Back to our Roots!

The global epidemics of obesity , heart disease, diabetes and cancer  together with the increase in so many other illnesses such as autoimmune disease and mental illness is of great concern not just for us but for  several  generations ahead.

Let’s just go back a bit and ask-  what ‘s going on and why all  these  alarming statistics in our world today?  And what to do?

This is  just a simple way to look at the whole picture – useful as it makes us understand the situation and hence improve it.

In a nutshell, we have caveman genes living in a not very caveman world! Homo Sapiens is thought to have evolved  250,000 to 400,000 years ago. The first Homo species lived around 2.3 millions years ago).   From an evolutionary perspective , our genes have not changed very much, if at all in at least 200,000 years.   ( I appreciate the sensitivity of this matter and that  this may not be an agreeable concept to many).  With the massive changes in our society ( to name but a few-  sugar and high fructose corn syrup- amongst the worst inventions,  cultivation of wheat/ other grains, genetically modified foods,  food processing, fast food industries and introduction of thousands of synthetic chemicals together with our increasingly hectic “instant” lifestyles)  our caveman genes are bombarded with all these relatively sudden changes that they are just not meant to be exposed to and  frantically wondering what the hell is going on!  These recent changes represent just a pin point given the  time line of humans so it becomes easier to appreciate the reality that now is.

Cavemen  would get up at dawn,  be out in the sun,  be  active (hunting and gathering) , eat mainly whilst it’s light and go to sleep when the sun set ….  The main  liquid to drink would have been water. As far as the food is concerned,  they   would have  eaten uncultivated  plants and animals (many more to choose from then and also pre-ice age), having a feast when  food was available (e.g when an animal was caught).  Excess energy would be stored for times when there was no food as a protective mechanism  – insulin would be released pushing glucose into cells and fat would be stored to be used as an energy source in times of scarcity- they wouldn’t have been able to call Domino’s  if they got hungry!  Today, we have constant energy sources  there is no scarcity – our cells continue to function as they always have done-  and    insulin just carries on with its job… consequently more and more  fat is stored… leading to a whole plethora of problems.  All this is of course a  stark contrast  from our lives today. We no longer have the stresses  that cavemen had (being hunted by bigger scarier  things than themselves)  but the current stresses of everyday life    still affect the body now  as they did back then  (the  brain can’t differentiate amongst different stressors).  The main single excess energy source  is sugar in all of its varieties– hidden and otherwise, unknowingly in so many products including “low -fat” and “fat-free” – sugars and salts are then needed to make up for the loss of taste from having less fat and –  on top of that –  other stuff  is added to preserve the shelf-life of foods – and hence profitability. There is a lot going on in the supermarket/food  industry- this is another discussion in itself.

Our genetic make up simply isn’t adapted to our current lives.  In tens of thousands of years time, our genes could possibly  start adapting to chocs and fries, but in the meantime……!   We need to start thinking about  gently getting back to our roots, as it were. To adopt a more “natural” life- good  fresh produce, clean water,  be active and enjoy the sun, eat what and when we are meant to and not bombard our bodies constantly  with toxins  from our foods, drinks or the environment, sleep well and have time for relaxation.

Paving the Path to Health with these Stones

1.  NUTRITION – We are what we eat (strictly speaking what we digest and absorb)

Briefly speaking, this is  a balanced eating plan that includes:

PROTEIN at EVERY meal ( e.g  eggs, fish, meat,dairy,  beans /legumes, protein supplements)

Protein is essential  for making muscle,bone,skin etc, keeps us full (and less likely to over-indulge) and helps keep glucose levels stable.

POLY/MONO-  UNSATURATED FATS – We need “essential fatty acids”  from fish oils, nuts and  seeds e.g. ( flax, pumpkin,sunflower ). The omega 3 oils are crucial and we must have a balance of omega 3 and the omega 6 oils  (more on these later).

VEGETABLES (>5 serves)  – Salads, vegetable juice etc . Try juicing a few veggies- a super, quick  and easy way to get all the goodness of the veggies in the form of a yummy  nutrient- dense drink! Preferably, organic of course to avoid the pesticides,herbicides etc.

FRUIT (2-3 serves) – Preferably earlier on in the day, as there are still natural sugars in it, so best not to over-do it late in the day when it would be converted to fat (if the energy isn’t used up).

Aim to eat fruits and veggies from all the colours of the RAINBOW!  Vary what you eat to get a whole variety of different phytonutrients  each fruit and vegetable offers.

COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES – preferably the ancient grains like millet, corn, amaranth, quinoa and less/no wheat. Quinoa is also good for protein as it has all nine essential amino acids. Gluten intolerance (found mainly in wheat; also barley,rye, oats) is thought to affect 70% of the population to varying degrees and can be a causative factor in many conditions. Note however, that we could obtain the carbs we need from fruit and veg – we don’t really need grains.

NUTS AND SEEDS –  one serving daily (approx. 30g/ palm sized portion) – a mixture of almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts…pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Again, vary what you eat to get a variety of different nutrients (healthy fats, minerals,fibre, protein).  For example,  a few brazil nuts is all it takes to meet your daily Selenium requirements- a very important mineral with varied functions including thyroid function  and a co – factor to create glutathione, an extremely crucial anti oxidant  that we make. Low levels of selenium have also been implicated in asthma, cancer, depression, infertility.

WATER –  (preferably  filtered or alkaline- easy tip is to use lemon juice which is also a great detoxifier), herbal teas  (especially  green tea with its antioxidants). Our body generates a very small amount of water from biochemical reactions and takes it from the food we eat- but we still need approx. 2 litres/ 8-10 glasses a day. This quota can include other drinks but preferably water.

MULTIVITAMIN/MULTIMINERAL supplement –  additional nutrients may also be appropriate (esp Vitamin D, omega 3 oils, anti oxidants).  A British study (“The Composition of Food” ) done  in 2000 also reflected on how our fresh produce today has less nutrients in it due to poorer quality soil etc – for example ,they found that carrots and broccoli had 75% less magnesium and calcium respectively. So, quality and freshness  of produce is important, not over-cooking  as well as some extra from supplements.

The dinner plate?  Simply put,  half should be veggies, a quarter protein, a quarter complex carbs (care with rice and other carb portions!)

Eat slowly and be mindful when eating.  The sympathetic nervous system  (“flight and fight”) gets more activated and hence can interfere with digestion as the gut is innervated by the other one, the parasympathetic system.

2. EXERCISE – we were designed to move,  not sit on office chairs!  The benefits are HUGE including cardiovascular  health, release of happy hormones (serotonin etc) …(see the Running article for more info).   Do whatever you can to start off with –  aim for 10,000 steps a day (buy a pedometer?), walking is great  as well as any other activity that just gets you moving, be it jogging, swimming, yoga or  dancing.

3. RELAXATION/ MEDITATION/ SPIRITUAL – important to take time out for yourself.  A balance of work and play.  Meditation at the beginning and end of the day is very powerful. And don’t forget GRATITUDE for everything in life- from the food on your plate, the people in your life,   to the sun coming up.

4. SLEEP – a regular  sleep cycle is crucial to good health. One of the many  benefits is that excess cortisol (stress hormone) is metabolised when we sleep. High levels of  cortisol  can  hinder weight loss. 2 other important hormones that control fullness and appetite are leptin and ghrelin and these are affected when sleep is derived- the brain interprets lack of sleep as “starvation”  so metabolism slows down  and you put on more weight even though your not eating.  Numerous studies have confirmed that sleep deprivation leads to reduced  leptin (fullness/satiety hormone) and  increased ghrelin (hunger hormone).

 Sleep is a  GIFT – don’t feel guilty!

5. LOVE AND RELATIONSHIPS –  “Self esteem is the immune system of the mind and spirit”   Love and respect yourself. It is important to get rid of negative emotions and beliefs – otherwise this will eat away like a chronic illness, no matter how much broccoli and carrots you are having!  Enjoy all the many and varied relationships around you.

Live, love and laugh!

6. VITAMIN N–  No, that’s not a new vitamin… N is  for Nature, a very essential vitamin! Get out regularly … visit places of natural beauty and just absorb yourself in it… walk barefoot on the grass or the sand, swim in the ocean (“earthing“).

Love and respect Mother Earth… and she will embrace you with open arms…