. Sepia’s central theme is stasis yet she is better for violent exercise/dancing; her nature is reactive and sensitive yet she becomes uncommunicative and detached; she loves change but is worse for it; change represents movement but in sepia it causes stasis or stagnation; she used to be happy but now she is very sad; she fears thunderstorms yet they invigorate her; she wants someone around but not present or involved. Bryonia also displays polarity of symptoms. For instance, the central theme in bryonia is dryness (of mucous membranes, of emotions, of the eyes, of joints) yet he is constantly drinking water; his main focus is acquiring material goods, especially money yet he fears poverty; he wants to be loved but cannot give it in return; he cannot feel passion though he has no problem having intercourse; he is internally restless but is worse for movement.
These three remedies demonstrate Hahnemann’s concept of primary and secondary actions brought about by external agents. According to Hahnemann, any agent to which a person is susceptible will cause a reaction in the individual (Hahnemann, 63). In keeping with the concept of polarity, every internal effect has an external cause. The initial change caused by the agent is the primary action. The degree of strength of the primary action on the vital force depends on the person’s susceptibility (i.e., their genetic predispositions, their current state of health, their vital force/strength of the immune system). The negative feedback or counteraction that occurs after the vital force has been affected by the agent is the secondary action. This secondary action is an organism’s way to automatically oppose any change imposed upon it in order to level out again and achieve homeostasis. For example, if a person is overheated from working in the sun all day (primary action) the body will sweat (secondary action); if cold (primary action) the body will shiver (secondary action) to bring the temperature back up to normal levels (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-homeostasis/).
The greater the force of the primary action, the greater the force necessary to counteract it. Thus, as the body moves further away from its center of health, the greater the oscillation between the positive and negative actions. A good analogy for this notion is that of a person on a stand-up paddleboard. When the waves are small the person can easily balance on the board without effort. If a boat speeds by (agent) the waves become larger (primary action), the person will have to work much harder (secondary action) to remain balanced on the board.
Agents cause disease on a physical, emotional and/or mental level. Agents may include viruses, lifestyle choices such as hygiene, stimulants and diet, climate conditions (dampness, cold), environmental conditions (pollution), and seasonal changes (pollen), trauma, overexertion, long-term use of suppressive medications, immunizations, and emotions (www.acupuncture-points.org/internal-causes-of-disease.html). When an agent acts upon the organism, the vital force alerts the body of the change in homeostasis through symptoms (Unit 3 handout, Section 2.3, pg.8). For example, a person that is going through a tough divorce after many years of an unhappy marriage is experiencing many life changes creating additional stress and anxiety. The body, aware that there has been a sudden increase in stress, begins to react by showing symptoms. If the person remains at this level of stress, that is to say, they become stuck in the emotional state that the divorce ignited, the symptoms will persist, deteriorating the body and overtime developing into a more serious condition. The symptoms are the body’s defense mechanism in action, its attempt to reestablish homeostasis under the new conditions (Unit 3 handout, Section 2.3, pg. 8).
When the vital force is compromised due to old age, previous illness, poor indispositions or genetics, the force of the agent may be greater than the person’s capacity to defend itself. The person will struggle to regain homeostasis and the diseased state will remain. For example, when a person’s blood sugar is low, the body feels hungry, the person chooses what they are going to eat based on his/her own personal cravings and aversions. This ability to make choices based on personal preferences can have an effect on our vitality. A person who always chooses a very fatty meal may develop digestive problems, while someone who over-consumes salt may develop high blood pressure (http://ineteconomics.org/uploads/papers/WP38-Demasio.pdf). Another example can be seen in a case of pneumonia in an older adult. Years of suppressive medication after illnesses throughout their life has had a negative effect on their system. The agent, in this case the pneumonia, severely affects their health and they do not have the strength to bring the body back to health. If untreated, symptoms will worsen and could become life threatening.
In conclusion, living things strive for balance for health and survival, however, they are susceptible to outside influences. People are susceptible to outside influences because their systems are faulty or weak from genetic predisposition, poor lifestyle choices, previous illnesses, or simply old age. These outside influences, or agents, have an initial effect on the internal balance of a susceptible organism (primary action). Once thrown off balance, the body communicates the disorder through symptoms that are attempting to counteract the primary action (secondary action). Symptoms are the way the body tries to rebalance given the increased oscillation caused by the agent. People can remain in this state for years, living with chronic problems as best they can. As the body weakens from trying to adjust to the force of the agent, the disease gains strength and the body eventually cannot protect itself.