The Jenga Effect


In medicine, we give a lot of importance to something called as cause-effect relationship. For more than a century we are trying to understand the “cause”of diseases. Tobacco causes cancer; herpes virus causes chicken pox; weight-gain causes diabetes etc. The list goes on and on. While this is what is presented to us readers, what they don’t tell us is that not all people who smoke tobacco get cancer and not all people infected with herpes zoster get chicken pox. Confused?? Well don’t be. Let me explain this in another way.


Everyone must have heard or played the game called Jenga. In this, you tightly stack wooden blocks together to form a tower and slowly but strategically try to remove one block at a time such that the integrity of the tower is maintained. At one point, when you remove the wrong block or when the tower is weakened by the growing number of gaps, the tower falls and you start over. Now, you will think: how is this game related to disease and health?

Imagine this body to be this tightly packed wooden tower. Every system is supporting every other system and in turn they maintain the balance or the internal homeostasis that we live in. Every toxic insult to the body removes on block from the tower. But again, the compensatory mechanisms come into play keeping the tower standing and undisturbed. Each time you drink alcohol, take pharmaceutical drugs, inject artificial compound or have emotional trauma one block gets removed from the tower. However, remember that the tower is still standing but it is not what it began as. There are gaps slowly forming in it. Now, when that last crucial block gets undone, the tower falls and you get cancer, chicken pox, diabetes or whatever condition you want to call it as. And what do we scientists do? We associated the fall of the last block as being causative factor in the disease. Are you still convinced the last block was responsible for the fall of the tower?

Disease is much more complex than a simple cause-effect relationship. We weaken our immune system, disturb the hormonal balance and alter the gut bacteria through our own actions. The body, however, tries to compensate for all that till it reaches the tipping point and at this stage we want a magic pill that fixes it all; A magic pill that can fix all the gaps. But remember when the tower falls, the only way to fix it is by re-stacking the pieces.

#Health #Wellness