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Disability – the cost of modern life

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This chart shows the shift in the nature of disability in America since the early 1960’s. What is hows is that the stress of how we live is crushing millions of people. The images in this post come from an excellent article here.

Back pain is strongly linked to issues of lack of control. It shows itself in a physical way, but its roots are in stress that comes from not having enough control. Depression has the same connection.

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As the job world shrinks, millions are left out of society and so we see the disability grow.

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There are close to 10 million people on disability. There is no “cure” in a medical sense. For the root cause is within the psyche of the person. Medication for you back does not touch this.

The cure will be a different kind of economy. My first book – You Don’t Need a Job – describes what is going on and what I mean by a new kind of economy. I se a trend where many are now taking making a living into their own hands and are starting a life as networked artisans. But for many who are disabled and who will be, I fear for their future. For they have given up. How many million will be in this position in the next 10 years? The current cost to society is $240 billion a year.

Time to look at this and to start a conversation abut what we can do.

Meditation – Looking after our mental health

Jon Kabat Zinn is master in meditation – here is a wonderful video recorded at Google where he offers the basics for all of us

Stress – Everything you want to know

Here are a series of videos that will show you how stress works to affect your health and what you can do to reduce its impact.

Here is the best introduction that I know of to the mechanism of stress as it affects humans. Our stress is social.

Here are 3 videos made of Dr Gabor Mate where he shows us how we humans in particular manifest it.


We tell ourselves stories. It is the meaning of events and not the vents in our lives that affects us. Change the meaning and the stress can go away. His second point is that many of the events that shape our stress patterns take place in early childhood. Mate shows us how many are rooted in events that happen before we are able to recall the memory.

I find his videos compelling – I could see how my own issues worked on me and I cous see what I coud do to reduce their impact. I think you will find the same.

A broad view of much of the best thinking on Ancestral Health

Earlier this month, the Ancestry Foundation hosted the first of what will be many conferences on Health as seen through the perspective of Evolution.

FRIDAY

“Dimensional Mastery: How understanding where we’ve come from gives us valuable insights into where we’re headed” by Matt Wallden

“How to Triple Your HDL” by Jonathan Carey

“Bone Broths: The Missing Link in the Evolution of the Modern Superathlete” by Catherine Shanahan

“The Multifactorial Influence of Chronic Sleep Reduction on Body Weight” by Dan Pardi

“What Does the USDA Really Represent?” by Adele Hite

“Paleo Made Simple: A Template for Avoiding Common Errors When Adopting an Evolution-Based Diet” by Melissa and Dallas Urban

“Does physical activity impact dietary choice in a modern Western population to correspond to hunter-gatherer macronutrient profiles?” by Stephanie Schnorr

SATURDAY

“Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, Healthier Dog Food the ABC Way” by Steve Brown

“Declining Age at Menarche: An Indicator of Declining Public Health” by Meghan Gillette

“How psychological dysfunction arises from disparities between hunter-gatherer and modern lifestyles: A new theoretical and therapeutic model” by John Montgomery

“The Ancestral Classroom” by Steven Platek

“Neuroregulation of Appetite:  Paleo Nutrition Supports Homeostasis of Macronutrients and Energy Balance” by David Pendergras

“Grass Based Health: The Big Picture” by Peter Ballerstedt

“Ancestry: A Re-imagined Approach to Education” by Brian Geremia & Justin Park

“Game Over: Comparing the Childhood Play Style of Modern Western Societies with Hunter-Gatherer Societies” by Anna Floyd

“Foods from Our Past: Reclaiming the Paleo Diet Experience in Latino Communities.” by Armida Ayala, PhD, MHA

More research on why your office is killing you!

Here is part of the post – see the link to Whitehall and to Marmot – for more see these links on this site

We spend a large percentage of our lives at the office, engaged in the drudgery of work. Although we obsess over the medical benefits of various leisure activities – should I do yoga? take long walks? not watch television? — the amount of time we might spend in downward facing dog pose pales in comparison to the amount of time we spend seated in our chair, staring at the computer screen, surrounded by co-workers.

A new study led by Arie Shirom at Tel Aviv University reveals the powerful impact of the workplace on longevity. The researchers tracked 820 adults for twenty years, starting with a routine health examination in 1988. The subjects worked in various professions, from finance to manufacturing to health care. They were interviewed repeatedly about conditions at their workplace, from the behavior of the boss to the niceness of their colleagues. Over the ensuing decades, their health was closely monitored, allowing the scientists to control for various medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, smoking and depression.

The first thing the researchers discovered is that office conditions matter. A lot. In particular, the risk of death seemed to be correlated with the perceived niceness of co-workers, as less friendly colleagues were associated with a higher risk of dying. (What’s troubling is that such workplaces seem incredibly common.) While this correlation might not be surprising – friendly people help reduce stress, and stress is deadly – the magnitude of the “friendly colleague effect” is a bit unsettling: people with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study, especially if they began the study between the ages of 38 and 43. In contrast, the niceness of the boss had little impact on mortality.

What’s driving this effect? Why are caustic co-workers so unhealthy? One interesting factor influencing the correlation between peer social support and mortality was the perception of control. This makes sense: the only thing worse than an office full of assholes is an office full of assholes telling us what to do. Furthermore, this model of workplace stress being driven by the absence of control has plenty of empirical support. The most impressive support comes from the Whitehall study, an exhaustive longitudinal survey launched in 1967 that tracked some 28,000 British men and women working in central London. What makes the study so compelling is its uniformity. Every subject is a British civil servant, a cog in the vast governmental bureaucracy. They all have access to the same health care system, don’t have to worry about getting laid off, and spend most of their workdays shuffling papers.

The British civil service comes with one other feature that makes it ideal for studying the health effects of stress: It’s hierarchical, with a precise classification scheme for ranking employees. This hierarchy comes with dramatic health consequences. After tracking thousands of civil servants for decades, the Whitehall data revealed that between the ages of 40 and 64, workers at the bottom of the hierarchy had a mortality rate four times higher than that of people at the top. Even after accounting for genetic risks and behaviors like smoking and binge drinking, civil servants at the bottom of the pecking order still had nearly double the mortality rate.

Why were people in the lower ranks of Whitehall dying at a younger age? The Whitehall researchers, led by Michael Marmot, eventually concluded that the significant majority of health variation was caused by psychosocial factors, most notably stress. People of lower status in the Whitehall study experienced more negative stress, and this stress was deadly. (To take but one data point: Fully two-thirds of an individual’s risk of stroke was attributable to the person’s socioeconomic status.) However, the Whitehall results aren’t a straightforward analysis of stress, at least not as it’s usually defined. After all, people in leadership positions often describe their jobs as extremely stressful. They work longer hours and have more responsibilities than those at the bottom of the bureaucratic hierarchy. Consider the self-report of Nigel, a high-status administrator: “There were 2,000 people, and I was responsible for all the personnel aspects, contracts, and all the common services … It had every sort of challenge that you could ever wish to meet. A very active job and a lot of stress, but a very enjoyable job, and you got a tremendous amount of satisfaction from doing a good job.”

The traditional top down machine culture is now being seen as a major contributor to poor health. This raises the question os what to do. For me it means looking into how large organizations are run and looking more at a networked alternative.

Can we set up organizations that can do big things but also offer people in them more control. That will be the topic of the series I will start next week – The Network Work Organization a Healthy Alternative. And just so you don’t think I am mad – think of how WordPress, my blogging tool – is such an ecosystem with thousands of people who are not on the payroll making a good living by being part of an ecosystem.

Your Lifespan – Part 3 – What is the one simple but big idea that can help you be healthy?

Every day we read of a new study that says “This is bad for you” and “This is good for you”. No wonder when it comes to taking control of our health, we are confused by science. I read a post today that said that there are “No perfect foods”. This is rubbish. There are – if you have the right perspective.

In this post I will be as clear as I can about the simple idea that can give you this power.

So what then is wrong with the perspective that most science and all of medicine uses that makes it all so confusing and contradictory? Let me tell a few stories and I think you will see.

Imagine that she is you.

You see your GP. She of course sends you to a dermatologist. After all, what is wrong is your skin – right? Well not really.  He will talk in a limited way about diet but he has no deep diet context. He will treat your skin mainly topically and if all fails, he will prescribe Accutane.  A drug that can have very serious side effects. Accutane is like chemo – it is a brutal treatment. But even through you may clear up – you are not cured. Your acne is in abeyance.

You are severely depressed. Your GP sends you to a Psychiatrist who no longer will talk through what has gone on but will prescribe one or more drugs that will interrupt the mechanism of your thoughts. For a while. Over time the risk is that you will get worse and even suicidal. He will raise the dose and add new drugs. You are on a treadmill.

You have cancer. Your GP sends you to the Surgeon who adds in the Oncologist and the Radiologist.

They remove the cancer cells that they can and then give you chemo and radiation. You look and feel like this. (My wife went through all of this and I dare not show you what she looked like)

You may be “cured”. My wife is still here after 9 years. But this is not a CURE. It – like Accutane or Antidepressants has knocked the disease back on its back foot.

So what then is the pattern here and how do we do better than this?

Note how all these stories start the same way. You notice something wrong and then you go to the gatekeeper the GP. There has been no work done before you are ill. For medicine has no answers to WHY you get ill.

You might know this. But what you don’t know maybe, is that NONE of these diseases affect in a major way populations that don’t eat the modern diet.

Note how each of these “specialists” deal with a silo of you and few or none expand this silo to includes the wider you of your entire bodily system – your social world – your ancestry – and how you inhabit your body and the physical world. They only know their bit. This is what I mean:

This is the ignition system of an engine in a car.

This is a broader context – we drive cars on roads with people in them in varying conditions. To understand CAR – you have to work back from this and not up from the ignition system. If all the context you have starts from the parts – you MUST get lost. So it is with medicine and cell biology. They fuss about the working parts and the direct linkages. Worse, becuase they focus on direct linkages, they miss the side effects.

For we are NOT MACHINES. We are complex systems nested in complex systems. Their basic metaphor is wrong.

This is why they miss WHY we get ill as we do. They miss the connection between their areas and all others. They miss the truth that there is one simple big idea as to why we get the diseases of modern civilization. And that is this –

We are designed to be naturally healthy – all living beings are – so long as we live our lives inside the parameters of how our nature has evolved. That means that if we eat what we are designed by our nature (How we have evolved) to eat AND if we live in social systems that suit our nature best (Think of how all our hunter gatherer ancestors lived) and if we inhabit our bodies and the natural world as we have evolved to do ( Be active and outside a lot) The we will be healthy.

This is true because of the systems aspect of our context. Get the optimal systems fit and our system will do fine. We are NOT machines with simple direct causes and effects.

Simple isn’t it? You and I can all use this simple and huge idea.

Just as 150 years ago, we also learned how to combat infection. Also behind that was a huge but simple idea. If we lived in large numbers in a concentrated space, we would set up the ideal systems conditions for infection. Once we learned how germs and vectors like mosquitoes and fleas worked, we could change the systems conditions. At a large scale such as in a big city and on a small scale such as in the OR.

All the mumbo jumbo of pre germ medice was swept away. Only to pop up in how medicine works on chronic disease today.

They will tell you that only if your kid is vaccinated, will you be able to protect her from infection such as measles. But they have missed the history.

We defeated infection not by drugs and not by a speciality in a disease. But by smart use of the knowledge of the systems issues and clever public health.

All these infectious diseases are the product of the modern world. They arise from our living in close contact with animals and other humans. They are novel to all who have not lived a modern (defined as agricultural and urban life). So when they were introduced to people who did not share this life and who therefore had low immunity, they killed millions. Western man killed of most of the natives in the Americas.

All infectious disease is related. It takes hold inside the crucible of close contact between man – animal and man. The plague came from this and so does flu. The breakthrough is not a drug, for the germ or virus will adapt. It is to work in a systems way to break the cycle.

So it is with chronic disease.

All are related. All stem at first from a mismatch in diet and then are amplified by a mismatch in our social and natural environments.

So if you have bad acne, depression and cancer – or arthritis – or IBS or crohns – or worry about alzheimers – or have heart disease – or have their marker and best pathway type 2 diabetes – then know that all are related.

On PEI, the average man becomes disabled by 65 and lives on in this state for 9.7 years. The main cause for this is Type 2 Diabetes.  It is estimated that by 2030 1/3 of the population will have it. So, as more people hit their 60’s and more suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, the need to respond rises exponentially. We live in a time of epidemic and medicine as it is practised today cannot help you.

Diabetes drives many other conditions including cardiovascular disease. 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

You can help yourself by understanding the ideas on this site and on our sister site The 55 Theses

Now how you apply this knowledge is not simple. Changing your diet in a system that pushes the wrong choices on you is hard. You don’t just “Buck Up” when depressed. You don’t just get cured with cancer either.

But knowing what we do now – gives us the kind of start that we all had back in 1880 when the pioneers took on infection and rolled it back in a generation.

Michael and I are working to provide you and policy makers the best context so that you can make the best choices.

 

 

Your Lifespan – Part 2 – How you and I get ill

You get ill when you look like this – this is how I looked aged 59 – I weighed 205 lbs. How I look here has all the signs that you have not lived your life according to the rules.

This is how I looked aged 18 just as I was going out to celebrate my sister’s 16th birthday. I weighed 140 lbs. I was just about to go to South Africa to work as a diamond prospector.  I would walk 11 miles a day in the Kalahari desert and think nothing of it. I was at my peak of fitness.

This story is not all going to be about weight though. It is going to be about knowledge and hope.

This new fat and unfit me was also a new thing. For right up until my late 40’s I was relatively thin and still able to do a lot of things.

Then one day in my 50″s, it seemed as if a switch has been turned on. Each year, I put on a few pounds and became progressively weaker. Then about 58, this process started to accelerate. My knees also were hurting a lot and I was investigating knee replacement! But I thought that all of this was normal.

I thought aged 59, that putting on weight and feeling poorly was my destiny. After all we all get fat and ill as we age – don’t we?

I did try the conventional way – a bit. My wife Robin begged me to lose the tummy. The conventional wisdom meant that I had to take a lot more exercise and I had to eat less. I tried. I signed up and took more exercise but I injured myself and felt awkward and gave up. And I loved my food…. So like so many of us, I was resigned. The “Cure” that all talk about was too hard for me.

Anyway, I told myself that this was my destiny. I would be like all the other people and get ill as I got older. If I had not learned what I know now and if I had done nothing

What had happened to me is surely what has happened to millions – maybe to you too.

When did the “switch” turn on for you and you started to get fat and weak? Do you think that, like me, that this is the new “normal” for you? Do you think that that this is all that is going on?

For what I have learned that this is not all about the weight and the visible?

What is really going on is that inside of you and I is a progression of deterioration that will lead to the chronic diseases that plague us today.

So how and why do we get them? And why do they seem to turn up suddenly as if a switch is thrown? Why is medicine so bad at preventing us from getting them? Why does medicine do such a bad job of “curing” us – for once we get heart disease, we have it. Once we get depression, we have it. Once we get cancer, it can come back. Once we get Type 2 Diabetes, we always have it – NO MATTER what meds we take. The meds do not cure us. They enable us to stay alive in poor health.

Let’s find the answer simply by going back and looking at infection. When we see the model here, we can see the answers to the questions above about chronic disease.

Cholera is always around. But for humans to get it, Cholera has to have an ideal environment to propagate and to spread. Cholera is not spread through the air but through direct contact with human feces. So, if you put a lot of people together and you have no proper sewage disposal system and you allow the sewage to contaminate the water supply, you have the ideal conditions for an epidemic.

Now you can develop a “cure” – (now we know how to treat Cholera – heavy hydration with pure water). But the real cure is to take away the environment that gives cholera the edge. For instance, Cholera is always a threat today when a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane damage sewage or water systems as happened in Haiti. You cannot contain the epidemic by vaccination or treatment. You have to work upstream and fix the sewage system and supply clean water asap.

This chart tells the story. See how most of the scourges of infection were beaten back BEFORE the advent of drugs.

Even TB!

All were “cured” by work on the upstream issue of environment. All these diseases were the product of changes to our social and physical environment caused by Industrialization. It was when millions of us left the small communities that fitted our own nature better. We arrived in the cities knowing nothing of the consequences of overcrowding. We found ourselves in the same predicament as say these animals now!

All these animals will die if they live like this. To prevent this they are given antibiotics as a routine. This is not sustainable and is dangerous as we are breeding super bugs as a result.

The only way that is sustainable is the change the environment. That is what we did for ourselves.

It was John Snow, a Dr, who discovered that Cholera was water born. He was never accepted by the establishment and died before his discovery was accepted. It was Joseph Bazalgette who built the sewers that made it possible for 8 million people to live in London.

We think that medicine “cured” infection. Medical knowledge about the environment for infection was the cure not any vaccine or drug.  But of course Big Pharma and the Medical Profession take the credit and today tell us that the ONLY way to be healthy is to use drugs.

All of this story about how we really conquered infection is true for the Chronic Diseases of our time. They all stem from environmental causes. Which in turn arise because we have not known the consequences of changes we have made to our diet, our work culture and how we live and work.

For just as we can never adapt to living in concentrations of millions without a good sewage system and a secure water supply, we also can never adapt to:

  • Eating a diet that is mainly composed of grains and sugars and other foods such as dairy and legumes
  • Living and working in a culture where we have little or no control or say
  • Losing touch with what our bodies really need in terms of activity, sleep and exposure to the natural world

My getting fat and pre diabetic was all related to not knowing any of this too. I too had no context. I bought the Kool Aid about the fact that I should eat MORE grains and dairy. I had no idea that how much control I had in my life was a key factor in my health. My only thought about my body was that I should “Take more exercise” which is only a fragment of the larger truth and a part of my life where I would have to find the time and pay someone else and do – for me – silly things not connected to what I did every hour of the day.

I also did not know this.

Every animal has evolved to be healthy throughout its life. Evolution would not support a population that had to “carry” a large segment who could not cope.

We humans are no exception. In fact, in all societies where people live according to our design, we remain fit until we die. People who do not eat the modern diet, who have a culture that is more personal and who are active and spend a lot of time outdoors live long and healthy lives. Like this man.

He is from Kitava and he is my age. I hope I can be like him! Don’t you?

Our challenge is time. If you get cholera, you can be well this morning and dead by supper. The impact of Infection is obvious and quick.

But the diseases that we get today are slow building and hidden.

This is the “Switch” I was talking about. You seem fine – and then you have a heart attack. You are thin and in 10 years you are obese. You are fit and then crippled with arthritis. You go off to your routine breast exam and find you have stage 3 cancer.

This moment is different for us also depending on our ancestry. If your ancestry is longer adapted to the modern diet, the switch may not go on until your 50’s. If you are a First Nations person, it may go on right away from birth.

I think this delay and difference has hidden the danger from us all. Not helped by a vast industry – Food and Medicine – that makes a fortune from this and who have captured the media and so public opinion with their message – “Eat more grains and take a pill”.

So in my next post we will explore why we cannot adapt to this any more than we can adapt to drinking water contaminated by feces.

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Maher tells the truth about health

It seems that the only people speaking the truth these days are comedians – sad

The Great Return Part 1 – Getting back our right relationship with Nature – A series

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Is the Paleo diet just another fad diet? Is Crossfit just another fad fitness craze?

They are not – and you should not dismiss them.

They are in fact the early signs of a new revolution in human society, economy and culture. A revolution where we return to working with nature and where we accept that we too are part of nature.

Where we accept that trying to dominate nature and so each other is an idea that is taking us and much of life on the planet to doom.

For we can only abuse the rules of Nature so far and we can only abuse our own nature so far and Nature will push back. And when she does, we lose. The Natural world and our own Nature is not infinitely plastic.

Nature can take a lot of damage but a Tipping Point will arrive when we go too far. We can only take so many fish out of the sea, clog up the atmosphere with only so much CO2, lose only so much topsoil, use more water than we have.

The same is true for us as part of Nature. We can eat junk food, live in crazy circumstances and in crazy social and political systems – for a time. But when we do, nature will push back at us too.

For the planet is a closed natural system with key rules. And so are we. The closer the planet is to its interacting norms, the more it can support life. And the same is true for us.

Millions of years of evolution have set up an ideal set of environments, food, social, physical in which we are designed to be at peak health and happiness. The closer we live our lives to this set of ideal environments, the healthier and happier we will be, (Thesis #2). Conversely, the further away we live our lives from these ideals, the worse our health and our happiness.

We live today at a time when most of us live as far away from Nature and our Nature that is possible. She is pushing back harder and harder. As more of us get sick and as change to climate makes life hell for millions. we see her as the enemy but in fact, she has always rewarded those that work with her.

Our only chance as a species is to “Go Home”. To go home to working with her.

The beauty of this impending revolution is that we know how to be in this new relationship with nature and each other – for we are hardwired to do this. We have just been distracted by 10,000 years of a phase of development. Maybe we have been like teens – all about me? Maybe this is our time to be young parents and be a true member of the community of life again?

Ideally we are designed for this new/old relationship with nature and our nature – the life of a Hunter Gatherer.

Does this mean we have to go home to the caves and wear skins? No – no more than at the time of the Renaissance, we went back to wearing Togas. No it’s all about ideas and principles and mindset.

Men and women in the 15th century applied ideas that had been forgotten and even prohibited to how they lived their lives and so created the modern world. A world based on observation rather than dogma.

What I think could happen now is the same. We can and should use the PRINCIPLES of the Hunter Gatherer World to design the Post Industrial and Post Agricultural Society that will have to evolve to help us get though Peak Oil and Climate Change.

This series will explore how this is taking place – without any “Plan” or leader. The new world is naturally emerging as it should be! But what I think we can do is accelerate the process of transformation by seeing it more clearly.

For to “Get There” all we have to do is to accept that we are there – all Dorothy had to do to go home was to say “I want to go home”.

For “Home” is deep inside us. It waits only for us to say yes. All we need to know to do well in this New/Old World is hard wired inside us. All it has to be is remembered.

You and I can immigrate to this New World today.


Then the “New World” was a place.

Today the New New World is a State of Mind. We don’t have to get on a boat. We just have to see ourselves in a new light. The moment we do, we have arrived at the pier. Life will still be hard, it always is for immigrants. But few who got off at the pier ever wanted to go back to the old country.

So in this series I hope to paint you a picture of what this new country will be like. You might see that you are almost there. I doubt that many of you will be surprised. The ideas are not new they are older than us. But we have forgotten them.

So I offer you not a new book but a mirror. And at the heart of it all is the heart and love and the acceptance of our true place. We will, as Paul hoped for, have grown up.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Here then is the structure of the series:

1. In the next post “The Emergent New Hunter Gatherer Society”: we will see how the new Unemployed, the Under Employed and the Freelancers are not failures or misfits but are New Immigrants who are in engaged in a massive new project – to redesign our economy and food system using these principles. We are creating this new world for ourselves and for our children because we don’t fit the existing system and worse it works against our real needs.

2. “The Principles of HG Life as they are practised today”: We will extract the principles from the emergent patterns and see how they can be used as our guide for making our own choices and how they put meaning on our lives. What can each of us do to disconnect us from the old system and connect us to the new?

3. “The Principles of Real Revolution”: The full power of the old system is lined up and is already pushing back at the new. “THEY” know we have their number and they know we are death to them and they will fight tooth and nail to defeat us. So it is important for us to know how to deal with this and people like Gandhi and Havel show us the way.

4. “The Heart of the Matter – Food”: There are several factors that shape human culture. Our primary energy source, climate, our primary communication tools. So Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Web will rock the old system and make the birth of the new essential. For the old system cannot cope with these changes. But the real deal is the food system. How we get our food is THE most powerful factor is shaping human society, culture and so power. What will it be about the new food model that is the Game CHanger? Why will it set you free? Why will it change everything – where and how you live and who has power and who does not.

You and I can go home – all we have to do is to change our mind about who we are and where we are.

Here is a piece that make me cry every time I read it out loud – it says it all for me.

There will come a time when humanity will choose to go against nature, to exploit her bounteous gifts, causing a sickness across the planet. People will forget the ecstasies of communion, and life will become drab and colorless.

In these coming dark ages, though, a deep sense of loss will cause the beginnings of a Great Return. They will look at the landscape and the old temples, built to withstand the cataclysms of millennia and understand once again the sacred laws of Existence.

When this day comes, humanity will have come of age. It will consciously acknowledge its role in the creative impulse that comes from the Sun, fertilizes the Earth, and calls forth the flame in the hearts of men and women to worship Life and the miraculous forces behind Creation.

Miller, Hamish & Broadhurst, Paul. The Sun and the Serpent: An Investigation into Earth Energie

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:

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

maryvernon

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

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.

Quite the best explanation of why we are so fat today

Please see the other videos in this series here

Tom Naughton is a genius communicator

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  • Anita: Amen to this article. Too many people receive disability as...
  • matt: isn't the "sugar" in soda high fructose corn syrup? why do y...
  • Caroline Cooper: Hi Rob, Nice to see you're writing again. I have been thi...
  • Patrick Meadows: People, can and have lived solely on meat. Eskimos go months...
  • ike: Maybe you veggies need to eat meat so your brains can develo...
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  • Rob: "I come from Northern European stock. My genes are the most ...
  • Gemma: Don't forget regular exercise! Prevention is better than cur...
  • Daniel: Nothing can live on just meat. Carnivores such as cats and s...
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  • Dario McNut: It is true that erectile dysfunction can be associated with ...
  • robpatrob: Google Richard Wrangham - His book is on Amazon - much more ...
  • A Question: Thanks for this video! Half of the urban women who had a raw...
  • robpatrob: Great questions - thanks. Just as 300 years ago a few misfi...
  • Garfield: I really like the parallels too...I live like this also. Twe...

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.

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Your baby’s gut health – the platform for good or poor lifetime health – what to know and to do about this

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Your Waistline – The key measurement for predicting Heart Disease

A fat tummy is a sign of visceral fat which is the #1 predictor of heart disease. We have posted about this before here. But here are some charts that help us see the range. It’s not just men either. More here on Mercola’s site:

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