Ancestral Health: Why is it important

The future is here: self-driving cars, virtual assistants, and groundbreaking medical technologies—along with stubbornly high and growing rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, allergies, asthma …

 

We’re living in a time of incredible innovation and advancement, yet we’re sicker and more overweight than ever before. Chronic disease has reached epidemic levels, and modern medicine can’t seem to halt its progression.
Our disease has essentially moved from outside of us – infectious diseases, to now coming from inside – chronic disease and it’s killing more of us than every before.


By following the blueprint for healthy living that our hunter–gatherer ancestors laid out for us so long ago, we can help stave off the long list of uniquely modern chronic conditions, stay naturally lean and fit, and age gracefully. 

Chronic disease may be our “new normal,” but it definitely isn’t our “normal normal.”

Paleontological and archaeological findings have gathered much evidence about our ancient’s health, but perhaps the best argument for us being mindful of this health is the fact that remaining hunter–gatherer societies—who live as closely as possible to the way our Paleolithic ancestors did hundreds of thousands of years ago—don’t generally suffer from the most common chronic conditions. For instance Type 2 diabetes is so rare among these and other contemporary hunter–gatherer populations that few reports looking into its prevalence even exist.

Mismatch: Why our Health Is so Different from our Ancestors’ Health

So what happened? How did the majority of us go from being naturally inclined toward health to being seemingly guaranteed at least one debilitating diagnosis in a lifetime?

In a word: mismatch—between our blueprint for living – our genes, physiology and biology on the one hand and the modern environment we’re living in on the other.

All organisms are adapted to survive and thrive in a particular environment. When that environment changes faster than the organism can adapt, mismatch occurs.

Our environment is almost unrecognizable from that of our ancestors, and we aren’t eating, moving, or resting like the hunter–gatherers that we still are, biologically. We know from hard evidence that this mismatch—pitting environment against biology—is the primary driver of chronic disease.

Some of the starkest examples of this include studies and observations of existing 21st century hunter–gatherers reporting that when they leave their villages and trade their traditional ways for a Western lifestyle, they develop diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular complications.

Our hunter–gatherer ancestors provided us with a blueprint for healthy living.

Eat Real, Nourishing, High-Quality Foods

The fastest way to recover your natural health is to return to a way of eating and living that more closely matches what your genes and biology are designed for.   We know, without a doubt, that hunter–gatherers did not consume refined sugar, flour, and seed oils, (or what is referred to as “the three horsemen of the apocalypse”) because they promote overeating and inflammation, which is at the root of all modern disease. The introduction of industrial food processing has had the most detrimental effect on our health of any other factor in the last few hundred years—and possibly in the entire history of humankind.

Move

Movement played a major role in daily life for hunter–gatherers. After all, they spent the majority of their time, well, hunting and gathering. They had to exert themselves, and often quite strenuously, to survive: our ancestors sprinted, jogged, climbed, carried, and jumped intermittently throughout the day, on top of walking an average of six miles and running one-half to one mile per day.

In other words, they didn’t sit all day like so many of us do. We spend endless hours working at computers, watching TV, and commuting by car. In fact, the typical city dweller is now sedentary for about 60 percent of his or her waking life and sits for an average of six or seven hours every day.  Sitting has been called the new smoking, and for good reason: it’s linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, cancer, and the list goes on. What’s more, research has found these same negative health outcomes in those who exercise but still spend the majority of their day seated.

Sleep More 

Conjure up an image of a hunter–gatherer, is he or she lounging lazily on a sofa? Although they were almost always on the move, these people relaxed, too. Our ancestors alternated strenuous and demanding days of physical activity with days of rest, an instinctual response that protected them from injury and fatigue.

Our modern lifestyle is a stark mismatch in this regard. We live in a culture that values productivity and activity above all else and is almost scornful of rest and relaxation. “Resting” for many people means browsing the internet or engaging with some other kind of sleep-sapping, artificial light-emitting electronic device that is anything but restful for the brain and the body. We’ve not only forgotten the value of rest—we’ve forgotten how to do it.

Sleep soundly, and for seven to eight hours a night. You can’t be healthy without adequate sleep.

Stress Less

Our ancestors experienced stress when fleeing a predator or out on a hunt. But, they punctuated these stressful times with moments of calm. We simply aren’t built for chronic stress, as evidenced by the immense amount of research illustrating that it wreaks total havoc on our bodies.

There’s no way to completely remove stress from your life, but you can avoid unnecessary stress by learning to say no to projects or commitments you can’t handle, staying away from people who get your blood boiling, and turning off the news (or at least limiting your exposure to it), as examples. To mitigate the harmful effects of the stressors you can’t avoid, try relaxation practices and techniques such as walking in nature, yoga, and calm breathing.

Prioritise pleasure. Dance, sing, listen to music. Be social, play with your pets, laugh with friends, love your family and spend time outdoors. Eat local and sleep.

Adapted by NatureSense from
Chris Kresser, M.S
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