Your body as a Complex System : Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this post, read it here.

More and more doctors and other enlightened medical professionals are starting to treat the body viewing it as a whole. But they are still in the minority.

The traditional (read: mechanistic) medical view of the body is that of a machine. What do you do when the machine breaks down? You find the part which is broken, a broken gear, a distorted spring, a bent shaft, replace it and hey presto! It’s back¬† up again.

But in a system as complex as the human body, there are systems upon interdependent systems which will be affected by every single change in either internal or external circumstances.

Our body is superbly adaptive. It always tries to get into a state of equilibrium presented with any stress that forces adaptation. This process of returning to a ‘setpoint’ is called homeostasis.

Though what happens when the stress or trauma is beyond the availability of the body’s resources to fix, is that the body grudgingly readjusts to a NEW setpoint. After all, survival of the organism is the primary imperative.

Imagine it’s the middle of winter, and the thermostat on your heater is stuck about 10 degrees higher than what you find comfortable. Now, no matter what you do to make yourself comfortable, open the windows for a bit, take off a couple of layers of clothing, whatever you do, when you stop doing it, the heater will still return to that particular temperature. What it will also do is use up more resources (heating oil in this case), effectively depleting them sooner. What if the thermostat is stuck 20 degrees higher. More discomfort/dysfunction, more resources used.

That is what I believe happens to people with chronic conditions. Their internal thermostat has effectively changed, and the body will now default to the new ‘setting’.

What our aim is, then, is to reach out and ‘reset’ our internal thermostats back to normal. What makes it so difficult in practice, is that our bodies have tens of thousands of systems which may need to be reset, and all completely interdependent.

What may make it somewhat easier, and the approach I am going to outline, is that all these systems are regulated by certain higher level systems, the master systems, if you will. Fix these, and the changes should trickle down to the rest.

I’ll post more information soon.

Foggy dude


Your body as a Complex System : Part 1

I have zero medical backgound. Zilch. Nada. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Coming from an engineering background (six solid years of technical education), I tend to look at the body and my illness as a ‘systems failure’, with conditions like CFS & fibromyalgia being a full-blown system-wide shutdown.

And here’s a look at our bodies’ processes as a signal-system mechanism.

Our body is a highly complex system, even infinitely complex, for all practical purposes; with a huge number of feedback and feedforward mechanisms.

A feedback mechanism simply means that your senses (either internal or external) detect some stimulus, and direct a physiological response to it. Basic examples are sweating in response to heat, or shivering in response to the cold.

A feedforward mechanism, on the other hand, is when the body responds IN ANTICIPATION of a future event, ie. current circumstances will dictate the FUTURE state of your body.
A good example is when you smell something tasty, and your mouth waters. The body is responding (mouth waters) to present stimulus (delicious aroma) in anticipation of a future event (that you will feed). It does it to prime your salivary glands and your gastric juices to better digest the forthcoming food.

And yet, why medical professionals, as well as the medical community at large, are shortsighted enough to treat the body primarily as a linear system truly escapes me.

If you have X, take pill Y. Why? Are you SURE X is the cause? Or merely a symptom of some underlying dysfunction? Is X the only marker, or are there other causative factors? Has X caused the body to take adaptive measures where it will react differently to pill Y? If so, how will you measure EVERY adaptive change? What other bodily funtions will pill Y affect? Will those effects be desirable? What do you think side-effects are? In your clinical studies proving the efficacy of pill Y, have you considered ALL the individual variables (trillions of cells and signal paths in each single participant) of every single individual, or only the most readily measureable markers? How do you process so much data? Do you think we are limited by TODAY’s technology and knowhow? Why, we can measure EVERYTHING with today’s machines? I didn’t know, doctor. Thanks for clearing that up. Btw, when was the X-ray machine invented? And the MRI? How about the CAT scan? Are we constantly improving the technology? Well, if we can measure everything (atleast that’s how most doctors act), then why do we need better technology?

Questions, questions.

I apologise for having taken a broad-side at the entire medical community, but this post evolved of its own accord. No offense intended. O:)

The point I am making, in a very roundabout way, is not just that a holistic approach is better, it is one of the only conclusions that a rational, objective line of thinking will lead you to.

I’ll continue with my analogy of a complex system in part 2.

Foggy dude