Monday, December 01, 2008

Reality Sandwich - Reuniting the Self: Autoimmunity, Obesity, and the Ecology of Health

An interesting and insightful article from Reality Sandwich.

Eisenstein's central thesis is that obesity and autoimmunity are the "defining" epidemics of our time. He thinks that they both arise from "our defining sense of self, our basic perception of what it is to be. I call it the discrete and separate self, and it reverberates throughout our culture."

True, but partial. Of course there is substantial truth in this view, and in many ways, we can trace all our physical and social ills back to this worldview. He's approaching an integral model of health from the interior-collective quadrant of human experience, which is a useful and different angle than most people are taking.

Take a few minutes to read the article, it's worth the time.
Reuniting the Self: Autoimmunity, Obesity, and the Ecology of Health

Charles Eisenstein

Medical diseases have a cultural dimension: the ill health of the individual reveals the ways in which the surrounding culture is not whole. The twin epidemics of our time, obesity and autoimmunity, are symptoms of a deep infirmity in our civilization. They have level after level of cause, from the proximate biochemical and biophysical mechanisms, to toxic environments, impoverished food, and electromagnetic pollution, to basic patterns of living, thinking, and being in response to modernity, all the way down to the sense-of-self that underlies our civilization. Each condition shows us something about our society, and what it shows us offers a glimpse of how we might heal these conditions that have proven so intractable to modern medicine.

In the 1960's, the age of disease appeared to be nearing its end. Medical science and public hygiene had virtually eradicated the dread infection diseases of past centuries: smallpox, typhus, cholera, tuberculosis, plague... Researchers testified before Congress that most remaining diseases would be conquered by the year 2000. We could look forward, they said, to a world free from disease and blessed with scientifically enhanced life spans of 120 years or even more. Heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and stroke would soon go the way of the plague.

A half-century later, none of these diseases has been conquered. The technologies to control them have advanced markedly, but despite daily news items announcing breakthroughs in molecular, genetic, and nano medicine, no major disease has been conquered for at least thirty years. We are in the midst of a new epidemic, consisting of dozens of once-rare or non-existent conditions that elude the curative power of technological medicine. The most obvious of these is the obesity epidemic, afflicting some one-third of American adults, with another one-third overweight but not obese. Co-morbid conditions include diabetes, asthma, hypertension, sleep apnea, and higher risk of heart attack and stroke; adding insult to injury is the social opprobrium the obese suffer due to the widespread belief that they must be weak-willed, ignorant, greedy, lazy, or irresponsible. Part Two of this essay will focus on the obesity epidemic.

The other defining epidemic of our time is autoimmunity, comprising a large number of seemingly disparate diseases. Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks part of its own body, treating a part of self as if it were other. Autoimmunity plays a role in many of the new or once-rare diseases you may have started hearing about a decade ago. The following diseases are, in whole or in part, autoimmune disorders. Most are far more prevalent than they were a generation ago, in some cases by several orders of magnitude. Here is a very partial list: Crohn's disease, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Addison's disease, type 1 diabetes, Grave's disease, endometriosis, some hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia. Autoimmunity is also suspected by some authorities to play a role in Alzheimer's disease, autism, lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, eczema, asthma, and atherosclerosis. I will also include allergies in this category, for although they are not autoimmune conditions they do involve a similar derangement of the immune system.

Health means a state of wholeness; disease shows us ways in which we are not whole.
Read the whole article.

No comments: