Built to Survive: 3 Physical Traits of the Human Body That Keep Us Alive

bleeding finger
Crystal via Flickr

When it comes down to it, the average person can survive much worse conditions than we might expect. It’s all thanks to the tremendous physiological gifts that our ancestors have given us. Our bodies truly are hardwired for survival. Take these three physical survival traits, just for an example.

1. Bleeding Control
The human cardiovascular system is a glorious thing. It supplies the body with its necessary blood flow, and it can restrict that blood flow during an emergency. When victims of hypothermia grow too cold, the body shifts blood flow from extremities to the body core – to help keep the victim warm. And when certain injuries are sustained, the body can clot wounds to reduce or stop blood loss. All of this happens without flipping a switch, or even thinking about it.

2. Pain Blocking
Ever been injured in a scary situation, but you didn’t realize you were hurt until the danger had passed? It happens more often than you’d think and it’s the result of the body’s natural reaction to adrenaline. This hormone can provide a rush during an emergency, which increases our strength, speeds up respiration, and can even block pain. Gunshot wounds, torn flesh and broken bones may go unnoticed as this hormone readies us for “fight or flight.” But once the adrenaline wears off, we are able to feel the pain again.

3. Save Water
Humans are clearly not desert creatures. Watery pee, moist dung, and profuse sweating are all hallmarks of a creature from a place where fresh water isn’t scarce. But what happens if we start to run short of precious life-giving water? Again, the body comes to its own rescue. Constipation is a common accompaniment to a desert survival scenario. So is dark, concentrated urine. And over time, most people can adapt to slim rations of water—if they ease into it. When Steven Callahan was adrift in a life raft in the Atlantic in 1981, he subsisted on one pint of rainwater a day for the last 30 days of his 76 day ordeal, and lived to tell the tale.

Have you been in a situation where your body’s natural survival traits kicked in? Please tell us your story by leaving a comment.