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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ancestral Health, Paleo Diet and Primal Blueprint

...are some of the names given to a very broad movement of people interested in avoiding the diseases of civilization.  It's a big movement with disparate subsets that do not agree with each other totally.  I commend the following article to you (from GreenMed)   click here 

The jist of the article (I think) is simply that what our ancestors ate before the advent of agriculture was varied and dependant on where they lived.  We cannot know exactly what they ate, though real anthropology, nitrogen and carbon dating techniques can tell us a lot.  The evidence is clear that pre agricultural humans did not get cancer, diabetes, heart disease or the many other diseases of civilization.  Yes, they ran risks that we do not.  Their world was fraught with potential perils.  But those who survived the physical dangers lived functional lives without alzheimers and depression and osteoporosis and autism and irritable bowel syndrome and polycyctic disease.  And all the others.

So perhaps it's not quite so important that we nail down exactly what's in a historical paleolithic diet as it's important to understand what was NOT in it.  Such as:

Grass seeds probably never had a part of a paleo diet.  Grass seeds are too labor intensive.  Biologically speaking, grass seeds (grains) are little bundles of huge amounts of energy (sugar) for starting new plants.  Early humans didn't eat grains.

Industrial sludge, commonly called vegetable oil, (high in inflammatory Omega 6 oils) did not exist.

Sugar was not part of anything.  Early humans ate a diet that was very low in sugars and the things that become sugar in digestion.  The entire blood sugar/insulin system served a completely different purpose--to shuttle nutrients into cells, not to lower blood sugar.  The insulin system's function to lower blood sugar was only meant for the emergency situation when they found a bee tree and honey or a big crop of ripe berries.

The vegetative matter they gathered was organic and not fertilized with petrochemicals, but with the natural fertilizer of animal waste and the breakdown of  other plants and animals.

Fruits were less common, were in season, and relatively hard to come by, not hybridized nor stored on shelves for weeks.

There was nothing prepackaged.  They ate real food and there were no phoney colors, preservatives or pesticides in it.

No factory farmed livestock that ate grass seeds, got fat and needed antibiotics. 

No sweetened drinks.  No deserts.  No bread, no ceareal, no flouride in their water, no antibacterial soap

Yet, with all the trappings of civilization missing, early humans thrived and raised families and had well developed social groups, rituals and development.  And they proliferated--filling the globe.  That's biological success.

Now, humans die by millions--of degenerative diseases, often after years of gazillion-dollar medical intervention (proceedures and pharmaceuticals).  While I'm truly delighted that I do not have to run away from a hungry predator, I also do not want to live my declining years in hospitals and doctor's offices. 

My aunt died recently of cancer.  She was 90 years old.  What I heard from relatives was that wasn't so bad, afterall she was 90.  I say that cancer is not inevitable, nor is heart disease or many of the other things that kill--whether it's at 20 or at 90.  We know that cancer grows on its preferred fuel (glucose).  You cannot eat a diet high in sugar and sugars for a lifetime without paying a price in pathology--sooner or later.  High sugars and the resulting high insulin are inflammatory.  Eventually every cell in the body is responding with the immune response--inflammation--the body's response to insult.  And when the inflammation cannot work it's healing job because it is forever being initiated, never shutting down, it begins to damage some of those cells and allows pathology to get a foothold.

I read something recently (have forgotten the source, unfortunately.)  "Cancer doesn't make a person sick, cancer results when a person is sick."   And today I leave you with a couple other sound bites.

Buring fuel (food) causes the production of free radicals which age us and cause inflammation (they do physical damage to cells.)  More food, equals more free radical damage.  But the interesting part is this:  While protein and animal fat do cause some free radical production, carbohydrates cause many, many times more.

Your are what you eat--or, "We dig our graves with our teeth!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

Catching up...

It's been a long time since I last "spoke" to you. A lot has happened in my world since then. It may be a long time till I write again, too, for lots is happening still! 
The decade I spent disabled with arthritis -- it turns out-- might have been a blessing in disguise. Modern medicine gave me (finally) four titanium joints that enable be to get around fairly well. My abiding goals have always been to feel good and to be able to raise livestock and garden. Function. But with my new joints, then I got busy with research. I started with a premise. Whether I subscribe to evolution or a creative deity, my premise is the same:  

It's not right to be disabled at such a 'young' age. It's neither divine nor adaptive to survival. What did I do wrong to get there!

That research has been the impetus for this blog, for the website and for the booklets I wrote. It turns out that I may be quite out in left field (though I have good company) because I do NOT think poor health, function and feeling crappy jumps out and gets me. I think I did things that got me there. The human birthright is feeling good and being disease free. Any deviation from that is self inflicted. My research set out to discover why I spent that decade as a virtual cripple.

Whether I believe in divine creation or in an evolving survival of species adapted to environment--or both, my conclusion is the same.  The human is a perfectly self healing, adaptive organism with mechanisms to stay healthy and functional—commonly called homeostasis.  But humans also have certain biological requirements.  Ignoring those results in departure from homeostasis and the body kicks in its one notr mechanism for righting things—the inflammatory response.  Philosophically, I think it would be more adaptive if there was more than one healing mechanism—but there is just one.  So, injury, toxins, deficiencies, all get treated the same and the body inflames in response. 

Cool.  Except that it turns out modern humans are insulting their biology 24/7, often without knowledge of it.  I learned to pay attention to the old adage, “follow the money" for the money interests are touting those insults as healthy and totally ignoring biology. 

What happens when the inflammatory response is initiated and never stops?  It ceases to heal and instead damages.  The fact that the damage takes decades to make an arthritic cripple, to initiate cancers or other diseases, indicates how really remarkable the human biology is.  But the bottom line is this.  Chronic inflammation starts the disease process—all of them.  Including things we’ve been told are just part of getting older.  Untrue.  Disease is not part of getting older.  It’s part of chronic inflammation.

So what I discovered for me is that even with new joints my skeleton was riddled with painful arthritis.  And I fixed it by getting very serious about stopping the chronic inflammation.  No more arthritis pain.  Along the way, my blood pressure got better.  I have more energy.  My brain got sharper.  My moods got universally up.  I just bought a small farm in the way outback of Oregon and am raising livestock and gardening and homesteading again.  At 68.  And I’m planning on another 30 years of it, too. 

I think any amount of effort on diet and nutrition is worth those results.  My experience in talking to people is that I must be very different than most folks because they don’t want to hear that their diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, anxiety, schizophrenia etc has anything to do with what they put in their mouths.  There seems to be huge emotional attachment to eating for disease and death: "My doctor said…”  “The TV tells me…”  “How could what I eat have anything to do with my body?”

It tires me.  It discourages me.  It’s sad.  And I get it that most relish or at least tolerate feeling bad.  I don’t and the information is available to anyone with a library and a computer.  I have so much to do in the next 30 years!  And joy to experience.  I wish everyone that joy and function, but I recognize I can’t change others and must just take care of me. 

 By way of saying I’m opting out of the crusade to convince anyone to eliminate chronic inflammation and let it go back to its real job of healing insults once in a while.  Not to eat sugars and the things that convert to sugar (grains).  Not to use vegetable oils.  To eat enough cold water fish or take fish oil.  To take plenty of extra vitamins and minerals because unless they are growing their own, there is precious little nutrition in grocery stores.  To get plenty of sleep, eat plenty of animal products (preferably not factory farmed).  To exercise intensely once in a while and move a lot the rest of the time.  To hug the ones they love.  That’s what it takes. Basically to live like our hunter/gatherer ancestors who didn’t eat crap and got real food.   

It makes me weird to not participate in our cultural suicide by food.  I’m good with that.  My garden and goats and chickens are my reward.  At 68 and beyond. 

What I've found out is what I put in the e-books at  That's about the most I can do to condense several years of research into an explanation and overview on what we REALLY know about human health.  The health information you hear on TV and even from doctors and nutritionists is about money and misinformation.  Sometimes with the best of intentions.  Be careful who you believe (including me) and see what is actually real in research and nutrition.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What kind of exercise makes sense past 50?

The old wisdom said exercise should taper off in intensity as a person gets older.  We now know that's bunk!  When you hear terms like sarcopenia (decreasing muscle mass) it is almost exclusively applied to older people.  The science has proven pretty conclusively it has nothing to do with age.  It's about how much a muscle gets used.

So why should you care?  What's so great about muscle, anyway?

Muscle is is important past middle age for at least two reasons.  First of all, it moves you.  Muscle is what makes you able to pick up a grandchild or move a bale of hay or participate in a sport or carry a bag of groceries.  It equals how functional your body is. 

I've been pushing the idea that function is our natural birthright.  Frail, sick and limited is not our birthright.  There is a marathon runner who is 100 years old.  There are centenarians who live alone, drive, garden, participate in sports and hobbies they love.  There is an award winning body builder who is over 70.  Muscle is what makes all that possible.

The other purpose of muscle is about vanity.  It looks better.  For women, that swinging flapping upper arm syndrome happens when the triceps muscle no longer keeps the area taut.  Cellulite happens when fat overtakes muscle that's declining.  And it will without exercise.
Look at these pictures.  The woman weighs the same in both pictures.  Which would you rather look like?
Muscle loss is a result of not using it.  Muscle development is a result of using it.  Simple.  That's where exercise comes in.

Let me mention a pet peeve of mine.  There is lots of talk about what good exercise walking is.  It's certainly better than sitting on a couch.  It is not going to do anything for your muscles unless your walking is up hills and mountains, and lasts for many hours.  If you want function and to look good.  lift and move heavy stuff with some real intensity.  It does not have to be in a gym.  But intensity is the key, and if your exercise does not get your heart beat up and make you breathe hard--if you don't feel it in your muscles, it's not doing much.

Here is a link to an article that has some very interesting pictures.

Which upper leg do you think looks good?  Which person do you think can still carry bags of potting soil and grandchildren and have fun? 

Now, those pics of upper leg muscle were from people who used their legs in high intensity.  But the kicker is that we didn't see a cross section of the arm muscles and if they're not getting used, they won't show such great aging.  Exercise only preserves the muscles you use.  There’s no “whole body neuroprotective effect,” So if you want to look good and be able to do lots of 'stuff' you must exercise all the muscles of your body.  Weight training can do that in the shortest amount of time.  It is perfectly safe for older adults.  When I was a personal trainer, I had clients--a husband and wife--he was 90 and she was 87.  Both made huge gains in strength, weight loss and appearance.  It's never too late!  Don't have a gym close by?  Get a few dumbbells, or some bands.  There are many exercises that can be done with no equipment at all. 

Here are some youtube videos of bodyweight exercises

Besides all the nutrition information I've talked about, exercise is the other biggie for looking better and feeling better well into your ninth or tenth decade!