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12 Things Your Body Does As A Defense Mechanism

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Have you ever noticed your body reacting in a peculiar way, but never really thought twice about it? In the same way that some lizards can flare up when in danger, or an octopus secretes ink in defense—the human body also has some pretty interesting defense mechanisms that you may not have realized before! Some of them include mundane things such as:

  • Yawning,
  • Pain,
  • And stretching.

Though most of these things probably seem like normal reactions to being tired or hot, they actually are providing several other benefits to the body that we never really think about!

Simple reactions such as shivering or getting goosebumps actually have a much deeper purpose than most of us could ever imagine. We’ve compiled a list of some of the weirdest things the human body does as a defense mechanism.  

1. Goosebumps: You have definitely noticed those little bumps that appear on your skin when you’re out in the cold. But have you ever really stopped to think why that happens to you? Goosebumps are your body’s way of reducing heat loss through the pores of the skin. This process makes it easier for the body to stay warm. Goosebumps also cause the hair on our bodies to stand up, which would make us look bigger and more intimidating to predators before we evolved to become hairless. 

2. Sneezing: It can be super relieving to finally let out a good sneeze. But sneezing serves a deeper purpose than that. When we sneeze, it’s because the nasal passage could be filled with dust, microbes, or germs and the act of sneezing helps to clear all of those things away.  

3. Skin-Pruning: If you’ve ever sat in the bath for a long time or spent a day by the pool, you’ve probably noticed the way your hands and feet get all wrinkly and rubbery. The purpose of this one is actually pretty cool. No, it’s not your skin “drying up,” it’s actually the body realizing that after extended contact with water, the environment might be slippery, so the skin forms a wrinkly layer to provide better grip on our hands and feet. Pretty neat!

4. Crying: While crying is often linked to emotions, it actually has a beneficial purpose other than releasing some steam. For starters, tears serve as a mucous membrane for the eyes. When something comes into contact with your eyeball, tears help protect your eyes from harm. Some research shows that tears have other uses such as distracting the person crying from the pain they may be feeling.


5. Wincing at high pitched noises: Perhaps it’s the sound of nails on chalkboard or the squeak of Styrofoam, chances are one of these sounds already has you covering your ears. Researchers have discovered that the frequency in which these noises is equal to the warning call of a macaque monkey. So perhaps our reaction to these sounds is linked to our ancient primate instincts.

6. Stretching: This might seem like an automatic thing you do when you wake up in the morning or before you work out, and there’s a good reason for that! Humans and other animals instinctively stretch in preparation of the physical activities that normally happen during the day. However, we also stretch periodically throughout the day either when we’re feeling a bit drowsy, or after having been inactive for too long. This is the body preparing muscles and joints for strain as well as restoring blood flow. Stretching is also known to improve our moods!

 7. Yawning: Though most commonly related to being tired, yawning is actually a reaction the body has when the brain has become overheated. This can occur more often with lack of sleep, as exhaustion tends to raise our body temperature. In the past, researchers theorized that yawning occurred when the body needs extra oxygen but this has since been debunked.

8. Hiccups: These annoying little muscle spasms occur when we eat or drink too quickly, swallow large sizes of food, and even when we overeat. This can cause irritation to the pneumogastric nerve, resulting in hiccups.


9. Myoclonic Jerks: You know that moment when you’re falling asleep and then all of a sudden your body jerks you awake? It might feel like you’re falling for a moment before you catch yourself. This is happening because as you fall asleep, we breathe less, and our heart rate slows down. The body jerks as a defense against impending death.

10. Memory Loss: Also know as repression, this usually occurs to block out unpleasant memories. Though sometimes they may resurface, the body does have a way of locking away these thoughts and images from the conscious mind.

 11. Pain: The pain you feel when you get hurt such as after touching a hot pan is the body’s way of sending a signal to the brain that the action you’re performing is harmful, thus resulting in the instinctive reaction to pull the hand away from what’s causing damage to the body. If humans couldn’t feel pain, the body would have no way of knowing it’s being harmed.

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12. Sunburns: Chances are, you’ve had an uncomfortable sunburn at some point in your life. But this is more than the sun cooking up your skin. A sunburn is the body’s natural defense mechanism against the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

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