Why do scientists and researchers go rambling on about universal principles, such as gravitation and homeostatic balance discussed in the last post? A universal principal creates the framework for understanding truths that can generate immense advances in technology. As a medical researcher, these truths can translate into technologies that not only save lives, but give us dominance over our health and quality of life. As a counterexample, modern pharmaceuticals largely have only one “active molecule” that have to be present in large amounts in order to force themselves past the liver and other filters in our body that are designed to keep the homeostatic balance of these molecules. Forcing an invasion of one molecule on the body may solve one problem, but often will place other body systems out of balance. Such “side effects” can then be treated with other pharmaceuticals designed to solve such problems. Costly cocktails of medications are sometimes needed to keep everything in balance. The irony is that often inexpensive natural foods have the same active ingredients found in these medications, but in relatively perfect balance already. The pharmaceutical industry, however, largely ignores foods as medication, somewhat because they can patent and sell a single molecule for a large profit, but the same profit is not possible for a food. Natural foods do offer balanced solutions to our body systems. Ignoring the principle of homeostatic balance will ultimately have serious negative consequences.
Have you ever heard the children’s story where an industrious hen goes to bake a loaf of bread. Along the way she seeks help from a lazy cat. She asks the cat, “Will you help me thrash the grain?” The cat replies that he has better things to do. The hen replies, “Then I will do it by myself”. She asks a cow “Will you help me grind the grain?” The cow also refuses to help. Along the way she asks other barnyard friends to help her mix, knead, roll and bake the dough. They all refused. At the end, the hen has a steaming hot tray of fresh homemade bread sliced and covered with melting butter. “Will any of you help me eat the bread?”, she asks her friends who have gathered around the house, attracted by the irresistible aroma. They all answer, “I will”. In the story the hen refuses, saying that she will eat it by herself. You cannot help but notice that this story represents a system in severe homeostatic imbalance and supposing that the bread were the sole source of nutrition, could not be sustained very long. Maybe the hungry animals would riot and steal the bread or perhaps her kindly uncle Sam would insist that she share her “plentiful” bread with her friends. In a perfect world, she would give all of them a taste and then if they wanted more, she would teach them all how they could make her delicious bread for themselves, or perhaps ask for “mouse service” or “milk service” or some other compensation in exchange for bread. In some instances, I have heard that governments have taken almost everything from the laborers, giving everything it to the “urban starving masses” (or entitled) leaving the laborers only scraps from the fruits of their own labors. Obvious, to most of us, this represents a severe homeostatic imbalance and will inevitably end in the destruction of society, history is full of the details.
In order to have a stable, sustainable, living system, a homeostatic balance must exist. Every cell in our body, every body in our society, indeed every form of life on earth relies on regulated systems to bring them the supplies they need to sustain life. In our bodies, these systems are already built and in place. Our blood in the circulatory system distributes the molecular supplies needed by each of our trillions of cells. Insulin, and a host of other messengers, regulate the amount of sugars and other necessary supplies in our blood. Our cells form tissues, supplied by blood vessels, coexist in vast connected and interrelated communities that provide structure and produce the hundreds of supplies that the other tissues and organs use. It is easy to see that if any of these systems failed at their task, the whole organism would eventually die. All of this regulated and governed by the universal principle of homeostatic balance. I hope we can fully understand the extensive implications of this principle in time.
The most fundamental systems in our body are designed to maintain homeostatic balance. Providing all the cells in the body with a balance of nutrients is our job. We can discuss the perfect diet in this light in future posts. The repair and replacement of dysfunctional cells is the job of the reduction/oxidation (redox) signaling system. We can discuss how to keep the redox signaling system in balance. I just could not resist to talk about the beautiful concept of homeostatic balance first. I hope we can continue this journey of discovery together.