Food for Homo Sapiens

So many times I see written, “Everyone’s needs are different,” regarding nutrition. I don’t get it! I am not saying that everyone else is wrong and I’m right, I’m saying – I don’t get it!

This is my understanding and my interpretation. Our evolution, (from what we have been told of our origins) has gone through many stages and almost certainly began in Africa. Homo Sapiens has walked the Earth for millennia. Many of the “Homo” subgroups died out, for various reasons, leaving modern humans to rule. This happened around 200,000 years ago.

WE ARE THIS SPECIES! Each and every one of us is the same. We have the same amount of bones, our eyes/nose/ears/nervous systems are formed in the same way.  We all have a sense of taste and smell and digestive juices and enzymes. If you think about why this is, you will come up with the answer that they are needed to detect what is good to eat and what is not. If it were not the case, evolution would not have bothered with these senses and we’d have died out because we ate the wrong things. After all, wild animals and birds just eat instinctively what nature intended – why should we be different?

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I should say at this point, that we almost certainly did not have a conscience about what we ate and other animals have always been on the menu. Animals/birds/fish (everything organic of course) were relatively easy to obtain and yielded tasty and satisfying food. Modern humans have always cooked their food. If meat is being roasted, the smell immediately starts the digestive process, getting all the necessary juices and enzymes on their starting blocks in readiness for the food about to be eaten. If any vegetable matter was eaten, it would have been from necessity, more than choice as they just do not smell as good as a roast wild pig! Fatty animals were preferred, as it is fat eaten with protein that brings about satiety. Without fat, the hunt for food would have been impossible and we would have been weak. There is a dangerous condition referred to as “rabbit starvation” -  the effect of consuming lean protein without fats.

The fact is that if every edible part of an animal is eaten, all known (and possibly unknown) nutrients for the life of humans are available. It is how it was and it is why we are here.

We in the UK settled as farmers about 10,000 years ago. According to the consensus, we are genetically identical to these ancient people. We have adapted to the temperate climate – our eye colour and skins have lightened, but our nutritional needs are unchanged. We still need protein (fish, meat, eggs) and fats along with the nutrients they supply. There are essential proteins and fats, meaning we must find them in our diet. There are no essential carbohydrates, meaning we can live very happily without them.

If we were still living this way, we would be eating what was available at that time. The problem is, we now have too much CHOICE! It’s easy to choose, when the choices are leaves, snails (yes we did!) or duck. Frankly, all would have been eaten at some point as it could be eat or die. But now – oh boy! We have almost limitless choices and we can refuse to eat something, knowing that we can have something we prefer. Luxury! We can eat “out of season” and cheaply, but this means consuming less nutrients, a helping of pesticides/herbicides and foods we are not digestively designed for. All this weakens us as individuals and as the species Homo Sapiens.

The correct diet for individuals depends upon where one lives in the world. Continents have differing animal species and vegetation so when it comes to meals, of course they will be different. But the nutrients must stay the same and in similar proportions.

So when a nutritionist says everyone is different in their needs, they can only be partly right. A healthy individual requires our ancestral diet and a few other more modern foods, such as raw dairy and properly prepared grains/legumes, to make life easy. A sick person needs advice on aspects of healthy living and only our ancestral diet, in order to obtain all nutrients for healing.

Most importantly, those nutrients will be in the correct balance for Homo Sapiens.

Me Jane – You Tarzan! Part 1

 

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What Life Needs for its Existence

Life on Earth as we know it, began due to four things; minerals, sunlight, water and oxygen. I’m no scientist, but I guess that minerals and the sun had to come first and the minerals gave rise to water and oxygen. No matter. The point is, without them, our world would not exist in the way it does.

If life is deprived of any of these elements, it will ultimately die – due to a direct or indirect lack. For example:

  • We die very quickly without oxygen.
  • Anaerobic organisms will die if their host is denied oxygen.
  • There is no life that can exist without minerals.
  • Sunlight creates energy in plants. It’s true that we can live quite happily without plants, but only if we eat the animals that do eat them. There is a finite amount of energy in the universe – it is only the form it takes that changes so in this case, we derive energy directly from plants, or indirectly from animals.
  • Water is needed to supply life with nutrients – no water, no life.

As I said, I am no scientist but hopefully you get my meaning. These elements are still the most vital contributors to life. Hundreds of millions of years ago, when life was advanced enough to leave the mineral-rich oceans, it had to take the sea with it in a complex network of tubes – which we call the circulatory system. These soluble minerals enable life. They literally allow the body to conduct all the processes that it needs. For example; contraction of muscles including heart muscle in animals, regulating fluid balance, producing enzymes for digestion and feeding the symbiotic microbes that inhabit all life.

 

Our Evolution – Me Jane, You Tarzan!

Humans have been evolving for around 2,500,000 years and nature has done a great job. Our omnivorous character was born from need – as our teeth tell us that we are primarily meat-eaters. If there was no meat, plants kept us alive until meat again became available. Fruit would have been eaten, but remember – the northern hemisphere only produces fruit during autumn. The carbohydrates from fruit are easily stored as fat, which would have been a welcome energy source over the approaching winters. We made the best of what was available.

Our genetics haven’t changed much in 40,000 years (which is the scientific consensus), during which time we have battled two ice ages. The last one finished around 10,000 years ago. During these cold times, there would have been little in the way of edible vegetation and what there was, we may not have had the digestive equipment for. Animals and fish sustained us. Nothing was wasted – if it was chewable, it was eaten. The liver, kidneys, heart, glands and brain were (and still are) very valuable sources of nutrients. There was no “organic” food, because food was just food – untainted. This food nourished us, sustained us and enabled procreation. And that is why we are here now.

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The next blog will cover what has happened since we started to live in communes, keep animals and grow food.

 

Cavemen Didn’t Eat Cornflakes

Do we actually need science to tell us how we got here or what we should eat today? My view is that the evidence is embedded within our history and it doesn’t need to be proved. WE ARE HERE! That said, everything I write here is backed by science and is referenced. The trouble with this sort of research is that it won’t make anyone rich, so it remains buried for the most part.

P1140137We are uniquely equipped for life in our world. Evolution has ensured that we are a finely honed animal species – capable of evaluating and responding to a multitude of stimuli.  There are numerous mechanisms in place, within and beyond our control, to ensure survival. Here are a few:

  1. Insulin production in the pancreas.  This preserved our lives thousands of years ago by storing a surplus of available carbohydrates (fruit or honey maybe) as fat reserves. Today however, the very same hormone is killing us. We now store far too much glucose which results from carbohydrate digestion – and we store it (in part) as fat, which never has a chance to be used up. Obesity and diabetes can result with all the health issues that accompany these illnesses.
  2. The Omega fatty acids – the balance of these ensures that we can deal with a microbial attack by providing inflammation and anti-inflammation.
  3. Cholesterol – the balance of hdl (“good” cholesterol) and ldl (“bad” cholesterol) ensures that we can form hormones (including the “new” pre-steroid hormone Vitamin D), line our cells, repair damage to our bodies and more. Cholesterol is so important that we not only manufacture it, but we also recycle it.
  4. The starvation sequence – every stage of this is designed to preserve life. Low calorie diets fire up this reaction.
  5. Thirst, to ensure we stay hydrated.
  6. Hunger, to ensure that we obtain the necessary nutrients.
  7. Sensing heat and cold, to ensure that we take measures to control our temperatures.
  8. Sensing pain, to tell us that the woolly mammoth is standing on our foot!

We take them as a given – no one would argue this. They are, by and large, proven and accepted by all -  health professionals,  scientists and the general public So why do we choose to either ignore these instincts or fight them? For example, we only think that we have done enough if we have endured some discomfort or even pain when we exercise. Evolution tells us to STOP when this happens.

Why must we employ our brains when their use is unnecessary? We think we’re so clever, outdoing nature but in reality we are creating problems for ourselves or even making ourselves ill. Instincts are ignored at our peril – we must listen to our bodies.

001_3Genetically, we are still programmed for the diet we ate 10,000 years ago. People living at that time did not have dieticians, the internet or governments to tell them what they should eat, when they should eat it or how much they should eat. Consider this; wild animals don’t need this help; they just get on with it, responding to their instinctive needs – and, interestingly, neither do they generally suffer chronic illness, but domestic animals do. I’ll leave that one for another time but of course, it involves us!

The diet we are programmed for is the hunter-gatherer diet. What was good for us then is good for us now. Taste buds were the only guide to the foods that contained the necessary nutrients in a form that would be easy to absorb.

Imagine that you knew nothing of nutrition. You are stranded in the wilderness and there is an abundance of plants and animals. You have fire to cook with, so how will you decide what to eat? You can try a few leaves and some grass but your taste buds will tell you in no uncertain terms that you do not have the correct digestive system to deal with these “foods”. There may be a few roots that you could dig up, but whilst they may be sweeter than the leaves, you still are unlikely to make a feast of them. Are you going to look for seeds or grain? You could starve by the time you have enough to make a meal for the family especially if it is spring time!  In any case, grain is indigestible without lengthy preparation and really only became a part of everyday food when we settled into a life of farming 10,000 years ago. Corn did not exist as it does today – it is “man-made” – so don’t waste your time looking for it! (Dairy foods were introduced soon after this time, but that’s another story too.)

Now you see a duck swimming on a river. If you accurately throw a hefty stone at it (my apologies to the vegetarians but I am trying to create a realistic scene), you have a meal. After removing the feathers and roasting it, even your sense of smell will tell you that this is the real deal. Your digestive juices and enzymes prepare you for digestion even before you have even tasted it. This is nature working the way it should. The fat and skin are the most delicious (and nutritious) part of a duck and there is no way you are going to remove them before eating – as we are advised now.

IMG_2645If you had lobbed a rock at a wild pig for your meal, I think we might see the same dining-room scene as we see now – the whole family arguing over the last piece of crackling! In those times of course, they would have eaten the lot. Everything that was chewable and tasted good would have been eaten as waste was just not an option and organ meats are the most nutrient-dense part of the animal.

It is doubtful that our ancient ancestors had the sense of squeamishness that we do, because they ate what was available and did not have the preconceived ideas of what was not “nice”. This just means that they would have eaten lungs, kidneys, liver, gonads, eyes (great source of vitamin A), ears, brain and every other morsel possible.  They would all have tasted good but we are now conditioned, for many reasons, to consider these parts at best unhealthy (due to the BSE problem years ago) and at worst, disgusting!  It is a sad fact that we, in the Western World, now choose muscle meats over offal. Offal, historically and amongst primitive people today, was and is, highly prized as a magnificent source of nutrients. Now, we take frequent trips to the supermarket which means that we can have our choice of foods available all the time – in our fridges, or in cans and packets in our cupboards. Offal – even organic offal, is cheap.

Our conditioning is, at least in part, to blame for our confused taste buds. Children of the Inuit are used to the taste and texture of raw seal liver and relish it – because they have always had it. Our children gain the taste for baby rice – and just where does that lead? To a lifetime of seeking out simple, nutrient-poor carbohydrate foods at the expense of proper nutrient-dense food! How on earth did babies born 10,000 years ago manage without it?! Breast feeding would have been offered for longer than present day. I suspect that as teeth began to form, mothers would have partially chewed their baby’s food to make weaning easier – and that food would have been the full hunter-gatherer diet.

“When we eat cake, we unconsciously detect that some of the right nutrients are there. Mixing food groups together like this, our taste-buds are fooled.”

Nutritionists and dieticians are fond of blaming “processed foods” for the devastating effects on our health, but just what does that mean? Much processed food is made from poor quality ingredients combined and flavoured to make cheap food appealing to our confused, modern palates. Breakfast cereals and bread are highly processed foods – even if they do claim to be free of added chemicals. Remember too, that it is perfectly possible to use the best quality organic butter, flour, eggs and sugar to make a cake or biscuits. Does this make them better for us?  They taste good because we naturally like sweet things and fats (probably due stored information about breast milk). The fats that taste the best are the ones that have the most nutrients – animal fats, butter in this case, but when we eat cake, we unconsciously detect that some of the right nutrients are there. Mixing food groups together like this, fools our taste-buds. Even if margarine has been used, the less-than-pleasant taste is disguised with sugar and we happily have a second helping.

So, what’s on the menu for you in the wilderness? Exactly what we should be eating now 00067– meat, offal, fat, fish, shellfish, eggs, nuts, seeds (if they are a reasonable size and taste good), some leaves and a few roots, fruits when in season and honey once in a while. Fortunately we have evolved as omnivores which meant that during the times when our genetic diet was scarce, we could live for a while, on foods that were less nutrient-dense.This means that today, on the odd occasion, we can still enjoy an ice-cream or piece of cake without any lasting damage. And just what would life be without these treats?

 

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This article was originally published in Positive Health PH Online Issue 186 – Sept 2011 – the present.

The Life-Giving Sun

Well summer does seem to be here doesn’t it? One day of sun and a thunderstorm! It’s all good – nature needs both and frankly, so do we. The sun gives us huge amounts of vitamin D3 amongst other things.

I am still largely opposed taking supplements of vitamin D3. I have written many times about the problems with taking supplements and maintain my stance. Buying them is fraught because we don’t know how they have been made or whether they contain what they are supposed to contain and even if they do, whether it’s in the right form for humans to absorb! It is just too costly and complicated

We need the sun for our lives

Let’s take the benefits of the sun. Everyone knows that the sun makes vitamin D3 in our file000336228048(1)skins. Just think about that for a moment. Isn’t it absolutely astounding? This is just one example of how we are dependent upon our environment. (There are many others but I’ll save them for another time.) We need the sun for our lives – literally in every sense. We cannot survive without it and we become sick if deprived of it. We would not be here without the sun – and neither would anything else. It is vital that we appreciate and accept this fact. Our to-date evolution, over hundreds of thousands of years has depended upon the sun more than anything else. Most other factors in life have alternatives or can be foregone for a while.

..we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency

There is much evidence that certain diseases are more prevalent the further north in the hemisphere one looks. But we have lived in these places for many thousands of years and these diseases were not prevalent in our ancestors. “Modern” diseases are to be evidenced from remains that are less than 10,000 years old – giving grounds for the popular belief that these illnesses started during the time when we became farmers and had more permanent forms of shelter. Personally, I doubt that many of these illnesses were due to lack of sun exposure – we were very much outdoor people at this time. Their health change was more to do with their rapidly changing diet but as time continued, even more permanent buildings were constructed and much work was done indoors.

Even in the last couple of hundred years or so, we spent much time outside – walking (to get from one place to another, not necessarily for pleasure), farming, gardening and doing all those other necessary jobs that involve us stepping outside the house. Not anymore. Bringing it bang up to date, we travel to our place of work by car where we then enter an artificially lit, windowed building which allows no UVB light to enter. We travel home by car and spend the rest of the day inside. For many, the main source of UVB light is once a year on holiday. And then what do we do? Smother ourselves in sunscreen! We are in real trouble. Now, here in the northern hemisphere, we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency – and it is true – the further north you look, the more of these diseases you find.

How we obtained our vitamin D through pre-history

If you accept that we originated in Africa about 100,000 years ago and migrated northwards, you will also understand that at this time our skins were dark which protected us from the relentless equatorial sun whilst still allowing us to obtain the benefits. The northward journey took time – no jumping on Easyjet and arriving a few hours later! It possibly took thousands of years to inhabit the most northerly areas. Remember that at this time the Asia and Europe we know now, didn’t exist and the countries were merged making the migration easier.

As we very gradually moved northwards, our skins lightened. Why do think that was? In order that we could still benefit from the now much weaker and less reliable UVB rays from the sun! Our skins had to lighten in order to scavenge these less frequent rays at a much quicker rate than our African cousins – and the further north you live – the paler your skin will be and the faster you will get your dose of vitamin D! So, given that we need the same levels of vitamin D, the same amount can be obtained in just a few minutes if your recent ancestry is Scottish, a bit longer if you’re English but much longer if you are dark-skinned and living in Africa!

Vitamin D3 is not really a vitamin. It is a pre-steroid hormone and as such, can affect your DNA (unlike true vitamins). My take on this, is that many of the diseases that we label as genetic may in fact be acquired. Chronic vitamin D deficiency can be passed to our offspring. I have lots of reasons for believing this but one factor that I have come across many times when I am asking people about their health, is the “Welsh Tale” as I have named it. If someone has several generations of miners in their family, there is more risk of disease in that person. I’m sure you get the connection. Another scenario which is well documented is that of recent immigrants (within a few generations) to the northern hemisphere. It is this group of people who are the sickest in the western world – more diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. Whilst there is a dietary factor, there is also a lack of vitamin D from the sun. Life is indoors and even if some time is spent in the sun, it is rarely enough for vitamin D to form. Each generation does seem to have lighter skin even if both parents are dark-skinned – nature knows what has to be done, but this takes time.

Sunbathe!

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, we must sunbathe. It must be taken like medicine. If the sun is high in the sky and your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are reaching Earth. Depending on your skin colour, sunbathe as near to naked as possible for as long as it takes your skin to go pink. Not red. When this has been achieved, cover up, use sunscreen (try to find a non-toxic one or use coconut oil which offers a little protection) or go indoors.

Don’t use soap/shower gel for at least 24 hours as this will remove the skin oils that contain the vitamin D. Use just water on the main parts and maybe just a little soap where you feel you must. Moisturise your skin with something natural such as coconut oil. With this amount of sun exposure you can make up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D but your body will stop the manufacture when it has sufficient to deal with. This takes 24 – 48 hours – then you can go out and make some more! You won’t find this quantity in a supplement and indeed, if you took this amount, it would be harmful.

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Since the fat-soluble vitamins work together, make sure you get plenty of vitamins A and K2 as well. Cheese is a good source especially Brie and Gouda.

Vitamin D is just one reason why we need the sun but there are others. For example, there is evidence that we need it for energy – just like plants. Lots of people feel energised when in the sun. Also, UV light through our eyes regulates our Circadian rhythms, thus helping us sleep. There will be more evidence to come I feel quite sure. Here is another article about the effects the sun has on us.

I have written about it before, but for completeness, I will give you a run-down of the diseases that seem (research is showing) to be related to vitamin D deficiency: around twenty types of cancer; diabetes; depression; heart disease; bone abnormalities; auto-immune diseases; infections. More about vitamin D3 here.

This is one way to boost your health enormously – it’s all of the above and more – and you can do it for free! Now what are you doing here? Outside you go!

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The Problem With Plant Foods…

Healthy EatingPlant foods epitomise all that is good for us don’t they? Articles about nutrition and diet are usually adorned with overflowing bowls of fruit, water-sprayed salads and colourful vegetable displays at markets or supermarkets – and indeed, many of my articles are similarly adorned. BUT there is a cost to be paid if we are to benefit from nutrients from plant foods.

As is my thing, I have looked at these plant foods with the back-drop of our (and their) evolution. Everything on Earth is here for a reason and for that reason, everything on Earth has efficient life-preserving and pro-creation systems in place. If this were not the case, then animals (including humans) and plants would just die out. Yes, I know there are more species that have become extinct, than exist today but at least in part this is to do with nature and how it selects. The rest is down to us, but I won’t step on that mine-field now! We and many other animals have hormones that allow us to progress the species. We also have hormones that allow “fight or flight” when we are in danger. We can regulate our temperatures so that we don’t cook in the sun or freeze during winter. Our skins brown in the sun to prevent our bodies becoming sun-damaged and we have immune systems that help protect us from pathogenic infections. We have more life-preserving tricks too which adds to why we are so successful as a species.

So what of plants? They too got to this point by evolution. Because they need it to thrive, some live in shade, some in full sunlight. Some like dry sandy soil and some like deep loamy soils. Some like moist conditions and some like dry. Plants are very clever with perpetuating their species and many have more than one way of doing this. Take strawberries – plantlets grow on runners but they can also be grown from seed. Raspberries and roses spread by their root-systems, throwing up suckers in the grass, to our annoyance! They too can be, but aren’t usually grown from seed. Many plants can produce “children” simply by a piece of the parent being broken off. These sections will root very easily – such as the willow tree. My grandmother had a huge willow tree in her garden and it grew from a willow washing-line prop! Plants have another form of defence too – they contain chemicals to discourage animals from feasting on them.

We have called these chemicals collectively, anti-nutrients. There are many – digestive enzyme inhibitors which can interfere with the digestion of our food; various acids such as phytic and oxalic which prevent uptake of certain minerals, especially calcium; glucosinates which prevent the uptake of iodine – vital for thyroid function; even eating lots of fibre, such as bran (which also contains phytates), can hasten food through the gastro- intestinal system preventing some valuable nutrients from being absorbed.

file8651336976179 We have evolved alongside plants and as any gardener will tell you it is a constant battle to get them to do what we want them to do! They want one thing, we want another which is why so many vegetable and fruit growers create artificial conditions and use artificial chemicals to nourish the plants and destroy pests. I suspect that we ate very little vegetation until we were able to cook. Most plants would have been too tough, unappetising and too indigestible prior to the advent of fire. Our taste-buds would have told us if our digestive systems could cope with what we put in our mouths. There is speculation about how long we have had fire but it dates back to at least 400,000 years ago and it was that event that made some foods more palatable and digestible. Even so, our choice would have been limited to the foods that could be wrapped in leaves and cooked in the embers – it was a long, long time before we had cooking pots! Remember too that the leaves, roots and fruits we see in the supermarket now are the result of hundreds of years of selective breeding and (disastrously), genetic modification. These actions have made them bigger/sweeter/more attractive/have a longer shelf-life/etc. – but the anti-nutrients persist.

Weston A. Price researched the diets of people the world over during the early 1900s and found (plus many other things) that amongst primitive people, health and diet often went hand in hand. They usually inhabited remote places but all were growing, rearing and preparing their own food. They were (and some still are) the picture of health. Some were vegetarian but due to their preparation of grains, beans, nuts and roots, they were able to destroy most of the anti-nutrients prior to consumption. Their methods are not complicated but they do take some time – obviously they had to plan, which is something we are all so bad at now! Grains, beans and roots were soaked with the addition of acid – vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt, whey etc. for a day or so. Only then were they suitable for cooking. Al dente is not something they knew of (especially as it is Italian!), because these foods need lengthy cooking to destroy even more anti-nutrients. Possibly all they knew was that the foods were more digestible but what they had actually done is make the nutrients more bio-available and therefore their food gave them more positive nutrition. I must stress that the vegetarians that were studied also ate raw dairy products and eggs too. Some will remember the “raw” phase that gripped the 1970s. Many jumped on this bandwagon and ended up very ill. Raw beans were responsible for many people being rushed to hospital with severe stomach pains. There is lots more on the preparation of beans, grains and nuts here.

One of the worst foods for us is soya. There is some very interesting reading here and whilst this is someone’s opinion, it is one I and many others share. Just to add insult to injury, about 90% of the soya produced is genetically modified and fed not only to us but to animals, making them sick too.

These are just some of the battles that we have to do with plant foods. There are more – foods belonging to the nightshade family for example – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, aubergines etc. If we wish to eat plants, we take on this fight!

Just to put all this into perspective, organic, free-range meat and raw dairy have no anti-nutrients and make almost perfect nutrition for humans!

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Type 2 Diabetes – Could it Spell Doom For Us?

I doubt that there is a person in the Western World who doesn’t know at least one diabetic. Worldwide, there are around 250 million known cases and millions more undiagnosed.  Could it be the end of us?

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The circulatory system is the first to part of the body to be adversely affected by diabetes. If blood sugar is left unchecked or is not stable, the health of all organs in the body are at risk. Most commonly, the eyes, kidneys, heart and peripheral nerves are affected. If we can’t radically alter the pattern of this growing phenomenon – soon – I believe that the human species will fall into two subtypes – one that lives and reproduces and one that struggles with both of these. Let me explain.

Firstly, how does someone become a type 2 diabetic? There is a lot of science involved, some of which I don’t understand and no-one has all the answers – believe me I’ve looked. Remember too that just like me, all these people who expound on the topic are voicing an opinion or voicing their interpretation of research results. I am not a scientist but just try to see what is logical from our evolution. This offers us some reliable clues – some still open to interpretation of course, but generally history doesn’t change its mind as often as science does!

In Europe our ancestors existed through seasons, taking what food we could find from each one – and due to varying weather conditions, this would have been hit and miss. Spring: very little vegetation early in the year, but roots and shoots plus fish, birds and their eggs and animals. Summer: more vegetation, young birds, animals, fish, eggs and a few early fruits. Autumn: still some vegetation, roots, animals, birds and fish, more fruits (but remember these would have only been berries and a few small cherries), seeds and nuts. Winter: animals, birds and fish, nuts and seeds that had been stored from autumn, roots,  probably, probably insects and very few fresh leaves or other vegetation. Much of the year, they would have been living on their fat reserves – and the ketones produced from the breakdown of fat. This is the body’s preferred fuel and today this diet is called ketogenic.

In the views of many authorities, we have not changed much genetically in the last 10,000 years. In terms of nutrition, this diet would have sustained us – providing all nutrients necessary for existence and procreation. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that a diet far removed from this would be beneficial to us now. We got to this point in time because we became omnivorous, which to my way of thinking is nature’s way of protecting the species. (I should say here that when nature sees an advantage which aids the progression of a species, it can switch genes on and off to make use of this advantage. This is why we will continue to evolve – but very slowly.)

Our ancestral diet is relatively high fat (think duck, wild boar and organ meat which have a high fat content), medium protein and low carbohydrate. Diabetes was unheard of as we know it. People ate what they had to – not what they fancied!

IMG_2645Now to diabetes; during our evolution we developed the ability to digest all the above macro-nutrients. The relatively low carbohydrate content supplied by vegetation, roots, nuts, seeds, fruit and an occasional (rather painful I expect!) foray into wild honey, needs the hormone insulin for metabolism.  All these foods contain sugars that must be broken down into their simplest form for absorption – glucose. This was undoubtedly a life-saver all those years ago, because insulin is the fat-storing hormone. It can change glucose to fat for storage. During summer and autumn, when there would be a reasonable amount of carbohydrate containing foods around, fat could be stored for winter energy when times were lean. Brilliant! The human body is so amazing!

Now think about what happens today. We eat what we want, not what we need. We eat bread, cereals, fruit, potatoes (a recent addition to our vegetables – around 400 years ago) and rice every day and most often three or more times a day – because the government says we should! Insulin will be in our bloodstreams almost constantly and if you are not expending energy then your muscles don’t require a glucose diversion and all glucose in the blood will be stored as fat. After a of time eating this way, the body becomes “insulin resistant” – more and more insulin is needed to provide the same function and it is this state that can contribute to, or maybe even cause, type 2 diabetes.

There are some other possible predisposing factors for type 2 diabetes too:
Low vitamin D levels
Poor gut health
High intake of polyunsaturated fats
Diabetes in your family
Heart disease in your family
Obesity (indicative not causative)
Inactivity
Corticosteroid drugs

So why do I think we’ll split into two sub-groups? Well, my theory is to do with the main effect of glucose imbalance – damage in the circulatory system. Unchecked glucose in the bloodstream leads to inflammation – and this is disease provoking. Due to roughening of the blood vessel walls, the body sends out the rescue team which tries to repair the damage. This ultimately compromises arterial blood flow by narrowing the lumen, thus reducing the flow to all organs. Now, younger and younger people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – even as young as teenagers. Diabetes can affect the artery supplying the groin. In men this can cause erectile dysfunction and production of sperm. In women it can cause poor blood flow via the umbilical cord to a growing foetus, making spontaneous miscarriage likely or the baby could be born with serious health problems.  These scenarios will lead to fewer viable pregnancies and therefore population decline. People who obtain all the nutrients – in the right proportions – for human existence will continue to thrive and produce healthy offspring. Please remember that this is my view and I have only my own observations to back me up. Something needs to be done about this situation but I suspect it will get far worse before it gets better. Sorry to be the harbinger of doom!

The advice I would give if you believe you are at risk is to go for a low-carbohydrate, natural, organic food diet. (Here are my health guidelines) Some nutritionists think it is a good idea to have your daily carb “fix” (if you need one) just once in the day, maybe breakfast or lunch time in order that you raise your insulin levels substantially, only once during the day. I think it is better to spread them over the day and get most of the carbohydrates from the most nutritious sources – nuts, seeds, root vegetables, fruits occasionally (and try to stick to berries and cherries). Leave cereals alone if you can or make them special occasions only.

file0001103320696By the way, animal fat is a definite must for diabetics and those with the risk factors, so go ahead with creamy (but not floury) sauces, pastured eggs, butter on your veg and the delicious fat and crackling from the organic roast pork!

This is a doctor’s view of the standard recommendations for diet, given to diabetics.

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Frankenstein Food and How to Properly Feed the World

What on Earth are we doing? We have SO lost the plot! This starts out as being a bit of a rant blog, but I want you to see not only what is happening but what could happen.

574983_22667767Do we really want to be eating a lab created – anything? In an attempt to “feed the world”, a burger was lab-created in 2013 making the story appeal to more people – those that can afford to read newspapers or watch a television or buy a burger – but really, do the starving countries of the world want burgers? No – what they want is the wherewithal to produce their own food. And for that matter, so do we. This monster that was created starts out white in colour and needs colouring and flavouring (pretty much like most commercially produced burgers) before it is made into a patty resembling a burger. Antibiotics are needed all through growth to protect it from rot (according to Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University). It’s not meat, it’s just another invention to make money. There is no altruism here. This is a quote from the news story:

“The professor (Professor Mark Post, of Maastricht University) said the meat was made up of tens of billions of lab-grown cells. Asked when lab-grown burgers would reach the market, he said: “I think it will take a while. This is just to show we can do it.””

I am always saying this but I’ll say it again – just because we can doesn’t mean we should! No one knows what the long term problems will be but count on it, there will be some and they will be far-reaching. We and the rest of the inhabitants of the world got here due to evolution – not Frankenstein science. We will pay for this.

OK. Now back to what is real and practical and inkeeping and sustainable. This is for 1008594_80327405everyone not just news-making mad scientists – they probably wouldn’t be interested in anything this simple anyway. At the end of the day, you are responsible for you and your family and you don’t need a scientists brain (thank goodness!) to make a difference. Grow food, keep chickens, make bread, cook from scratch using quality ingredients. It doesn’t get any easier. The outlay is negligible and it doesn’t matter where you live, you can do something to feed yourselves.

Cue Pam Warhurst. Please watch this. An ordinary woman with extraordinary drive.

This woman had a vision that she had the guts to put into practice. It’s now a global phenomenon and with your help, by sharing the video, it will continue to be.

And last but not least, here is the video of a man who should be knighted. Allan Savory is a Zimbabwean biologist and environmentalist who has shown that the simplest of ideas are the ones that get the best results. This is due to the fact that it works with nature not against it. Again, please watch it and pass it on. Everyone should know and then the world can make an informed choice about what is right and what is not.

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Mine’s a G & T!

I thought I would say a few words about alcohol. Most of us like a drink but is it bad for us? Again, there is so much conflicting information!

Twenty years ago, advice was always to do with damage limitation – never to do with any benefits there might be. The trouble with all health information is that it keeps changing! This is partly why I don’t often just accept mainstream health information, preferring to see health against a back-drop of our evolutionary history with a smattering of knowledge about how the body works and a dash of common sense. For all you scientists out there – just remember that we “knew” everything we needed to know about health 100 years ago. And 50 years ago. And 20 years ago. Well – science proved it didn’t it?

I tend to follow the knowledge that never changes. Of course I look at current science too but still only take from it that which does not usually change.

So, alcohol. Is it natural? You betcha! Will it kill us? You betcha! But of course, there are so many factors that will determine whether or not it will kill us.

Have you heard of fatty liver disease? When doctors diagnose this, their first question to the patient will be “do you drink alcohol?” This is because, at one time, alcohol was the only known cause and doctors did not believe their patients if they said they didn’t drink much. More recently they have come up with a sub group (which has rapidly become the main group) – non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This believe it or not, is due to our modern diet and is seen mainly, but not exclusively, in obese people, hence the reason for the increased incidences of FLD. There are other liver diseases caused by over consumption of alcohol and it can cause health issues in other organs too, possibly including some types of cancer.

The purpose of this blog is about alcohol and its effects on us, so I will not labour the point, but a high carbohydrate diet is the usual cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, if a high carbohydrate diet is combined with over indulgence in alcohol, there will be double trouble.

Alcohol in quantity is a poison, as can a lot of other chemicals in the foods and drinks that we consume. Even if the substance is one we need, too much of it may be harmful. The liver and other organs perform the filtration and disposal of these substances to keep the body balanced. This will always be the case in a healthy body, but people who have health problems do have to take care. If the body is constantly being fed the wrong diet – ie. one lacking the proper nutrients in a useable form and in sufficient quantities – it is likely that (in addition to other chemicals for disposal), alcohol will have a quite rapid deleterious effect because the body can’t properly detoxify itself. Unfortunately, ageing plays a part too.

tree waspsWe have forever, used substances to make ourselves feel good. Undoubtedly in our distant past, we would have drunk fermented liquids – accidentally I expect, but natural ferments not only taste good, but would be teeming with health beneficial bacteria (probiotics as we would now call them). Sadly, the alcoholic drinks we have today are often made with just yeast and will usually be finished with preservative chemicals. Other animals are partial to alcohol too as anyone with fruit trees will know. There are always drunken wasps around the fermenting autumn plums in my garden! Some animals use other psychoactive natural drugs and there are some examples here.

 

I think the current guidelines are nonsense. In fact, there is little science to back the “21 units a week for men and 14 for women.” Basically, if you are sick, if you have a bad hangover, if you have to drink every day, you are having too much. These effects mean that your liver can’t keep up with you, leaving alcohol (poison) in your bloodstream which affects the brain, other organs and various bodily functions. A knock-on effect here is that if you drink a lot, your gut bacteria will suffer and the proper digestion of food will be affected – these things long-term lead to poor health.

You know these points but I will go over them again anyway.
Eat something like nuts or cheese with your drinks.
Drink slowly.
Drink water between alcoholic drinks.
Always go to bed on a glass of water after a few drinks.
Beer will contribute to a big belly and fatty liver disease, dry wine and spirits less so.
Don’t drink every day – your liver needs a couple of days off per week.
Don’t drink if you are ill or on medication.
Watch out for the high alcohol content of some wines and choose a lesser one instead.

There is good evidence that some alcohol is good for us and I have no reason to doubt this. (The healthiest alcoholic drinks will be organically produced as they will be free from artificial chemicals.) It is definitely good for our stress levels which in turn, will have benefits for the heart and mental health. Teetotallers often have shorter lives than moderate drinkers. In fact, there are many studies that go even further and say that heavy drinkers live longer than teetotallers too! I can’t comment on that, but I have nursed patients with severe liver disease and it is very unpleasant so I will say, for most of the time, stick to being “moderate”!

BTW – mine’s a G & T!
Gin & Tonic

 

 

 

 

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Real Wellness and How I Came to My Conclusions

I have had a long career as a nurse and it gave me a bit of insight into what is happening to us. It occurred to me years ago, that people were becoming sicker and not healthier despite the government guidelines for health and less people smoking. There were a few questions about health that needed answering. Some of them about what is happening today, but some regarding our evolution.

Dinosaurs and Cavemen

  1. It is likely that our genes have not changed since Paleolithic (Paleo) times, so why do we believe that the diet now advocated as “healthy”, would be better for us than the one we evolved with?
  2. How did we survive with no dieticians and nutritionists/fitness instructors/diet books and the internet?
  3. Did cavemen eat cornflakes or run marathons?
  4. Why are we getting sicker but “living longer”?
  5. Why did my mum always cut out bread and potatoes to lose weight then regain that weight when she resumed eating them?

These are my answers to the above questions:

  1. All animals need protein, fat, vitamins and minerals and (maybe) carbohydrates. A cow’s gut is unique in that it can break down grass and weeds to the very basic building blocks. From this it can then rebuild these blocks to form proteins, fats etc. This process is also why it has to eat all day! Its stomach has four chambers and its intestines are about half the length of a football pitch! We do not have the guts for this vegetarian diet. Our gut is mainly designed for meat eating but nature has ensured the maximum chance for our survival so we are also able to digest some other foods.
  2. Our taste buds and other responses to food eaten, tell us what our digestion can cope with. Are we going to eat grass? No! Are we (on a regular basis) going to eat seeds? No! Are we going to lob a stone at a duck and roast it? Oh yes! (We have been cooking for at least 400,000 years) If you are now wondering why it is that you fancy a cake with your coffee, the reason is simple. In a cake we have combined protein, fat and carbohydrates and our taste buds are totally confused. The fat and protein are detected so they give the green light.
  3. No, our ancestors did not eat corn and run around like mad things – unless it was really essential. Collecting seeds was a labour of necessity not desire 40,000 years ago. This would have been an unnecessary energy expenditure most of the time. Using stealth, skill, team work and short bursts of energy would usually ensure that the family were fed good quality food in the form of wild animals. There would have been little edible vegetation for much of the year.
  4. There are several reasons why the statistics are showing that we are living longer both from Palaeolithic times and from a couple of hundred years ago. Cavemen died from severe injuries and overwhelming infections because there were no doctors. There is little evidence of modern disease until 5-10,000 years ago. Since Victorian times, much has changed, not just our diets. We have better sanitation, cleaner air, better medical care for injuries or infections and importantly for the statistics, less neonatal deaths.
  5. In the mid 1900s, the way to lose weight was to drop bread, cakes, potatoes and sweets. This worked because there was no need for the fat storing hormone insulin to metabolise these carbohydrates. During the 80s, the government intervened with a recommended diet and we all fell for it. The NHS took it as gospel and the word recommended was forgotten. So from this time we have eaten lots of highly processed carbohydrates, less fat and protein – and bingo! We are now a nation of obese diabetics with irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune diseases! Yes I’m being facetious but the point has to be made that we are now sicker than ever, with diseases that were largely unheard of 100 years ago.

So this is where I started. It just made so much sense whereas before I was struggling to put the science behind the advice I was giving as a nurse. Now there is not only the backing of good science but for me, the history of us to give credence to the advice I now give. Natural and unprocessed food that has been produced the way it should be and a life, living as close to nature as is possible.

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Butter

Well this is the evil substance from hell isn’t it? The diet “authorities” tell us that it clogs our arteries, increases our cholesterol and makes us fat as it is very high in calories. But this is simply not relevant or not true, as surfacing research is starting to show.

 

Quite apart from the valuable nutrients that it contains – fatty acids, vitamins A, D, E and K2 – butter (and other animal fats) contribute to the correct workings of the body – the formation of hormones, strengthening the immune system, the lining of cells, the absorption and proper usage of other nutrients. There is more too – it tastes wonderful! The deeper the colour, the more vitamin rich it will be.

Butter and other animal fats do not “clog” our arteries. Our body temperature ensures that it becomes liquid on ingestion and the digestion process breaks it down to an absorbable and completely harmless form for use in the body. An emulsion is created for ease of absorption. This is achieved by enzyme and bile activity in the gut which acts a bit like adding washing-up liquid to warm water and greasy plates! Incidentally, the gall bladder is kept healthy by frequent ingestion of animal fats. If it is being emptied of the stored bile on a regular basis, there is less likelihood of stone formation – a very painful condition often requiring surgery.

“It increases our cholesterol.” Well, yes it does. It helps to even up the balance of high and low-density lipoproteins (good and bad cholesterol) by increasing the good stuff. The subject of cholesterol is massive but to keep it simple for now, it is your diet and lifestylethat are imperative to healthy life and if you concentrate on this, cholesterol will not be injurious, so just forget about it.

“It is high in calories and makes us fat.” It is indeed high in calories. But as usual, the relevance of this statement is dependent upon a piece of pre-conceived misinformation and that is that the “calories in versus calories out” determines our weight – which is completely misleading. When a high carbohydrate diet is consumed (as advised by nutritionists and dieticians), calories will count but reducing calories – as in a typical slimming diet, valuable nutrients are also reduced. When the diet taken is the one that we are uniquely equipped to benefit from – our evolutionary diet (which involved lots of animal fat), calories cease to have a meaning.

When did you last hear of a wild animal consulting an authority on what, when, and how much to eat?

Further reading about butter is found here.
For advice about our evolutionary diet, come and see me!

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