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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:

Your baby? What is she exposed to? A Guide

My grand daughter Sophia when she was very little not so long ago. Bath time is the best part of the day for babies and parents. Little did I know what might have been going on.

What is in the soap – shampoo – baby oil – powder? What does a daily routine like this do as it accumulates daily?

What is safe?

I don’t know but I do know this – that babies are exceptionally vulnerable and that I should do my best to keep the risk down as much as I can – for Novel Chemicals cannot be good for us and babies are so vulnerable.

So here then is a great resource where you can look up and see the relative risks for any product that you might use.

A quick to to veggies that have the most contamination

Avoid “Novel” things. Some of our favourite fruits and veggies are very contaminated by how we grow them in the industrial way – here is a quick list. (Source)

Diet – What you need to know based on your heritage


Thesis 50 reminds us that if you are a person with a heritage that is adapted to the agricultural diet – say from Western Europe – then you can do quite well on the Agricultural diet for a while. 30 appears to be the time when you start to lose this adaptation.

But if you are a Celt or a First Nations Person – better you avoid it all times. For those that are new to to work – Celts are the Hunter Gatherers of Europe who got pushed to the harsh boundaries such as the Highlands and Wales by the early farmers. We, I am a Scot, are the least well adapted Europeans. This may also be why so many Islanders (I live on Prince Edward Island) have such poor health as most come form the Highlands or Ireland.

The good news though is that if you are a Celt or a First Nations person – if you go back to a more traditional diet and way of life + use all the modern medicine etc – you might arrest your aging earlier than any other group. You could be the vanguard of what the health revolution is all about!

All of us should avoid Industrial food though.

Diet – Where your ancestral heritage is important

Surely we must have adapted to agriculture by now? The answer is no and sort of yes to that question. It depends on what your ancestral heritage is or how long you have been exposed to agriculture.

Let’s take dairy. (Click to go to full size)

 

This map shows the distribution of lactose intolerance. Note that the exceptions in the US are Native Americans and African Americans – whose heritage introduced them to dairy very late. If you are Asian, milk is not part of your heritage either.

This map shows the spread of agriculture in the west. It’s not that long ago.

Evolution takes time to make an impact – if at all. It must have taken a very long time for humans to evolve to eat mainly meat For instance, Chimps love meat but cannot eat much of it. If they do, they get ill. Chimps, like early hominids, have a very large digestive system that is designed to process raw veggies and powerful jaws and teeth designed to chew for hours. About 8 hours a day. It took maybe a million years for our ancestors to adapt to cooked food and meat. As a result they also changed their physiology. We lost 1/3 of our gut and all those big teeth and jaw muscles.

In the next series of posts we will explore how your ancestral heritage fits into the modern diet. In summary:

  • If you are from the Middle East you will have the best adaptation to wheat – But remember that the wheat we have today is a 50 year old modern strain with an exceptionally high gluten content. It is not the old wheat. You will also lose your adaptation in middle age
  • If you are from Northern Europe, you will have the best tolerance for dairy. But again, if you live in the US where growth hormone in cows is permitted, you are not drinking even your parents milk. You also will lose this tolerance in middle age.
  • If you are from Northern China, you will have a good tolerance to wheat with all the provisos – if you are from Southern China and Asia you will have a strong tolerance for rice. Again as you age and if you select very processed rice, you will lose this.
  • If you are from Asia and Southern Africa and America you will have a low tolerance for all dairy.
  • If you are from a recent Hunter Gatherer heritage, Inuit – First Nations – you will have no tolerance for Agriculture.
  • None of us have any tolerance for highly processed industrial food.

More here is Thesis 47

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.

The Paleo Diet

Paleolithic Diet Explained
Learn more about the Paleo Diet.
More here
And here Paleo Hacks

“Carb Loading” is surely not what we all did for millions of years?

 

Many of you who take serious exercise believe in “Carb Loading”. But please step back for a moment. How did our ancestors who ran down prey – who used their bodies all day do all of this without carbs – for they did not have them? They used our primal fuel – fat.

The Problem: The Basic Assumption of the Carb Paradigm is Wrong

Glucose is not the preferred fuel of muscle cells under normal human resting metabolic conditions or even under most normal human movement patterns (exercise). Fat is. Sure, given an unlimited supply of glucose and regular refilling of glycogen stores, skeletal muscle will burn through it during exercise the same way a fire burns through kindling when that’s all you have to offer. The body can shift carbohydrate oxidation to keep up with intake. But skeletal muscle can burn fat with great efficiency (and far less oxidative fallout) at relatively high outputs for very long bouts. Cardiac muscle actually prefers ketones, and the brain can run just fine (maybe even optimally) on a blend of ketones and minimal glucose.  Our survival as a species has depended on these evolutionary adaptations away from glucose dependency. Entire civilizations have existed for ages on what is practically a zero-carb diet. Think about this: there is actually no requirement for any “essential dietary carbohydrates” in human nutrition. It’s possible to live a very long and healthy life never consuming much – if any – in the way of carbs, provided you get adequate dietary protein and fat. The same can’t be said for going too long without protein or fat. Cut too far back on either of those macronutrients and you will eventually get sick and die.

Much more here from Marks’ Daily Apple.

 

Your Bathroom – A Toxic Zone that you did not know existed

So much choice in shampoo and other soaps and personal care products. We use masses of them every day to look better and small sweeter. But what’s in them?

Here’s the story – now I can see what the risks are I have changed my bathroom completely. Here is what to watch for:

So what am I doing now? I am going to buy my soap from real soap makers – you can too and here is where I am going to start – she is on PE  and also does mail order on the web.

 

 

Toothpaste – A Risk – So what?

There is no doubt that good oral health extends to our entire body and system. It’s no surprise that if you buy a horse you should look at the teeth as an indicator. But is brushing your teeth with toothpaste the best you can do?

Most toothpaste today contains fluoride. There is a lot of doubt about it safety – especially for the young. Toothpaste also tends to contain novel chemicals for sweetening and also for foaming. I cannot assure you or myself about their safety either. There is no doubt though that much of what is in toothpaste is questionable.

So what to do – bearing in mind that good oral hygiene is very important?

There are 3 things that I do now. Firstly I have gone back to a Paleo diet that on its own has changed the environment in my mouth. I have gone upstream to reduce the risks before I brush with anything. With almost no sugar and its equivalent – simple carbs I have reduced the core risk factors in my mouth anyway. I have massively reduced the bacteria food!

But I still eat some carbs and so what do I use as toothpaste?

4 parts of baking soda and 1 part salt. This both oxidizes the mouth and shifts it to being alkaline. I mix it myself and it costs me next to nothing. I also floss twice a day and scrape my tongue.

The key ph number is 5.5. At that level, acid eats into our teeth. You want to get above that. (link)

Acidity is measured in “pH“. For this experiment, the pH measurements we’re monitoring fall between 1 and 7. If something has a pH of 1, it’s a strong acid. A pH 1 acid is similar to the stomach acids your body uses to digest that tasty cookie. Moving up the scale, we get less acidic: Lemon juice has a pH of 2. Human saliva has a pH of 7. In terms of your teeth, a pH of 5.5 and above will cause little or no harm. Any pH below 5.5 is bad. At 5.5 and below, a liquid will work to strip the protective enamel from your teeth. You’ve heard the term “tooth decay”? That’s exactly what we’re talking about here – acidic drinks will cause your teeth to literally decay.(link)

I think that the best cure is to not drink much juice and other high acid drinks.

Once a month I rinse and gargle with a 50% mix of water and hydrogen peroxide (more here).

Low acid and high oxygen is what I am aiming for – this is also cheap!

So what to avoid drinking if you can – or what to look out for.

Here is a view of drinks by order of goodness to the worst:

Cutting back the sugar – 6 practical steps

Okay, so some sugar isn’t really bad for you but some sugar, like fructose in high amounts, is unhealthy. Since fructose is plentiful in many processed foods, how can you eat better and still enjoy the sweet things you like? What follows are some suggestions. Some require a bit of sacrifice and will be difficult—but more effective—and others are easy enough for anyone to incorporate in his or her diet. If you want to try and curb your sugar intake, be reasonable about what you can accomplish. Failure is a lot more likely if you try to pack in large amounts of change at once . When you cut back on anything slowly, it feels much easier and is more likely to stick.

Go to this link for the list  lifehacker.com

Great post – good luck in your challenge!

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

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

How much Vitamin D should we have? A lot!


Vitamin D is a hormone and like Insulin and Cortisol has a major effect on our system

More here
” Vitamin D is by far the greatest deficiency in the civilized world. Surveys show that at least 70% of all Americans are vitamin D deficient, and up to 85% of African-American women of child-bearing age are deficient. 48% of young girls aged 9 to 11 are deficient. 76% of pregnant mothers are severely vitamin D deficient causing widespread deficiencies in their unborn children. 90% of all hospital patients are deficient, and 99% of nursing home residents are deficient. 65% of Chicago residents are deficient and even doctors living in southern Florida are 42% deficient. It is estimated that at least 1 billion people worldwide are deficient.” Saunders Vitamin D Deficiency (Link pdf)

How a Paleo Diet could connect to a more sustainable food systrem

I gave this short talk in a meeting at home on PEI about local food. The format is unusual. Each speaker has 20 slides and 6 minutes – which is why I go so fast – but I think as a format it works. It forces the speaker to be concise.

The future will depend not only on what we eat but how we get our food. It was our overshooting as hunters that forced us into agriculture. Our overshooting as farmers using oil is also threatening all life now on the planet. Is there another way? I think so – I think we now know enough to work with nature and I will expand on this over the next months. But in this short video you will see where I will be going.

A Local M.E.A.L. – Robert Paterson from nick battist on Vimeo.

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?

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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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