In the 1990s Akihiro Yokoi created a digital pet that was the biggest toy fad of that decade. The first 2 generations of this pet created unforeseen problems because there was no pause button, and if you didn’t continuously take care of the Tamagotchi, it would die in a day. Children and even adults became obsessed with caretaking this digital pet, and it interrupted classrooms. Yokoi was forced to create new generations of the pets that did not require such stringent care.
It was fascinating to see how much effort was put in to caring, for there was little else to this game than that.
Unfortunately, we humans also have no pause button.
At present half of the US population suffers from at least one chronic disease. And this is set to increase dramatically in the coming years.
The medical priorities of this country must be finding ways to combat these chronic metabolic problems – they don’t kill quickly, and cost an enormous amount of time, money and suffering.
As the US Center for Disease Control says, these urgent problems are preventable, and they are preventable and treatable through proper nutrition.
I lump them together, as metabolic problems with similar causes: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. I classify them together because although they are different forms of metabolic dysfunction, fixing them requires the same approach – namely, righting the metabolic imbalance.
Although each of these is a different way in which a body responds to metabolic stress, the root, the trigger of all of these problems are disturbances in metabolic processes originating in the same receptors. Each person will have different genetic weaknesses, and given enough abuse (stress overload), each system will reveal its weaknesses and key processes will simply stop or alter functioning.
Modern medicine looks to treat each individually, and is partially successful at improving symptoms in some cases, or delaying deterioration, but never curing.
Work continues to find ways to treat these problems through for example manipulating gut microbiota. However if one imagines the exponential complexity of this task given the sheer numbers of bacterial species living in the gut and the near complete lack of knowledge of their interactions, this is revealed as a long road, and we are in a crisis.
Other treatments offered by drug companies include various interferences in metabolic pathways, which as we have seen over the many years of this approach (statins, for example), this type of interference can unsurprisingly lead to other – often severe – complications.
There is a fundamental divergence here. Finding a treatment for something that even the CDC says is preventable is simply a wasteful approach.
This approach is understandable in light of the nature of the human brain, and the idea of progress driving technology and research. It is glamorous and exciting to invent and create new treatments and strategies. What is implied by this approach however is that we should be able to abuse the human organism, treat it poorly and push it to it’s metabolic limits, and not pay the price.
In some ways it is a glorious thing to imagine that we could do anything and everything we want and never suffer for it. But I don’t know that this is what best serves us. Being responsible, caring for things (Tamagotchi, ex.), is part of what makes us strong, part of what makes us beautiful humans.
We need to take responsibility for the organisms that we are. We should recognize how to care for them as if they were Tamagotchis that will die if they are not cared for properly.
Because they will.
Modern treatments are treatments for isolated pieces of the causes of these metabolic problems. These are not diseases that are contracted like a virus, they are diseases that are created over years and years of misunderstanding how to care for this organism that we inhabit.
There are many reasons why we veered away from the very basic understanding of the needs of this organism, and again there is no blame. Convenience, technology, wanting to have more time to delve into intellectual pursuits and exploration are all good reasons to forget.
However with the alarming rates of these preventable diseases causing so much suffering and costing so much, it is urgent that we re-approach these concepts, and find the way to treat these metabolic problems by understanding the very basics of how to care for the organism. All body tissues require nutrients to be built and sustained. It is not overly complex, it is not an open-ended question. There are a limited number of nutrients and all are available in multiple forms for us to use. In this way and only in this way the treatment becomes the cure. We don’t have the time to take the long road.