Home » Stress/Cortisol » Recent Articles:

PTSD – Love – Dog Bless You

As Frankl says – Love is the cure and nothing loves us like a dog
 
More here

More on Trust and Betrayal – Dr Jonathan Shay

“The need for trust, Dr. Shay argues, comes from human prehistory. Without claws, wings or other natural weapons, human ancestors survived by watching one another’s backs. As a result, Dr. Shay argues, the need for trust is part of human biology. Trust makes us feel safe; feeling safe is good for our mental and physical health.”

Our industrial world seems to work against trust. Marketing tends to be manipulation and much of management is as well.

Here is the text of a piece by David Berreby in the New York Times – That sums up Shay’s views – that PTSD is usually the product of a betrayal of Trust. That it is not confined to war and combat. That rape and abuse is an example of the betrayal. Trust is most betrayed when authority is discovered to be in it for itself. Sums up most of corporate and political leadership today and often the power in families too.

Shay reminds us that the way home cannot be limited to the use of drugs but demands the restoration of trust itself. That can usually only come from interaction with peers. And so his work with Veterans mirrors the work of AA.

There can be no medication to restore you – only your work with others like you.

… Continue Reading

Your mind and your health – Part 3 – How do we change deep rooted thoughts/habits?

So how do we change? Is it as simple as knowing what is true? Not for deep change. I can hear you even from here. “But I can’t change my habits” or “Just telling me to think differently is not enough” You are correct. There is nothing harder to do than to think differently.

Alcoholics rarely stop drinking because they know their drinking is killing them. They rarely give up because their families beg them to stop. They can only stop when THEY decide to. And then only usually with a special kind of help. Here is the problem exposed and the beginning of the way home giving by my pal Alan Deutschman – author of Change or Die.

Deep real change in how we think and so our reality comes from a special process. In summary, it has to start with an act of will. Each of us has to want to change. We cannot be half hearted. So for many, we have to reach a desperate place.

Once we have made the decision to act we need something different from the expert. AA is the embodiment of the process. Here is how Alan Deutschman has summed the process up in his book Change or Die which I have found to the be the best resource for understanding this kind of change.

Reframe
Repeat
Relate – and the greatest of these is Relate

THE FIRST KEY TO CHANGE

Relate

You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. If you face a situation that a reasonable person would consider “hopeless,” you need the influence of seemingly “unreasonable” people to restore your hope–to make you believe that you can change andexpect that you will change. This is an act of persuasion–really, it’s “selling.” The leader or community has to sell you on yourself and make you believe you have the ability to change. They have to sell you on themselves as your partners, mentors, role models, or sources of new knowledge. And they have to sell you on the specific methods or strategies that they employ.

THE SECOND KEY TO CHANGE

Repeat

The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you’ll need. It takes a lot of repetition over time before new patterns of behavior become automatic and seem natural–until you act the new way without even thinking about it. It helps tremendously to have a good teacher, coach, or mentor to give you guidance, encouragement, and direction along the way. Change doesn’t involve just “selling”; it requires “training.”

THE THIRD KEY TO CHANGE

Reframe

The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn’t have made any sense before you changed.

These are the three keys to change: relate, repeat, and reframe. New hope, new skills, and new thinking.

This may sound simple at first, but let me assure you that it’s not. The people who run the health care establishment still don’t understand these concepts. Nor do the people who run the criminal justice system. Nor do most of the people who run America’s major corporations.

Tomorrow we will explore how Dr Jonathan Shay uses these principles to help veterans cope withy severe PTSD. On Friday we will look at how AA works and then imagine how we might use social media to help us all.

Your Mind and Your Health Part 2 – The Power of Neuroplasticity

This is the conventional picture of the brain – a thing with discrete compartments – a thinking machine. This idea of the brain – which is also how most of us “see” the body and so organize medicine is wrong.

Our brains and our bodies are not machines made up of parts but are instead complex organisms that interact both internally and externally. Every part of us is interacting in complex ways.

This dynamic and complex interactive system – that is us – includes even our thoughts and how they interact with the structure of our brain. How we think and what we think shapes our brain so it shapes our view of reality. It therefore governs much of our health. For recall, our social status and how much power and control, we have has a major influence on our health.

Many of us have little control, or power or status in the industrial culture we inhabit  today. A reason why so many of us are ill or depressed. In this post we can see the mechanism that will enable us to think differently about this predicament and so heal. Remember Viktor Frankl knew that his captors could kill him like a fly. That they could torture him at will. But he also knew that they could never kill his spirit. In this, he had control and power and this knowledge enabled him to endure the unendurable and live.

In this post we will see how this process works. It is not new age mumbo jumbo but is rooted in science and our biology. Any of us can embark on work that can literally reinvent us and the world that we live in. The process is called Neuroplasticity. It is based on how the brain is shaped by thought. Here is a quick video introduction that showcases the work of Dr Norman Doidge.

Here is a link to a full length film on the topic that explores this in more detail.

In later posts this week we will look at what we can do to enable this process – what is remarkable about the process is how social it is. We will look at Alcoholism and AA and at PTSD and the military to see the framework. We will then look at the work of Alan Deutschman the author of Change or Die – the book that In find the most heplful resource

Your Mind & Your Health – Part 1 – If you cannot change the world – you can change how you think about it

Most of us understand that if we eat better (whatever better means) and if we are more active, our health will improve. But few of us know that if we use our mind “better” that this too will help us be well. This week I will post daily about why this is so and then what we can do to make it so. Today is the why.

Viktor Frankl had refused to leave Germany even though he had a visa because he could not leave his family behind. So he found himself in a cattle car on his way to the camps. He had no idea what it would be like but he knew that it would not be good. So he set himself an experiment. He would evaluate what gave people the best chance of surviving. Would it be their physical or mental state? Would the young and the fit have the edge or would those that could not allow this terrible place to get to them too much. The answer was resoundingly in favour of those that could use their mind to stop them from giving up. In particular those who could still hear the birdsong and those that still had a sense of meaning in their lives. The book to be written – the desire to see their family once again – even being a selfless helper to others.

“On my fourth day in the sick quarters I had just been detailed to the night shift when the chief doctor rushed in and asked me to volunteer for medical duties in another camp containing typhus patients. Against the urgent advice of my friends (and despite the fact that almost none of my colleagues offered their services), I decided to volunteer. I knew that in a working party I would die in a short time. But if I had to die there might at least be some sense in my death. I thought that it would doubtless be more to the purpose to try and help my comrades as a doctor than to vegetate or finally lose my life as the unproductive laborer that I was then.” p. 69.

How we think and how we therefore react to our environment is a critically important aspect of our health. Epic tales of survival reinforce this truth – such as Shackleton’s Antarctic adventure or the 47 days of floating in a life raft in the shark infested Pacific by Louie Zamperini.

Sir Michael Marmot’s work shows us that low social status and lack of power and control have a huge impact on our immune system and so health. Robert Sapolsky shows us the mechanism for how this works. But we are not condemned by our social environment or our predicament. In many cases we cannot change it. Frankl could not and if you have to work in a large bureaucracy – you cannot either.

But we can take charge of how we think about who and where we are. For how and what we think carves neuron pathways in our brains. If you feel helpless, then these feelings will increase and deepen. So you will be stressed all the time. With constant stress, cortisol will weaken your immune system.

Tomorrow we start with the how but I leave you with 3 small pieces from Frankl. The first is his epiphany in the camp. The second a short video where he shows us how to “see” others. Lastly he talks about where we can find meaning.

… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way  – an honorable way  – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory….”[2]

And now – how to love even the worst person:

And where can we find meaning?

Power & Control – Going Home to our Paleo Selves

 

Lack of power and control and low social status is a major factor in making us ill. So if we cannot change the system, how can we get more power, control and social status?

This week we will look at how we might do this.

These posts will all be about each of us as individuals. For the revolution starts with each one of us and not out there. On Monday we will look at the most extreme example – how Viktor Frankl kept his power in the death camps. For he could not change his world he could only control how he reacted to it.

“I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. ‘Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.‘” pp. 56-58.

We today are also confronted by a culture that can overwhelm us and is bad for us. It has taken us away for being human. For the centre of the Industrial Culture is “Work” and “Industry”. We ask each other – “What do you do? We tend to answer by giving our work role – “I’m an engineer” or “I work for Bell”. We almost never say “I like to garden” or I am a dad. The Question “How are you?” is usually answered with “I’m so busy!”

Work not life is what our culture is all about.

From our earliest years we are taught that paid work is the centre of life. We have to work hard at school so that we can get paid work. We have to focus at school – because we have to give the right answers to the set questions. If we do get paid work, we have to focus all the time. For it is focus on the expected results that is the way – isn’t it? We have to try and balance work and family and usually work wins. if we dont have good work and pay, we are also doomed as failures. So we cannot win.

Our industrial culture means that every other part of life than work and industry is secondary. By giving up the rest of ourselves and our world to this meme we have to get stressed because we know we are missing out on important parts of ourselves. We have next to no power or control.

So how do we get our power back?

Do we have to take to the streets? Maybe. But even then we have no power or control.

The irony is that power and control and social status does not come from outside but inside. Like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz – the way home is always in our control – all we have to do is to ask.

Here then is a simple tool that asks you the right questions – it’s a great start:

Do you have questions and or answers on how best to live the Paleo Way?

Finding out how best to live in a way more attuned to our Paleo past is not a well established protocol yet. How do we give up sugar if we are addicted? What is the best form of activity to take? Where does alcohol fit?

What we need is a Hacker Community to share our questions and advice. The good news is that such a site is here.

Health – Mortality is the wrong place to look now – Look at “Disability”

Most of our health statistics still focus on mortality. This is a left over of the time when infectious disease was what concerned us the most. Infection kills quickly. It was the correct focus to have when this was the battleground.

But today infection has largely been pushed into the corner and we face instead long term chronic illness that takes years to kill but that can and does disable us – making it impossible to work or even look after ourselves. On PEI the average man becomes disabled by 65 and lives for 9.6 years in this state. This is where the real costs are to be found. Costs to each of us as we are unable to earn or cope with daily life. And costs to us as a society – for medicine can only keep us ticking over.

This group do die at the latest in their 70’s. Leaving another group the Very Old who have been fit and active all their lives. Why is another question for later. But this group too reach a stage when they too become disabled and this is where the costs and the burden mount. For their families and for the state. Until now there have been so few of these that we could afford to shelter them in institutions. But with so many that will live well into their 90’s in the pipeline – we will not be able to afford this.

Ironically, the worst thing we can do for people like this is to institutionalize them. Their health collapses when they have all control and role taken away. But as I am finding with my own mother, medicine can keep us ticking over for decades.

CIBC and VAC have worked for over 15 years on reducing the load on their medical systems.

Together they offer a useful model for how any population might look at its own load issues. Load being defined here as the impact of those people that become disabled by illness and live a long time. For the most important cost drivers in any health system are not mortality or morbidity but disability. It is disability and not acute illness that drives the costs. Once we understand this term, many options open up for us to reduce costs and increase care.

  • Disability Load = incidence X duration of reduced capacity.
  • Disability rate – has to be addressed though policy, better support for wellness activity, working conditions etc.
  • Reduced capacity – person perceives that they cannot fulfill their full function.  More likely to seek medical care and as a result drive other benefit costs.

The total population contains two Disability risk segments. The “Young” aged up 65  and the “Very Old” aged 75 – 110.

The Young increasingly develop chronic illness such as Type 2 Diabetes. This segment becomes progressively more ill until they are disabled and require both ongoing treatment and social support sometimes for decades. We call these diseases, the Diseases of Modern Civilization

Diabetes drives many other conditions including cardiovascular disease. On PEI adults in 2006 with diabetes had to be hospitalized much more often than those without it. 16 times more often for lower limb amputations. 6 times more often with kidney disease. They had 5 times more heart attacks. 4 times more heart failure. 3 times more strokes. They stayed 3 times longer in hospital. Had 2 times more visits to physicians and 2 times more to specialists

Most diabetics don’t just take one medication, but several. A typical regimen for an adult diabetic after a couple of years of treatment and following the dietary advice of the American Diabetes Association includes Metformin, Januvia, and Actos, a triple-drug treatment that costs around $420 per month. Two forms of insulin (slow- and fast-acting), along with two or three oral medications, is not at all uncommon

The real societal problem is not that we die of these diseases but that we that suffer from them. All or concerns in the past have been mortality. But with this large and growing group of people, the issue becomes not mortality but care.

Diet is at the core of this epidemic. Most of the information related to diet today is at least misleading or even wrong. A new understanding of our evolutionary past shows that grains, the core of the recommended diet, are in fact the pathway to insulin resistance and so to this family of diseases.

Social Status and Managerial Culture then act as an amplifier on vulnerable people. Those in organizations with the least amount of control will have a mortality rate 4 times greater than executives with more control and status.

The breakthrough then in costs and care are that diet and issues of managerial culture can be positively affected by social intervention.

The issue of control and social status is the vector for Load in the very old as well. Social Intervention works best here as well.

The  “Very Old” aged from 75 – 110. This group has usually avoided the chronic illness and has remained well and independent until they become too frail to live on their own. But if they are institutionalized, they tend to lose their health and then can also live for many years.

Currently we just treat these groups medically. CIBC and VAC treat them socially to great effect. They can prevent, reverse and mediate the illness. I will offer up 2 case studies to show you how.

CIBC – the under 65 set

VAC – the over 75 set

Is there a better model out there for better health outcomes that uses the health care system less? Yes there is!

How do you take Marmot’s information about how social status affects our health and use it to make a positive difference in the workplace? This is how you can.

When I left CIBC, one of Canada’s largest banks, 17 years ago the most prescribed drug in the plan was Prozac – an anti depressant. The bulk of the staff were women in clerical roles – at the bottom of the hierarchy with the least amount of control. Why were they so depressed and what did this mean? Our healthcare costs were exploding. The plan cost $200 million then and our projections showed that it would cost $500 million in ten years. Why was this? After all working at the bank did not expose workers to a risky or dangerous workplace.

What Dr David Brown and our team discovered was that everything that Dr Marmot had predicted  The bank’s highly bureaucratic culture – very top down and controlling towards those at the bottom such as the fron line female staff – was creating waves of debilitating disability. You see this in any organization where the work is tightly controlled – why teachers are now so stressed. The social stress in the workplace was driving the incidence of disability. (BTW do you see the link back to the family too? – lack of “Voice” and too much control set up social stress and so too much cortisol)

Until then, we, at CIBC, like everyone else had treated this resulting illness by using the medical system. We had intervened to great the symptoms of the illness and disability. We found the key stressor that drive the cortisol and then the breakdown in health and the incidence of disability.

For David Brown’s historic achievement was to look upstream from the disability itself and look at the social and cultural drivers that caused it. In short, it was stress – social stress caused by the overall culture and made worse by some managers in particular – that set the staff up to become ill. David’s great work was to find ways of identifying the hotspots early and intervening socially to mediate the cultural tension. The results have been amazing.

My sense is that this model can be replicated in any health system. Here below the fold is what we did.

… Continue Reading

When you are 85 – Don’t go to a “Home”

In 2036 PEI will have 12,000 people, mainly women, over the age of 85. It costs about $50,000 a year to look after one person in a manor. That is $600,00,000 a year based on current costs. Who knows what this will be in 2036 dollars? Will we not have to think of another way as we all get older? The good news is that we have.

Marmot’s insight into the power of social status on our health is proved also when we get so old as to lose our place in the family and society. As we reach 85, if we do, we become more frail. Many families encourage their elderly parents into an institution. My own mother is one.  But we are finding that this loss of identity drives a collapse in ability and health. With no control and no role, who are we?

Veterans Affairs Canada has had more experience in this field than any other institution in Canada. They have been supporting the families of the WWI and now WWII and Korean conflicts. What they have found is that supporting people to stay in their homes is the best way to keep them well.

… Continue Reading

If you see one lecture on diet – please let it be this one – Dr Mary Vernon

No one I have found so far explains how our metabolism works better than Dr Vernon – a GP who could not help any of her diabetic patients get well by following the “rules”. Who then became an expert in the metabolism and a leader in the bariatric field. Who now as a matter of routine and WITHOUT drugs – helps her patients (the most at risk) get well. The issue is “fuel” and how each food type is used by our metabolism.

She is disarming, self deprecating, funny and expert all in one. She has worked all of this out in the trenches of looking after people like you and me. She is not selling anything either. She wants you to be well. Here is a link to her key lecture – by starting the first video – the player loads the next 5 seamlessly. If you look below – all the slides are there too.

Here is part 1

Presentation by Dr. Mary Vernon at KU Medical Center

The most important Social and Physical Environment to get right – The Family

Michael Rose is clear – the closer we can live in environments that we have evolved to thrive in, the better off we will be. No environment has more of an effect on our well being than our family.

For we are not birds with most of our behaviours wired into us. We are moulded by the culture of our family. Our identity – how we see ourselves – how we understand how the world works and how we fit into it – how we will parent – how we will learn – how we will react to events – and our health – is largely set by the social and physical experience we have from inception to the age of 3.

Let me show you the power of this statement. This slide is taken from the work of Dr Doug Willms – the leading scientist in the field of culture and child development.

Here we see two trajectories. One of a child who can understand 150 words aged 2 and the other who can understand 300 words. It looks like a small difference. But it isn’t. The child that can understand 300 words is set on a trajectory of learning. By grade 10, they will operate at a 2 year university level. The child that understands 150 words is set on a very limited trajectory. They will stall at grade 10 at a grade 5 level. What has happened?

What has happened is that the 300 word children have been raised in a social environment that is close to the ideal for all human infants. There is a very high level of touch and affection. It is highly likely that the baby is breast fed – not only offering the ideal food but also the touch that all primates need to develop. The child is listened too. Parents respond. The child is cared for physically – fed, washed etc but as importantly is cared for emotionally. The child is given space but also boundaries. The child is allowed to discover the world about it but within safe bounds. She is not confined all the time. The child is exposed to lots of conversation. (Hart and Risely) By 4 the child on the better trajectory will have heard about 50 million words. This wires the neurons for language and so expression and the comprehension of complex thoughts. The baby is being cared for as we are designed to care for our children.

So what then about the other baby? This baby lives more in an instrumental world. It has much lower levels of touch. It is likely bottle fed. It tends to be confined much more and not allowed to explore. It is talked too or at. It is not listened to. It hears very few words. By 4 often only 10 million – a 40 million word difference – so the brain is wired largely for immediate and instrumental thinking. It can never catch up.

What happens to these two children that sets them on this course.

Here we come back to stress and Cortisol. All primates endure social stress. They worry about how they fit. Who is in and who is out. Who is rising and falling.

When we have these feelings – Cortisol kicks in. Primates reduce their Cortisol by Grooming. Babies that don’t get enough touch can die. Babies that get not enough touch tend to have much more Cortisol in the system for longer periods. They tend to react to events in a more stressed way and so wire not to be able to cope well with challenge. The floods of cortisol also work to damage their system.  Babies that get a lot of touchfeel safe and have a much greater resiliency. They also have much less cortisol around to threaten their system.

Robin Dunbar then makes the key assertion that humans developed language as a means of making grooming more efficient. Gossip or Conversation enables us to groom at a distance and while using our hands for work. It enables us to groom in groups. The essence of conversation or gossip is that it is a two way exchange as is physical grooming. So when a father has his son on his lap and is exploring the room with him or his body “Look Alfie here are your toes” he has taken his power down from God to equal. When Alfie’s mum reads to him aged 3 months this is not a waste of time. This is grooming.

But when a child only hears orders and in a order tone – he is not being groomed – he is being hit. His response? Cortisol. When a child is ignored – he is abandoned. His response Cortisol.

Just as Insulin is the marker for a poor diet, so Cortisol is the marker for poor social development. Dr Megan Gunnar is exploring this now.

Not the ideal parenting has become our norm today. It is largely a middle class issue.

Why?

I think that the answer is to be found in the larger culture of the industrial world we live in. It robs us of time and attention and energy. It is why we feed our kids and ourselves the wrong food. It is why we do not have the energy and the will to raise our children in the best way.

I don’t think that the way home to a better family is to be found in techniques – though knowing what I have put down here may help. I think, as with the food issue, the way home is to be found is to find a new life outside the bounds of the industrial economy. Now that so may of us are being expelled from it any way – there are millions of us around now that are being forced to think our lives anew.

Most of my posts about the “Fix” will focus on how we might  best do that. But before we go there, one last post about the nature of the industrial workplace that will show you how toxic it is and how all the issues of Stress and Cortisol apply there. For it is the family on steroids.

Your Social Status and your Health – Why our industrial culture is killing us

America spends far more than any other nation in the world on healthcare and yet has the health outcomes of a nation like Cuba. What is going on?

Why might this be?

If you live in Louisiana you are much more likely to be ill and die young than if you live in one of the poorest states in the union Vermont. Why is this?

The quick answer is that Some nations and some states have a better social environment than others and it is this factor that has such an influence on our health.

What is “better”? Better is a better fit with the social environment that we evolved to thrive in for millions of years before agriculture.

In Vermont there is much more Social Capital than say in Louisiana. There is much stronger community. There is a smaller gap between rich and poor. (Robert Putnam is the key researcher into this field of how Social Capital affects many outcomes – crime – learning are also affected by the relative amount of social capital. And this by the overall culture. LA has a very traditional authoritarian culture of the Big Man and the dependents – Vermont is much more Yankee with strong feelings of community of mutual help and self sufficiency. So even though Vermont is poor, there is a much greater feeling of being in control and valued. Vermont could make it without the Union, Louisiana could not.

The social culture is the key. We do less well in social cultures that are top down and authoritarian than we do in cultures that fit more closely our tribal heritage of a community model. We need to have a voice and we need to be known and valued. We need to have a real role. When we have none of these factors we live in a culture that does not fit and we get ill.

Social Status is a factor in states as well. Look at the death rates in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. What happened? What happened was that the fall in National Status affected men who also felt their own status in the world fall. We see the opposite in countries like Poland whose felt that their control and status improved when they became free.

See where we are going? So let’s look at the mechanism.

This slide shows this issue of status and control more clearly. (From the Whitehall Study here is a link that will take you deep into the issues and the work ) still going on under the supervision of DR Michael Marmot. It shows deaths in the UK civil service from Heart Disease ranked by rank in the organization. The folks on the left labeled “Administrative” are the seniors executives – the A Personality Types. Those on the far right are the folks at the bottom of the pile. (More here)

Those at the bottom have a 4 times greater chance of dying early than the hard driving folks on the left. But their conventional risk factors are not 4 times worse. What is going on that makes them so much less healthy?

The answer is that this group have the least amount of control and the least amount of status. This drives a constant stress load. This is in turn releases the hormone Cortisol into the body – the hormone that enables you to shut down all your systems not needed to out run the lion. You want cortisol in a real crisis. But not as a constant. As a contant, Cortisol attacks your body and your immune system.

Here is Dr Robert Saplosky explaining this in summary and here he is explaining this in depth.

So just as the modern world has pulled us away from our ideal diet, so it pulls us away from our ideal social setting. Just as the industrial diet now is everywhere, so the industrial culture is too.

As a result, the gap between the haves and the have nots is more extreme than ever. Even well off functionaries in the system serve at the pleasure of the big man. Nearly all of us have lost control and status. This widening gap will have a huge impact on health in America.

We depend on the system for everything and most of us have no idea of what it may be like to be self sufficient. For true esteem comes not from freely given praise but from earned respect.

So I think that the way home to a culture that fits us best and that will give us our best health is not to be found in overthrowing the system. It comes from remembering the successful strategies of those that over threw the great powers such as Gandhi in India and Havel in the Czech Republic. They won by creating a better alternative to the super power.

Freedom, real status and real control is something that we earn for ourselves. It is in our own power to find. That is why in later posts we will look at how we can do this in our own work.

But next, we have to look at the central social organization that we all rely on and that shapes us all. We will look at the Family and find out that it too has exactly the same dynamics and forces as the state and the nation.

Here is a short introductory video … Continue Reading

The importance of your social world to your health #1 The Context

Michael Rose is clear – the closer we are to our evolved environment, the healthier we will be. We have explored our diet and our activity. Now it is time to investigate our social environment.

We are primates and intensely social. Our place in our social world has a major impact on our health. People who have little control and status have 4 x more chance of dying early of Heart Disease than those with high control and high status. Why is this? And what can we do to improve our chances? Source: The Whitehall Study

This post is the first of a series that will explore this part of working to find the best fit possible to our evolved social design.

We will look at first at the work of Sir Michael Marmot who is the world’s leading expert in the field of social status and health. We will see that there are steep gradients of health based on status both between nations and inside nations and even inside organizations. These gradients are all a function of our reaction to how we see ourselves – do we have power and control and status or not.

We will then look at the work of Dr Robert Sapolsky who is the world’s leading expert on stress in primates. Here we can see the mechanism that converts poor feelings of self worth and roles and status directly into damage to our immune system. Just as Insulin is the key to diet, Cortisol is the key here. In prey animals such as a Zebra, they only stress and produce Cortisol, when the Lion is hunting. But social animals like baboons worry all the time about their place in the troop. For humans this worry can be worse. For we can use our conscious mind to worry abut things that happened in the past and that might happen in the future. We can have large amounts of cortisol in our system all the time.

We will then look at the work of Dr Doug Willms who has been looking at the impact of family culture on infants. For many kids today are raised in a social environment that is not warm and supportive. By 2, their world view of who they are and what the world is like is set. They are in effect wired. Resilient kids can cope with anything. Kids who are not cannot. Cortisol is again the marker. In summary very authoritarian and instrumental parents tend to shut their kids down. Very permissive parents tend to make their kids feel unsafe.  Kids do best when they are heard and when the boundaries are clear.

This then leads to how this is expressed in the workplace. Here Dr’s  David Brown and Andrew Clark have done breakthrough work on the Managerial Hierarchy. What Willms found in the family culture applies to the workplace too.

With this explained more completely as context, I will explore with you how best to take this matter into your own hands. We cannot change how the world works today on our own, but as with diet, we can chose to act differently in it and we may be forced to do that anyway. Here are some hints about where we might go with this:

  • Millions of us now are Freelancers – some by choice many not. Is this a bad thing? Or is it really the future and is this a return to being who are are designed to be a Hunter Gatherer? What is it about this life and its social aspect that is close to our evolved past – Tribal patterns etc
  • Millions of us are Boomers with maybe 20 – 40 years of life ahead and no financial security. Can we continue to live as separate beings or will we have to find a new social world to help us through? If we cannot live with our blood family what tribes can we form?
  • Can we repair the damage done to us in our earlier lives? Can find find more resilience by changing some key habits and responses? We will look at Neuro Plasticity and how this insight can help us rewire our minds and get power over our traditional responses.
  • We will look at the powerful and positive forces found in social networks – where we can find our place, a role, love and reputation. Where we can give as well as receive.
  • We can look at the food system itself. For I think that it is our relationship to food that is what controls our culture. Can we make a shift from a view of us dominating nature to one where we work with nature?

Irony – Living in Cities is now environmentally more healthy than the country – #activity

This image shows a shift in lifespan. Back in the day living in the city such as New York was bad for your health and lifespan. Today people in New York live linger and healthier lives. Why?

This article suggests that once the crime issues had been addressed in the 1990’s, that it was the basic design of the city that has made the difference. Above all people are more active in New York – they don’t drive everywhere – mainly they walk. So we see the activity issue in play again – for in rural areas, we all get into the car for any reason. New York has 2 out of the 3 areas of Evolutionary Fit all there by design. Rural areas have none of them. You have to work hard in the rural areas to find this fit – odd isn’t it. Here are the details..

The new reality was that living in the suburbs and the country was the killer. In January 2005, Vlahov and his colleagues penned a manifesto they cleverly called “The Urban Health ‘Advantage,’ ” and published it in the Journal of Urban Health. Cities, they posited, were now the healthiest places of all, because their environment conferred subtle advantages—and guided its citizens, often quite unconsciously, to adopt healthier behaviors.

Three years ago, Lawrence Frank, a professor of urban planning at the University of British Columbia, set out to measure this effect, examining 10,858 people in Atlanta and the type of neighborhood they lived in. Some were in purely residential suburban neighborhoods, where you had to get in your car to buy a carton of milk; others lived in “mixed” downtown areas with shops within walking distance. When he checked the results, the health difference was shockingly large: A white man who lived in a more urban, mixed-use area was fully ten pounds lighter than a demographically identical guy who lived in a sprawling suburb.

“The more you drive, the more you weigh,” Frank tells me after I call him to talk about it. He was unsurprised when I described New York’s increases in life expectancy. “You put people in an environment where public transportation is rational and driving is almost impossible, and it would be shocking not to see this outcome,” he says. Other scientists suggest that New York’s benefits do not occur merely because the city is walkable. It’s also because New York is old and filled with attractive architecture and interesting street scenes—since, as it turns out, aesthetically pretty places lure people out of their homes and cars. A 2002 study by the National Institutes of Health found that people living in buildings built before 1973 were significantly more likely to walk one-mile distances than those living in areas with newer architecture—because their environments were less architecturally ugly.

At the same time, New Yorkers are also more likely to visit parks than people who live in sprawl, because the parks are closer at hand. And proximity matters, as a study by Deborah Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the rand Corporation, discovered. When she examined the use of several parks in Los Angeles, she found that almost half the people using any given park lived no more than a quarter-mile away. In contrast, only 13 percent of the people using the park had come from more than a mile away. “The farther you are, the less willing you are to go to the park,” she notes.

Interestingly, urban theorists believe it is not just the tightly packed nature of the city but also its social and economic density that has life-giving properties. When you’re jammed, sardinelike, up against your neighbors, it’s not hard to find a community of people who support you—friends or ethnic peers—and this strongly correlates with better health and a longer life. Then there are economies of scale: A big city has bigger hospitals that can afford better equipment—the future of medicine arrives here first. We also tend to enjoy healthier food options, since demanding foodies (vegetarians and the like) are aggregated in one place, making it a mecca for farm-fresh produce and top-quality fish, chicken, and beef. There’s also a richer cultural scene than in a small town, which helps keep people out and about and thus mentally stimulated.

Here is a link to a pdf by David Vlahov on the “Urban Health Advantage that inspired this article and this further research.

So we see here the full irony – a big city like New York offers us at least 2 out the the 3 major areas of “Fit”

  1. By design it promotes activity
  2. It offers the best chance of finding your valued tribal role in a community that cares for you – Seinfeld!

So if you then eat real food – you have the trifecta! And  a place like New York offers better food too – like a magnet..

We also tend to enjoy healthier food options, since demanding foodies (vegetarians and the like) are aggregated in one place, making it a mecca for farm-fresh produce and top-quality fish, chicken, and beef.

The Big Picture – don’t Eat Industrial Food

 

From Hunter Gatherer

We have been shaped by Evolution to fit an environment – the more we shape our diet, our view of where we fit socially and our fit with nature and our nature – the healthier we will be – by Design!

A key point though is that theses environmental forces take a long time. We cannot adapt well to total novelty as we find in modern food.

Depression – Your Character or a Biological Problem

As we learn more about the brain, we can start to understand the very nature of depression. Dr Sapolsky is the leading researcher into the stress pathways. In this important lecture, he gives a master class on why some people get depressed. (15% of people and will soon be the #2 cause of disability) He shows the pathway from events to reaction and then how this repeated connection can get hold of a person. I found that his explanation opened up an entirely new understanding for me of this terrible affliction that affects so many of us. He is a master lecturer as well.
Here is the intro video and after the fold the main one.

… Continue Reading

The Missing Human Manual – Our Purpose

I have learned something new that I did not know before. We can prevent the modern illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, type 2 diabetes and dementia. I used to think that these were Normal. That it was my and your destiny to get them as we aged. I now know that this assumption is incorrect.

Normal means “Inevitable” or “Destiny”. For these diseases to be that kind of Normal, they would have to be part of our evolved biology. If they are not that, then they can be prevented. For if they are not part of our evolutionary design, then they can only be a product of how we live. We can do something about how we live. Let me show you what I mean.

It was “Normal” to die of cholera in London in 1850 or of Yellow Fever in Panama in 1900. It was “Normal” for many women to die of infection after giving birth in hospital until 1900. Your family would not think it was Normal for you to catch Cholera in London today. If your wife died of infection after giving birth, you would sue! To die of an infection in not Normal now. But we do think it is Normal to suffer and die from heart disease, cancer, strokes and dementia.

So the question of our time is can we repeat the same kind of breakthrough in science that we did in the 1880’s?

This is what this site is all about.  I am inviting you to become part of the great revolution in health. Where you will be able to take control of your own health. Where you can chose to have a long and vital old age.

Please come with me and find out why I am this excited.

… Continue Reading

Stress – You are not a Zebra but a Primate

January 26, 2011 Stress/Cortisol, Videos 4 Comments

Worry about our social place in the world, what has happened to us in the past and what might happen in the future is a major factor in our health. Understanding this factor is going to be a major element in your health.
… Continue Reading

Contact Form

Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Facebook

Comments

  • robpatrob: Many things that are bad for are are not illegal and are eve...
  • August: This article brings up some health concerns i would like to ...
  • Susan: I wish I had known this information years ago. I am a second...
  • robpatrob: The link in in the post http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work...
  • Thibault: Very interesting blog, especially the link between disabilit...
  • Emma Johnson: Needed this to lighten the mood at the end of the day. Give...
  • RJ Jamieson: The mammary tissue was consumed repleat with raw milk drippi...
  • Anonymous: Your claim about wild fruit isn't 100% true. Read this artic...
  • Art: Staffan has recently passed away. We shall all miss him. Jan...
  • Jackie: This sounds great. But I was hoping that this article might ...
  • Phantom The God: Don't forget Coke damages your teeth and make your bones bri...
  • moon: Wow so many veganazis here... there was a study on 2 men who...
  • Christian DiMaria: This article seems to be exclusively focusing on sugar and c...
  • john: nital your a nitwit plain and simple how you have deluded...
  • Dane: But doesn't fructose take longer to process, thus allowing m...

What is the Missing Human Manual All About?

Do you want to age well? Most of us do. If you are my age, 60, this is more important a question that if you are 30. But most of us would not wish to have heart disease, cancer, dementia when we get old.

Most of us think it is normal that we will get ill like this.

But science today tells us that this is not "Normal". Our evolutionary past designed us to be active and fit until we drop dead. Why? Because raising human children takes so long. Mature adults had to do most of the hard work enable us to invest up to 25 years in our kids.

We are designed by our evolution to reach a plateau of fitness in mid life. So why do most of us not live like this?

We don't because, we have strayed away from the best way of living that fits our evolution best. Our culture has got too far ahead of our biology. We eat foods that make us ill. We have lost our social identity and power and that makes us ill. And we have lost touch with the circadian rhythms of the Natural World, and that has made us ill too.

We have lost our fit with our true nature.

This site will be a Manual. It will show you what the best fit is. It will show you the science behind this. It will share with you some methods for getting your fit back with your true human nature.

So welcome to the "Missing Human Manual" . I hope that we can help you and I hope that you can help others as a result.

Featured Posts

Are humans carnivores?

For decades we have been told that grains and oils from seeds are the healthiest food we can eat. This has proved to be wrong. For decades we have been told to drink fruit juice as a healthy alternative. Now we know that it is as bad for us as …

Dr Jason Fung – On the Science of how we use food and so why fasting works

This is the clearest explanation I have yet found

Terminal Illness – Should we fight to the bitter end? If not what to do?

100 years ago, most deaths were quick. A person was well and then sick and then dead. Medicine could do very little. But today, most of us die long protracted deaths. Treatment is piled upon treatment. The dying person and their families endure increasing pain and humiliation and disappointment. Often …

%d bloggers like this: