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Lifestyle: We didn’t evolve to live like this

14 Nov 2019

We are involved in a mass experiment in changed living … what would our ancestors think about our current lifestyle?

Do you spend time in front of a TV, phone or computer screen? Are you inside for long periods of time? Do you eat lots of bread, potatoes, rice or pasta?

Do you really think we were designed for our current diet or lifestyle?

We were not.

Have you ever thought that you would like more hours in the day to do everything you wanted to do and found the need to sleep getting in the way? “I wish I didn’t need to sleep”, came from my daughter the other day as it meant putting down her book!

Jamie Scott and Karen Faisandier are two New Zealanders involved in an organisation called the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand and John McCrone wrote up their message in a great 2018 Stuff article.

According to Scott and Faisandier the secrets to wellness are well known but social pressure and bad habits are hard to break. Wellness is relatively simple, but not easy to implement. Like a lot of things in life.

To refresh ourselves – the secrets to wellness include:

  • Diet – quality protein and five seasonal vegetables a day with a limit on the easy/cheap carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta
  • Exercise – everyone needs some challenging exercise every week and strength is important to develop as well as cardio
  • Sleep – quality sleep of the right amount is critical - avoid bright or blue lights in the hours before bedtime, likewise, avoid too much food or alcohol in the evenings
  • Relationships – we are a social animal and need the friendship and company of others

There shouldn’t be anything new there. I can’t see anything in the literature that would disagree with that summary. But the modern lifestyle makes it hard to comply.

Take the fad of veganism or vegetarianism. It is popular amongst the young because of an interest in animal rights and environmentalism, according to Scott. But it can turn into a regime of packet noodles and other junk carbohydrates, says Scott.

I myself turned into a vegetarian for the same reasons in 1970, but it didn’t last because I knew I wasn’t getting a balanced diet.

Faisandier is a medical GP and her experience with the medical model is that it is very good at managing critical illness but poor at helping the lingering illnesses that grind away in the background. The things we know aren’t quite right, but we soldier on with them.

Faisandier reported that new science has the gut microbiome talking directly with the brain via the vagus nerve so when the bowels are not being properly looked after the brain is affected which “changes the game for clinical psychology”.

Diet is one of the pro-active things that a depressed person should be paying attention to before taking up anti-depressants … along with exercise, sleep and relationships!

The problem, according to Faisandier and Scott, is supporting people to make the changes they know would improve their outcomes and who currently only have the hamstrung medical profession to turn to.

The group motivated to make changes to their lifestyle will have it better than the unmotivated but everyone pays for the huge medical establishment supporting poor lifestyle choices. It behoves us all to support a new paradigm that encourages and supports lifestyle changes in society.

Faisandier talks about a new model of delivering this essential health care, one that might include clinics and personal trainers and discussion groups in the workplace and within social groups like churches and clubs.

‘Holistic health’ delivered daily and supported by the workplace, schools, government, family, social media and friends is likely to be the way to go.

Keep asking great questions …

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