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Last week I considered the Origin of Illness.

I made a system map, to portray the role of the microbiome in our health.

That map ended up being a crazy bunch of interacting elements, linked by a tangle of arrows and feedback loops, leading to a sort of doomsday scenario of increasingly crappier outcomes.

It was a spaghetti diagram.

Just contemplating it is stress-provoking!

And stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which leads to gut dysbiosis, intestinal permeability & inflammation.

And we want none of those things.

Which is why this post is going to deconstruct that spaghetti diagram and get us on a more positive footing with this whole situation.

But before we start the deconstruction, here it is:

Microbiome 4

(For a break-down & explanation see The Origin of Illness).

Deconstruction

Before the deconstruction begins, let's acknowledge that this map is incomplete.

It omits unknown system elements. We don't know what they are, so we can't map them.

It also ignores known system elements, like mitochondria and hormones.

Like any model, it's a simplification.

One day I'll create a more comprehensive one. More elements. More arrows.

But the working hypothesis here is that what's good for the microbiome is good for the body.

And in any case, there's plenty to take action on here.

BE proactive

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Constructing & Deconstructing a System Map

Anytime we encounter a complex system, we can attempt to understand it through mapping.

Once it's mapped, we can identify which elements are actionable. To help us change it.

Last week I created a system map. This week, I'll identify the actionable elements. They're yellow:

Actionable Microbiome 1

Clarification: 'Actionable' doesn't mean you can control these elements. It just means that you can try.

Necessary Caesarean births happen.

Some of us need to take life-saving or pain-reducing drugs.

As adults, we can't change the method of our birth or the type of food we ate as children.

So, the yellow elements are potentially actionable. Starting from the beginning of life.

But let's simply things further and just focus on what adults can do to hack their own biology in the present.

Here are those present-tense action-items for adults, in green:

Actionable Microbiome 2

But this spaghetti diagram just got worse, right? More boxes, more arrows.

Here's the fun part.

Even though we've established that we're adults, this is where we get to be preschoolers. After building this elaborate tower, we get to knock the whole thing down.

Even better, we get to keep the all good stuff (the green bits) & toss out the nasty parts (everything else).

After the creative deconstruction, here's what remains:

Actionable Microbiome 3

There it is. The protocol. Yours & mine.

Next post, I'll explore these elements, including a quick tour of the blogosphere to find out what our favorite Health & Optimization experts have to say about each of them.

But first a quick overview. Of how to change.

Create Change

Some steps for creating intentional change in complex systems:

  1. Understand the system;
  2. Identify what is actionable;
  3. Assess leverage;
  4. Take action;
  5. Observe impacts & measure outcomes; and
  6. Repeat.

The Origin of Illness helped with the first step: understanding the system.

This post tackled the second: Determining what is actionable. We'll begin to explore those actionable elements in The Microbiome: The Protocol.

And soon we'll figure out how to Assess Leverage.

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