Shatter Your Entire View Of Health

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December 17, 2023 | Max Jenkinson

The Human Ecosystem: Navigating the Terrain of Chronic Disease

The human body: an ecosystem of cells

70% of American adults are on prescription drugs.

60% of their population suffers from chronic disease.

The system meant to keep us healthy has failed us.

Infectious disease was the thing that used to kill us. Up until the 1900s, it was the only thing that killed us (except other people or animals).

With the miracle invention of antibiotics and vaccines, we beat infectious diseases.

Our successful fight against infectious diseases tainted our view of disease. Diseases are to be treated with drugs. There is no other way.

In the middle of the 1900s, something shifted. For the first time in history, the number one killer in the Western world was no longer infectious diseases. It was chronic (non-infectious) diseases instead.

We spent trillions on drug research. At the same time, people got sicker, and companies richer.

We have known they are two different things forever. Despite this, the entire medical system is hell-bent on only prescribing drugs or fixing acute trauma.

When the system that is supposed to keep us healthy is doing a terrible job we need to make health our responsibility.

The first thing we need to do is do what the medical system has not. We need to make a clear distinction between infectious and non-infectious diseases.

If we understand how chronic diseases emerge we can both prevent them and reverse them. Something a man with a toolbox containing only a hammer would say is impossible.


The Body is an Ecosystem

The infectious disease paradigm has had its claws around our cultural understanding of health for a long time. But, it is slowly loosening its grip.

People from all over the place are coming to a similar conclusion. Doctors, physicists, biologists, geneticists, and health researchers are developing a new paradigm.

I’ve listened to thousands of people talk about their view of chronic diseases. The intersection between all of them seems to be cellular function as it relates to energy production.

What is your conception of how heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or diabetes develop? Is it different for each disease?

They are different diseases so they must have different causes, right?

Well in one sense you are correct, but in another you are wrong. To understand why we are going to view the body as an ecosystem of cells.

An ecosystem is a system of interacting dynamic processes. In the system, organisms are interacting with each other and the physical environment.

We have two main components of an ecosystem:

  1. Biotic Factors: These include all living organisms within the ecosystem.

  2. Abiotic Factors: These are non-living components of the ecosystem. Think of things such as soil, water, air, temperature, sunlight, and nutrients.

The interaction between all these dynamic processes creates a balance that maintains life. But, some interactions are more important than others to the stability of the system.

To understand which ones are more important we need to understand the important functions an ecosystem needs. Here are four big ones:

Primary Production:

  • Function: Plants and algae convert sunlight into sugars.

  • Importance: Primary producers form the base of the food chain, providing energy for the entire ecosystem. They also release oxygen into the atmosphere.

Predation and Herbivory:

  • Function: Predators consume other organisms (prey), while herbivores consume plants.

  • Importance: Predation and herbivory help control the population of organisms. This balance is crucial for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem health.


  • Function: Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and birds, facilitate the reproduction of plants.

  • Importance: Pollination is essential for the production of fruits and seeds in many plants. It contributes to the genetic diversity of plant populations and supports the health of ecosystems.

Nutrient Cycling:

  • Function: Nutrients cycle through the ecosystem. They are taken up by plants, consumed by animals, and returned to the soil through decomposition.

  • Importance: Nutrient cycling ensures a continuous supply of essential elements in the ecosystem. It is vital for sustaining life.

There you have it. Some vital functions an ecosystem needs to sustain life.

Now, I’m making the argument that the body is an ecosystem but I haven’t told you why or how yet. Bear with me…

What you do (human activity) is causing you to become unhealthy.

How does an ecosystem become disrupted (unhealthy) by human activity?

Here’s how:

Loss of Primary Producers:

  • Scenario: Extensive deforestation and habitat destruction reduce the number of plants capable of photosynthesis.

  • Consequence: With fewer primary producers, the energy base of the ecosystem is compromised. This leads to population declines and increased competition for limited resources.

Predator Decline:

  • Scenario: Overhunting or habitat loss results in a significant decline in predator populations.

  • Consequence: Without effective predation, herbivore populations surge, causing overgrazing of plants. This can lead to the decline or extinction of certain plant species.

Pollinator Decline:

  • Scenario: Pesticide use and habitat destruction lead to a decline in pollinator populations.

  • Consequence: Reduced pollination negatively affects the survival of numerous plant species. This, in turn, affects herbivores and organisms that depend on these plants.

Nutrient Imbalance:

  • Scenario: Excessive use of fertilizers leads to nutrient runoff into water.

  • Consequence: This disrupts the balance of the food web and harms the organisms dependent on these waters.

Humans mess up ecosystems much like we mess up ourselves. So, what kind of ecosystem are we, and how do we get disrupted?

An ecosystem is defined by us. It can be as small as a pond or as large as the earth. The bigger and/or the more dynamic processes it contains the more stable it usually is.

This is because many different organisms can fill vital functions. If one dies off another species can take its place.

I used human disruption to make it even more like what we are doing to our bodies. We are an ecosystem that is constantly getting disrupted by human activity.

The Body: an Ecosystem of Cells

30+ trillion cells make the body a robust ecosystem. It is a system well adapted to handle injury or stress.

Much like an ecosystem, the body has vital functions it needs to maintain to sustain life. To make it clear we’re going to use the functions we talked about but apply them to the body.

Primary Production (Respiratory System):

  • Ecosystem Analogy: Plants and algae convert sunlight into energy.

  • Human Body Analogy: The respiratory system extracts oxygen from the air.

  • Importance: Both processes involve the conversion of external elements into energy that sustains the entire system.

Predation and Herbivory (Immune System):

  • Ecosystem Analogy: Predators controlling herbivore populations.

  • Human Body Analogy: The immune system defends against harmful invaders (pathogens).

  • Importance: Both functions involve maintaining a balance and preventing the overgrowth or invasion of potentially harmful elements.

Nutrient Cycling (Circulatory System):

  • Ecosystem Analogy: Nutrients cycling through the ecosystem.

  • Human Body Analogy: Blood circulates nutrients throughout the body.

  • Importance: Both processes create an efficient distribution of essential elements to support the functioning of the entire system.

(Instead of using pollination to make the analogy I am going to use decomposers instead because I think it’s more fitting.)

Decomposition (Digestive System):

  • Ecosystem Analogy: Decomposers breaking down organic matter.

  • Human Body Analogy: The digestive system breaking down food into nutrients.

  • Importance: Both processes break down essential nutrients into a usable form for the system.

Energy is the foundation

As you might have noticed, almost all of the vital functions the body has are directly related to energy production. All vital functions are performed by cells, and all cells depend on energy to function.

This is why every single non-infectious disease is caused by a disruption to energy production.

If this is the case you might ask why some people develop one disease and others another. In the introduction, I told you that all chronic diseases develop similarly. Now we’re about to understand why.

The Origin of Chronic Disease

We all have a similar ecosystem, we are all rainforests. But, depending on our genes the distribution of organisms and the landscape differ.

Because of this, some people will have some vital functions that are more likely to become disrupted than others. Not only that, depending on how we live we are putting differing amounts of load on the different functions.

Put differently, the way we live is putting stress on our ability to produce energy. Depending on who we are (genes) and what we do (stress) there will be a weakest link in the causal chain.

This is the point where the straw eventually breaks the camel’s back. And, when it breaks, the disease first emerges. But, the disruption has been there all along.

Modern medicine tries to reverse back to a state before the disease. It does this by using drugs targeting the change the disease makes.

The change in the ecosystem may be a loss of predators. What modern medicine then does is add in more predators.

But, the change occurred after the camel’s back broke. What we should be looking for is the straws that made the camel’s back break in the first place.

The reason for the loss of predators is not the loss in and of itself. Chronic disease is a symptom of a disruption to our ecosystem that has occurred for a long time.

In other words, chronic disease is the symptom of (usually) decades of suboptimal energy production. But, if we remove the straws, the disruptions, and the stress, we can restore optimal energy production.

Don’t Disrupt Your Ecosystem

Once the body has enough energy it will fix what is broken. An ecosystem maintains balance by itself. There is no need to interfere with it, and often interference does more harm than good.

The body is an ecosystem. Unless it is continuously disrupted by human activity it will maintain the health of the system.

Your body deserves to be healthy and so do you. Remove the disruptions and you will gain your birthright as an animal.

The idea that things need to be added to be healthy is wrong. We don’t need to add workouts, add a healthy breakfast, or add fasting to our lives.

Your body is an ecosystem that is used to interact with certain physical properties. Movement, nutrients, light, heat, and cold.

Not moving enough would be like removing rain from the rainforest. Eating processed foods would be like adding toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

Health is the natural state of the body. We don’t become healthy, we become sick. Remove disruptions to your ecosystem of cells and the cells will do what they are programmed to do.

They will keep you healthy.

As always, until next Sunday, do what makes your future self proud.

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Shatter Your Entire View Of Health

Join others getting their entire idea of what health is shattered every Sunday while reading Health Decoded.