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Stress – You are not a Zebra but a Primate

January 26, 2011 Stress/Cortisol, Videos 4 Comments

Worry about our social place in the world, what has happened to us in the past and what might happen in the future is a major factor in our health. Understanding this factor is going to be a major element in your health.
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Mother’s Milk – More than Nutrition – Medicine

Just as we are starting to learn about why real food is more than simple nutrition – so we are starting to see breast milk as being more than a meal too. It also sets the baby’s immune system and gut flora and may do many other things too.

“When we come out of the womb, we make our way to the breast. We enter the world knowing we’re mammals, with milk on our minds.

But even as grown-ups, we have never known exactly what’s in that milk—or, as strange as it may sound, what the point of it is. For decades, milk was thought of strictly in terms of nutrients, which makes sense—milk is how a mother feeds her baby, after all. But providing nutrients turns out to be only part of what milk does. And it might not even be the most important part.

“Mother’s milk is food; mother’s milk is medicine; and mother’s milk is signal,” says Katie Hinde, an assistant professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard. (She also writes the fascinating blogMammals Suck, which I suspect is the only place on the Internet where you can fill out a Mammal Madness bracket.) “When people find out I study milk, they automatically think we already know about it, or it’s not important. And I’m like, ‘No, we don’t know about it, and it’s super important.’”

But first, a disclaimer—because conversations about lactation always seem to require disclaimers, especially if you happen to be someone who will never ever lactate. (I’m pretty sure.) In my new bookBaby Meets World, I write about how, contrary to myth, not nursing has never been a death sentence. Hundreds of years before halfway-decent formula, infants were fed gruesome substitutes for breast milk (mushed bread and beer, say)—and although many more died than those who were nursed, many also survived. So the lesson of the new science of milk isn’t that formula is some sort of modern evil. (It isn’t modern or evil.) It’s that milk is really complicated—and evolutionarily amazing.

Here’s how complicated: Some human milk oligosaccharides—simple sugar carbohydrates—were recently discovered to be indigestible by infants. When my son was nursing, those oligosaccharides weren’t meant for him. They were meant for bacteria in his gut, which thought they were delicious. My wife was, in a sense, nursing another species altogether, a species that had been evolutionarily selected to protect her child. (A relationship immortalized in the paper titled “Human Milk Oligosaccharides: Every Baby Needs a Sugar Mama.”) In effect, as Hinde and UC-Davis chemist Bruce German have written, “mothers are not just eating for two, they are actually eating for 2 × 1011 (their own intestinal microbiome as well as their infant’s)!” That’s what’s meant by milk serving as medicine, and that’s only scratching the surface.

But Hinde primarily studies the food and the signal elements of milk. “The signal is in the form of hormones that are exerting physiological effects in the infant,” she explains. “Infants have their own internal hormones, but they’re also getting hormones from their mother. They’re binding to receptors in the babies, and we’re just starting to understand what those effects are.”

More here

We think of milk as a static commodity, maybe because the milk we buy in the grocery store always looks the same. But scientists now believe that milk varies tremendously. It varies from mother to mother, and it varies within the milk of the same mother. That’s partly because the infants themselves can affect what’s in the milk. “Milk is this phenomenally difficult thing to study because mothers are not passive producers and babies are not passive consumers,” Hinde says. Instead, the composition of milk is a constant negotiation, subject to tiny variables.

For example, she notes, in humans skin-to-skin contact appears to trigger signals that are sent through the milk. “If the infant is showing signs of infection, somehow that’s being signaled back to the mother and she up-regulates the immune factors that are in her milk. Now is that her body’s responding to a need of the baby? Maybe. Is it that she also has a low-grade infection that she’s just not symptomatic for and so her body’s doing that? Maybe. Is it partially both? Maybe. We don’t know. It’s brand-new stuff.”

The new awareness of this sort of signaling is why there’s been a paradigm shift in the study of milk. Scientists have gone from seeing it only as food to seeing it far more expansively—as a highly sensitive variable that plays a wide range of developmental roles.

This new perspective should change how we look at formula, too, Hinde says. Instead of comparing breast milk and formula, we should accept how little we actually know about breast milk. “We need to go back to square one and look at all the variation in breast milk and where it’s coming from and what it does,” she says. “Because how could we possibly know what the difference between breast milk and formula is if we aren’t even keeping track of what the variation in breast milk is doing? And so the more that we understand about what is in milk, and what predicts how it varies, the more opportunity there is for formula to better emulate what breast milk is.”

Almost 150 years after the first infant formula, the splendidly named Liebig’s Soluble Food for Babies, was proclaimed to be “virtually identical” to human milk, we now know how much we don’t know about milk. It’s a deeply intimate mystery. And the scientists who study it are a lot like almost any parent gazing down at their sucking child: They too are full of wonder.

Nicholas Day’s book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World, will be published in April. His website is nicholasday.net.

 

Sugar and Fructose – The best post yet on the causes of the epidemic of chronic illness

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We are close now to a strong agreement that the epidemic of chronic illness is diet related and that sugar and fructose is at the heart of it.

This chart showing sugar consumption is I think the smoking gun for looking at the role of sugar and now fructose in the epidemic of chronic illness.

This article – link here – is complete. It goes into depth on the process by which sugar and then fructose affects us and some people more than others. All who care about their health should read this. All who are in health care should too – for  we have to acknowledge that, until now, we must have been wrong. Our failure to make progress is the proof.

Here are the facts about the load:

Sugar consumption continued to increase in the 1900s, with an overall doubling in the United States and the United Kingdom between 1900 and 1967 (34). By 1993, >110 million tons of sugar were produced worldwide (33). Whereas sugar intake continues to be marked in the industrialized nations, it is in the developing countries that the greatest increase in the rates of sugar consumption has been observed (35 ). By the early 1970s, an additional sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), was introduced in the United States, which had certain advantages over table sugar with relation to shelf life and cost. This sweetener, the composition of which is similar to that of sucrose, is used extensively to sweeten soft drinks, fruit punches, pastries, and processed foods. The combination of table sugar and HFCS has resulted in an additional 30% increase in overall sweetener intake over the past 40 y, mostly in soft drinks. Currently, consumption of these sweeteners is almost 150 lb (67.6 kg) per person per year (36), which has resulted in the ingestion of >500 kcal/d (37; Figure 1).

Here they make the connection:

 recent history in the United States has shown that, although a low-fat intake has been promoted, rates of obesity have continued to increase as sugar consumption has continued. In addition, recent studies showing that a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet has no adverse cardiovascular effects (4041) suggest that it is time to revisit the causes of the cardiorenal disease epidemic. In 2002, Havel’s group (37) made the case that the fructose content of sugar may be the critical component associated with the risks of obesity and heart disease. Sucrose is a disaccharide consisting of 50% fructose and 50% glucose, and HFCS is also a mixture of free fructose and glucose of approximately the same proportion (55:45).

There are some striking epidemiologic associations between sugar intake and the epidemic of cardiorenal disease. For example, obesity was initially seen primarily in the wealthy, who would have been the only ones able to afford sugar. Also, the first documentation of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity occurred in the very countries (England, France, and Germany) where sugar first became available to the public. The rise in sugar intake in the United Kingdom and the United States (Figure 1) also correlates with the rise in obesity rates observed in these countries. Furthermore, the later introduction of sugar to developing countries also correlates with the later rise in their rates of obesity and heart disease. A series of epidemiologic studies linked the ingestion of soft drinks to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes (4243) and the consumption of fruit juice and fruit punch to obesity in children (4445). Although these epidemiologic associations suggest a potential causal role, are there any direct experimental data to show that sucrose or fructose can induce obesity or hypertension?

Please invest the time to go further. Link here.

 

How to avoid the flu? Bump up your immune system!

You and I have an immune system. If it healthy, then it will defend us from a lot of illness. The future of Health Care will be not a fix after we are ill but taking care so that we have the best immune system possible.

So how best to protect yourself against the flu?  Here is what taking care of your immune system looks like:

 

Avoiding a serious case of influenza is not about vaccination but more about maintaining a healthy, well functioning immune system. By following these simple guidelines, you can help keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you’re far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with or, if you do get sick with the flu, you are better prepared to move through it without complications and soon return to good health.

    • Optimize Your Gut Flora. This may be the single most important strategy you can implement as the bacteria in your gut have enormous control of your immune response. The best way to improve your beneficial bacteria ratio is avoid sugars as they will feed the pathogenic bacteria. Additionally, processed foods and most grains should be limited and replacing with healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, olives, olive oil, butter, eggs and nuts. Once you change your diet than regular use of fermented foods can radically optimize the function of your immune response.
    • Optimize your vitamin D levels. As I’ve previously reported, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency may actually be the true culprit behind the seasonality of the flu – not the flu virus itself. This is probably the single most important and least expensive action you can take. Regularly monitor your vitamin D levels to confirm your levels are within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.

Ideally, you’ll want to get all your vitamin D from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed, but as a last resort you can take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. According to the latest review by Carole Baggerly (Grassrootshealth.org), adults need about 8,000 IU’s a day. Be sure to take vitamin K2 if you are taking high dose oral vitamin D as it has a powerful synergy and will help prevent any D toxicity. But be sure and get your level tested as that is the only way to know for sure.

  • Avoid Sugar and Processed Foods. Sugar impairs the quality of your immune response almost immediately, and as you likely know, a healthy immune system is one of the most important keys to fighting off viruses and other illness. It also can decimate your beneficial bacteria and feed the pathogenic yeast and viruses. Be aware that sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is present in foods you may not suspect, like ketchup and fruit juice. If you are healthy then sugar can be consumed but the LAST thing you should be eating when you are sick is sugar. Avoid it like poison while you are sick.
  • Get Plenty of Rest. Just like it becomes harder for you to get your daily tasks done if you’re tired, if your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight the flu. Be sure to check out my article Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep for some great tips to help you get quality rest.
  • Have Effective Tools to Address Stress. We all face some stress every day, but if stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness. If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma.
  • Get Regular Exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads. Be sure to stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids, especially water. However, it would be wise to radically reduce the intensity of your workouts while you are sick. No Peak Fitness exercises until you are better.
  • Take a High-Quality Source of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also vitally important to avoid damaged omega-6 oils that are trans fats and in processed foods as it will seriously damage your immune response.
  • Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don’t use antibacterial soap for this – antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple chemical-free soap that you can switch your family to.
  • Tried and True Hygiene Measures. In addition to washing your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If possible, avoid close contact with those, who are sick and, if you are sick, avoid close contact with those who are well.
  • Use Natural Remedies. Examples include oil of oregano and garlic. These work against bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in your body. And unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance.
  • Avoid Hospitals. I’d recommend you stay away from hospitals unless you’re having an emergency and need expert medical care, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infections of all kinds. The best place to get plenty of rest and recover from illness that is not life-threatening is usually in the comfort of your own home.

How you were born will affect your gut flora and so your health

It is becoming more and more clear that our gut flora is the central issue for health. (More here on that)

It is best to start with the the healthiest gut flora possible. This means that it is best that we are born vaginally. We are a blank slate in the womb. Being born vaginally gives us our mother’s flora.

Evidence is now coming out about how important this is. Leaving mothers with a more informed choice. If you can have a vaginal birth, you are giving your child the best start possible.

Here is the summary:

The researchers found that infants born by cesarean delivery were lacking a specific group of bacteria found in infants delivered vaginally, even if they were breastfed. Infants strictly formula-fed, compared with babies that were exclusively or partially breastfed, also had significant differences in their gut bacteria.

“We want parents (and physicians) to realize that their decisions regarding c-section and breastfeeding can impact their infant’s gut microbiome, and this can have potentially lifelong effects on the child’s health,” says postdoctoral student and first author Meghan Azad, University of Alberta.

“The potential long-term consequences of decisions regarding mode of delivery and infant diet are not to be underestimated,” write the authors. “Infants born by cesarean delivery are at increased risk of asthma, obesity and type 1 diabetes, whereas breastfeeding is variably protective against these and other disorders.”

Beginning before birth, CHILD collects a range of information on environmental exposures such as pets, air pollution, household cleaning products, maternal and infant diet and more, and child health outcomes (including biological samples and clinical assessments). The researchers will use this information to study the development of the gut microbiome and its relationship to conditions such as wheeze and allergies in future studies.

“Children born by cesarean delivery or fed with formula may be at increased risk of a variety of conditions later in life; both processes alter the gut microbiota in healthy infants, which could be the mechanism for the increased risk,” writes Dr. Rob Knight, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist and an Associate Professor with the BioFrontiers Institute and Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, United States, in a related commentary.

“These issues are of direct relevance to pregnant women and health practitioners and should be considered when choices such as elective cesarean delivery and other interventions are discussed,” state the commentary authors.

 

Raw or Cooked Food? #Wrangham

Many advocate eating raw food. Is this a good thing or not?

Dr Richard Wrangham thinks not. His work suggests that humans have been cooking for a very long time. For well over a million years. There is no fossil record of fires but there is a physiological record. Homo Erectus lost that big veggie processing gut and those big veggie grinding teeth and jaws. And HE’s brain increased by 20%. I find this pretty convincing. (A good intro to his ideas is here)

Australopithecus-Erectus

(picture source here)

It would take a massive change in environment to create this change to the body plan.

Here is a short video where Wrangham speaks to his findings

He also looked at a large modern study to see how well people do on a veggie diet. (source)

There are only three studies conducted on the body weight of raw foodists, according to Wrangham’s book. The most comprehensive of them was the Geissen study, which questioned and examined 513 raw foodists. This isn’t quite as legit as confining people to a zoo for 30 years, but what was shown was that the higher the percentage of raw food in the diet, irrespective of whether or not they consumed meat, the lower their BMI. One third of those who ate purely raw had body weights that categorized them as being in a state of chronic energy deficiency. The Geissen study also found that 82% of long term raw foodists included some cooked food in their diets. The study also showed that the more raw food women ate, the less likely they were to have regular periods, many of whom had completely ceased to menstruate. This equates to being infertile and losing bone mass. Some raw foodists (and I did hear this one at a raw food guru talk I attended once upon a time in Boulder) claim that menstruation and ejaculation are just a body’s way of eliminating toxins and once you become truly clean, ejaculating and menstruating is no longer necessary. Facepalm! Seriously, I remember the promises of menstrual cycles practically becoming “unnecessary”, provided you really stuck to it. While this does sound like an upshot, it’s kind of like promoting the loss of your legs by saying you’ll never have to run 400m repeats. Locomotion: just for the overachievers!

The last sort-of nail in the coffin for the theory that raw foods are our evolved diet, is that they would never work in the wild. Wrangham found no reports of long term survival in the wild on a raw diet. Most commonly, rapid starvation is the biggest threat to survival in the wild on raw foods, even with intimate knowledge of edible forage, just ask Robb and the I Cavemen cast. What makes a modern raw foods diet livable is that we now have unlimited access to food processing, making nutrients a little more available. Blenders, dehydrators, grinders, sprouting, and grocery stores that can provide year-round access to produce and nut butter that clearly would be hard to scrounge up in the wild. Also keep in mind that these domesticates are a wee bit more energy dense than they were in the wild. The German team also found that 30% of the raw foodists’ calories came from lipids that would have been inaccessible to any hunter gatherer.

So without these modern conveniences, how well do you think they would do? Anybody really wanna try? And judging by the fact that many of them cease to be reproductively functional, how well do you think we’d do if this was our evolutionary strategy?

 It looks to me that a diet that makes nearly half the sample infertile is unlikely to be a sound one and to have any basis in our own past. And imagine eating only raw food in a northern winter without the modern food system.

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.

Let’s stop the nit picking re Ancestral/Paleo and Focus on the Big Context

I have to admit being guilty of nit picking and loving a good fight and spent a lot of this weekend involved in such little fights – but my wife and best friend Robin reminded me that this was not the best approach. And then I read this – a comment on the Ancestral Health Conference and I am convinced. If this movement is like a church – the broader the gates the better – best we stay at the context level rather than fight about the details of what is in or out – like how many angels could stand on the head of a pin – a major debate back in the early years of Christianity! Here is the link (Stumptuous.com Krista Scott Dixon)

Why is studying ancestral health and primal diets important? And what do we plan to do with that knowledge?

Well, let’s back up.

Here are a couple of fundamental concepts behind the notion of “ancestral” or “primal” health.

Concept 1: Hominids evolved to eat a particular range of foods, in a particular context.

There is no ONE “ancestral” or “primal” diet. Humans do just fine on many diets that vary by region and seasonal availability. That can mean anything from all-tubers-all-the-time (as in Staffan Lindberg’s research on the Kitavans) or the blubberiffic no-veggies-no-problem diet of indigenous northern peoples.

Humans did not dominate the globe by being picky eaters.

We did, however, get very used to eating stuff that we could hunt, gather, and/or dig up. We got used to working for our dinners. We somehow forgot to invent TV right away, so we ended up getting riptshizzled by climbing trees, running from tigers, hauling logs, playing (more than you’d think) and trying not to die.

Concept 2: We lived for millions of years with this primal diet and lifestyle. High-fructose corn syrup was introduced in the mid-20th century. Hilarity ensued.

The mismatch between 99.99% of our genetic history and our currently 21st reality causes most “diseases of civilization”.

Now, most folks focus on the content of the diet. Which makes sense. You are what you eat.

Thus, many presenters covered things like the conversion of fructose to craptabolism and why that matters; how vitamin D will make you immortal; why inadequate fat will make you insane; or the importance of understanding the specific molecular structure of lectins (giant geek boner for Mat Lalonde!! *making “call me for o-chem study sessions” thumb-and-finger gesture*).

Other presenters added context by focusing on specific health effects.

Frinstance, is your GI tract healthy and are bacteria our overlords? Did you know that some people have juicy white plaque sausages in their arteries? Why are Westerners such diabetic lazy bastards? and so forth.

All of this was entirely awesome. You know that feeling (any of you born earlier than 1980) of eating Pop Rocks fizzy candy? Well that was my brain.

Still, despite the often crudely drawn nerd-porn of molecular structures and chemical conversion pathways, the overall vibe, at times, lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Actually we do sais quoi, and it came from Frank Forencich. Which is this.

It’s great — crucial, even — to focus on what we ate, and eat. This knowledge alone, if put into practice, could save millions of lives.

But humans did not live by bread organ meats alone. It is also essential to understand:

  • how we ate — with others, in a structure of mutual interdependence
  • how we got what we ate — hunting and gathering communally, reading the signs of the land and the animals, moving in all kinds of ways
  • that we played as well as worked
  • that we were intimately connected to our group, tribe, community, ancestors, stories, land, and other organisms; and our sense of self was derived from a deep relationship with all these things
  • that we lived in and through our bodies as well as in and through our perceptions and foci — our realities were comprised of what we paid attention to (think about that as you’re diddling with your Blackberry)
  • that we lived in a physical and geographic context with changing seasons, temperatures, physical sensations, light levels, vegetation, and animal populations

By the way, although hat tip to Boyd Eaton for the discussion of egalitarianism and gendered divisions of labour, next year I’d like a little less on “Man the Hunter” and a little more on “Woman the Gatherer”. Hello, did women even exist in the Paleo period? We know from studies of modern foraging societies that even top-notch hunters strike out more often than not, and women’s foraging labour typically sustains the group more consistently.

Anyway, you see where I’m going, I hope.

Don’t get hung up too much on the “what”. Ask also about the “how” and the “why”. Don’t miss the ancestral forest for the carb-and-protein trees. Human history offers us a tremendous, rich, diverse, nuanced narrative. Dig in to this conceptual buffet.

Think big. Bigger.

This primal/ancestral stuff is huge. Let us not constrain ourselves to amino acids and carbon groups (as delicious as the debates may be). Let’s not focus on whether coconut flour is “Paleo”. Let’s get contextual all up in that shit. Let’s dive into the exuberance of the big, big, BIG picture.

Let us get over ourselves and find out what our ancestors have to say. Let us shut up and listen to their histories, their stories, their bones, their insights, their genes, their movements, their social and physical geography, the undulating rhythms of their seasons and lives, and their dancing bacterial overlords.

Oh, but the grass-fed beef jerky can stay.

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 1 – How long have you got before you are really ill?

July 18, 2011 Aging, Context 1 Comment

This is an image that is all about Lifespan. Until the late 1800’s and the discovery of how infection really worked, this was what we all feared. Your child could be well in the morning and dead that night. Entire cities could die in weeks. Most children did die. We have found ways of avoiding this. But actually it was not a drug but public health. It was not medicine but medical knowledge that has extended our Lifespan.

This is our modern equivalent. It shows what is behind the “Healthspan” crisis of our time. When our children are exposed to a number of environments that will cause them to lose their health earlier and earlier and condemn them to a life of illness. They will live but more and more will reach a stage in life where they are so ill that they cannot function as full citizens. Medicine has found no way of preventing this. But it has found a way of keeping us alive – at great cost – when we get these diseases.

You have a greater chance today than 30 years ago in getting – Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Kidney failure, depression, dementia, arthritis, CFS, IBS, Crohns and many other chronic illnesses. When you get these diseases your ability to work, to look after your self, to be a parent all erode to the point of failure. When you get these diseases the costs to you, your family, your employer and the state are rising so fast that all risk bankruptcy – even the state itself. And the rate of incidence is rising too. More and more of us are going to get these diseases.

“Consider that a National Cancer Institute study projects a 39 percent increase in cancer costs between 2010 and 2020. That figure represents in great part our success in extending the lives of those already afflicted with the disease. Kidney dialysis also has become an economic quagmire. A 150 percent increase in the number of such patients is expected over the next decade. The cost of Alzheimer’s disease is projected to rise from $91 billion in 2005 to $189 billion in 2015 to $1 trillion in 2050 (twice the cost of Medicare expenditures for all diseases now).” (link)

This is a global issue – look at cancer rates in the UK – it is estimated that 42% of Brits will get cancer. (link)

 “There are currently 2 million people living with cancer in the UK and that number is doubling to 4 million over the next 20 years. Yet no one thinks the country can afford to double its spending on cancer,” Devane said.

So what to do? That is the point of this site and the 55 Theses Sister site.

I thought today it is time to make all of this more personal. For in the end this is not about statistics, it is about you and me. Many of these diseases oppress my family and so affect me directly too. It must be the same for you. Who does not have a friend with heart disease, or cancer or depression? You may have them yourself.

So in this series I will make it all about us.

To start, please think about how do you feel about your Healthspan? Have you lost it already? Has a loved one lost it? Do you see signs, as I did, that you are at risk of losing it? Have you done anything for yourself to prevent you from losing your health?

In this context, I will go back with a personal lens and talk about:

  • How do we get these diseases?
  • Why they are all linked – they are in fact the same
  • What is the role of Medicine?
  • What can you do?

But I would like to hear from you? How much Healthspan do you think you will have?

Great Return – Part 3 – The Rules of the New World#2

This post is written in July of 2011 – The Murdoch New Empire, the Police in the UK and the Tories in the UK are being rocked.

I think that we are living through a period where the Network is destroying the Hierarchical power of the establishment.

We can see now that this revolution began in the Arab world but now, this July, we are seeing that the Network is a real threat to the most powerful in the west as well.

I think that history will show that power is shifting from the Machine Institution to the Network.

This will be a real revolution unlike 1917 that merely replaced one top down regime for another. 

This is more like 10,000 years ago when a new food system changed everything about how humans lived and their place in the world. 

I think that the forces that will take us there are now in motion. Not the least that millions of people have been cast out by the old system. That many of these millions are well educated and have the personal power to act. These are the kind of people that drove the French and the American Revolutions that in their own day also cast down the old power system.

They are likely people just like you my dear readers. We are the immigrants in the brand new world that we will make for ourselves  – not in a new place but in a new “Space” that we create ourselves.

Ellis

Without knowing it, you have just left Ellis Island and you are in this strange New World.

How strange this all is. 

Fortunately the pioneers have been here for some time and this post will show you what the new rules are and how best to get around in this new place and to realize its potential. 

In essence – people here in the New New World – or New World#2 – live the lives of the Hunter Gatherers – they live lives much like all hominids and Humans have lived for millions of years. But with a difference, now we know how all of this works. We know the science and we have tools that empower us to be this old way anew.

So let’s wander around NW#2 and see how they live and work. Let’s see the models they use. 

And by the way – all of this exists for real today – just in a very small and scattered form. It just needs organization to come to life.

Home and Work – Home is that old fashioned Home where we all live and work.

For in NW#2 we mainly work from home for ourselves or in tribal groups – some partners are next door but some are the other side of the world. 

We don’t just do one thing either – the bigger cash generating deals are like a hunter bringing home an elk and get paid in cash by the larger system. But we do a lot of gathering for no money. We trade services with each other – I do some work on your site, you give me veggies. We offer up our place for rent and move in with our sister who lives down the road and we split the money.  

We don’t just sell services either. With our network of 3D printers and jigs we can make almost anything locally. Hey we even make cars using the Wiki Car Company – an open source design for cars that uses a series of chassis’s that we then adapt to create unique one off cars. For less cost than a mega car plant – we don’t have their fixed costs.

More than 50% of the things we need – we make locally. All are built using Open Source designs.

The result is that there is work here for all. 

What were hobbies become “Livings”. Your weaving, your knitting, your soap making, your talent for music or knowledge of astronomy, your mechanical genius, your coding, your cooking, your green thumb, your strong back, your relationship with children – your real skills – the real you.

No one gets super rich but all can be very comfortable and secure. Secure because no outsider can take away your living. For we are so interconnected. The gap between producer and consumer has been closed. We are always both.

Our children grow up in the middle of all of this. They see what their parents do to make a Living. They participate early too – either to help the family or to play their own role. Many children have their own Living. The gap between helpless child hood and being a participant is tiny. 

For the kids too are not shunted off into a world separate from life called school or youth.

Nor are our babies and infants given away to strangers. In our physical community we help each other a lot with the little kids. We spend very little money on daycare or nannies. We have family close, we have other families in the same boat – we have a good system. The kids also have access to tremendous resources from all over the world. They have lots of mums and dads – as kids always used to have. There are lots of Eyes on the Street in our place.

Our teachers are very different too. They are not “professionals”. They are largely us.

Our older kids meet in study groups and use materials from the web. If they have a question that they cannot solve themselves – they can access the local learning network for advice. This local Network extends all over the world. Our kids can talk to the best teachers in the world and they do. 

We used to pay a lot of money to educate our kids for not very good results. We now pay a fraction of this and our kids have learned to learn and they mix with really talented people. They don’t need a piece of paper to show what they have learned. They have a reputation that has been earned.

Food

So where did all the teachers go? Where did all the people with non jobs go?

In the old country almost no one did any work to get or prepare food. In the NW#2 food and energy is where most of the work is done. Everybody contributes here. In 2000, less than 5% of people worked to produce food and most of them were no more than slaves.

Now 85% of us participate in one way or another in food and energy.

About 30% of the food we eat is grown locally – and we are in Montreal. There are gardens on roofs – front yards – back yards in public spaces. Small animals too – chickens are everywhere and there are goats and sheep in town.

Nearly everyone spends time on growing and preparing food – we grow a lot on our own or in local groups in the community and we also help out in the country.

The rail service to the surrounding farm land is working well again and 50% of our food comes in from the direct hinterland. Many also go out there and help work for food. We help with the cultivating and harvest – for the Community Ag Model that we use, integrates the customer into the producer. That way we we keep the costs down for all. No immigrant slaves here – we belong to farm groups as helper/consumers. CSA on steroids.

Consequently, we pay very little money for food. But food growers do well. We all benefit from the Network Effect.

Farming itself is very different too. We also work WITH nature and not against her. She does more and more of the work as a result.

Farms tend to be small – about 100 acres and worked by a family and by the neigbours.

Those growing veggies mainly use Permaculture that needs no external inputs and that has yields that rise every year and where the work also falls. In many of these mini farms, the main work of the year is harvest.

Almost no machines are required. Almost no external inputs and certainly no agri chemicals.

Those with animals use a pasture system made famous by Polyface farms where grass and woodland provide the base and we rotate animals on the grass thus building up the base year by year.

In our food system, vitality grows every year. The natural capital increases and our need for external energy reduces.

We used to have no time and so had to pay cash for everything – now we have time we don’t need as much cash. THIS is the central big idea in New World#2.

Like Open Source Software we trade goods and services a lot for no money – we do have an exchange now – so the Ledger can be converted into currency of needed. This was how the old country store used to operate. 

Energy/Travel – You cannot replace oil as a convenient source of energy – but oil is very expensive in the New World#2. So how do we still have a great life? We have redesigned how we live to reduce the need for oil.

This is why the home and the local community has become the centre. We had to go far away every day to work and school and to get anything. Now most of those routine trips in the car are not essential any more. The need to drive everywhere has been designed out of the system.

Some of us do go to face to face distant meetings now and then – it is always vital to meet face to face. But these occasions tend to be rare and are often largely social – the point is to bond again.

When we travel we mainly take some time and we tend to stay with each other or rent a place from a person. Co Working places are ubiquitous. Few have offices that are exclusively theirs except at home. Why would you pay to have an office all for yourself?

The Global Co Working Network also allows you to have an office in any town, city our country. 

Energy/Climate

Heat in the winter up north and cooling in the summer in the south demand significant energy. Here design has helped too.

Much of the sunbelt, short of water and boiling hot has lost much of its population. Those that remain have gone back to building design that fits this climate. Adobe is common again. Even here permaculture works and, as was tested in the desert in Israel, is able to produce food and this practice is gaining ground on the desert itself.

Here up north in Montreal, the typical co-housing of Montreal East was designed with winter in mind. With neighbours alongside and above and below, heating demand has been reduced further by insulation.

Community heat and stoves using waste fibre are common.

Large scale and long Distance Energy

The truck is no longer the centre of the system. Most things are made locally – much is recycled locally – even steel. We trade things we can’t grow or make.

As back in time – water is the way that really heavy goods are carried. The seaboards and river and canal systems are the new/old highways for heavy goods. 

We have time now so we too use the trains and ships. 

Health

Big Industrial food no longer makes sense with very expensive oil. In the old country we used to spend a fortune on health. But now we eat so much better, we are so much more active, so much less stressed, we are naturally mainly very healthy and fit.

Grains depend on factory farms, serfs or slaves. Oil is too expensive and no one wants to be a slave anymore. So very little grain is grown anymore. We eat meat, that is grass fed, veggies fruit and nuts. This was and is our ideal diet.

So Big Pharma has little place here either. We are all working hard at breeding better animals and seeds that fit our local enviroment.  We share this knowledge around the world. Big Ag has no place in this vast cooperative effort – for if we fail here, we starve. The IP issue has gone away for the system that could enforce it has collapsed.

Most research now uses an Open Source Model – for we all benefit.

So what about the  Medical professionals?

Of course, if you have an accident, we use the Dr’s. Specialists operate all over the world too. Even a small community hospital can have a world class surgeon operate – for she is in her community and telemedicine is the norm now.

But there are not that many doctors – and the ones we have are oustanding. But we don’t need a lot of them, because so few of us are ill. 

The frontline healthcare system is now run by Health Facilitors who help us in groups work out how to get control of our health back. We pay them to keep us healthy. Health is all about matching our lives to our design.

Media

We get our news and information from each other. The old highly centralized media system was show to be what is was a shill for ther old system. They were largely made irrelevant as their role was exposed. And then their costs brought them down.

Most people have a voice now. A profound shift in human consciousness.

There is still an entertainment business but it is more of an aggregator. We don’t need as much distraction as we used to. With a more full real life, we need to depend less on a fantasy life.

So how did we get here?

No social engineering brought this about. Much of the pioneer work was done in the 1990’s. But it will be desparation that takes us here. Cities that can go no lower such as Detroit are along the path now. 

We will get here because the people who were cleared by the landlords will have no choice. We have to eat. We have to have work. We have to raise our kids. We have to have our health. In the old world all of these things are provided by the institutions. They are shutting us out. We either cannot afford them – such as healthcare or what they offer – such as public school – is rotten.

So we will do what we have to and create an alternative world alongside the old world.

In this new world, by using the network effect and open systems we will dramatically undercut the sunk costs and rigidities of the old world. We will drive them out of existence.

This weekend as I write this – we can see this process in action. The Bastille has been stormed. It’s early days but we can feel our power and sense the weakness of the regime.

BUT they will not go quietly and the attacks we see on local food systems and the massive effort to protect IP in things such as seeds is a sign of their fear.

In my next post – The Inquisition and how to defeat it.

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

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

Why are we so fat in rural settings – Part 2 – Because our friends are fat

For reasons that we are exploring in this series, there are environmental reasons why people who live in rural settings tend to be more overweight than those living in urban settings. But there are social environmental factors as well. And I think it helps to see theses for they represent powerful barriers to change.

Fatfrie1
Imagine that this is you and your family for a moment.

Weightlossjeans
Now imagine that this is you. Your are their sister and you have lost all this weight.

Would you be popular? Would you fit in? Would you be welcomed?

Probably not. I am myself getting push back from some of my friends who now think I am too skinny and who “worry” that I may be verging on anorexia!

Our need as social primates to belong is a powerful force in shaping conformity. If people in your circle are fat – then it is likely that you will become fat and stay fat too. (Article in the Washington Post)

Obesity appears to spread from one person to another like a virus or a fad, researchers reported yesterday in a first-of-its-kind study that helps explain — and could help fight — one of the nation’s biggest public health problems.

The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual’s chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends.

The researchers found that when one spouse became obese, the other was 37 percent more likely to do so in the next two to four years, compared with other couples. If a man became obese, his brother’s risk rose by 40 percent.

The risk climbed even more sharply among friends — between 57 and 171 percent, depending on whether they considered each other mutual friends. Moreover, friends affected friends’ risk even when they lived far apart, and the influence cascaded through three degrees of separation before petering out, the researchers found.Why is this?

I think it is because, we are intensely social and tribal. If you work in finance, you wear the suit and use the “voice”. If you wore that suit and used that voice at Tim’s on PEI, you would not fit in. I have an English Toffee Nosed Accent – very hard to lose – I will never really fit in to my PEI home. Accents are also an important tribal marker. All good politicians have to sound like the people.

In Paris a 140lb woman would be considered overweight. Not only is Paris a City with physical environments that help increase activity and eating habits that reduce sugar consumption, but Paris has a powerful social environment that punishes the over weight. If you were a 140lb woman on PEI you would be considered trim – assuming you were 5.8 – but after a few months in Paris, you would be working hard to get to 125. You would feel out of place.

So this social power is no small thing in why so many of us are over weight in rural settings like PEI.

Being heavy has become our normal. This social power not only lets us off the hook and reduces our concern personally but actively encourages us to fit in.It also makes losing the weight very hard – socially.

The new thin you is felt as an attack on your friends and family.

So – What to do?

I think first of all let’s acknowledge this power and reality. Knowing this is another reason to stop this pointless yelling at each other to “Eat Sensibly and Take More Exercise” This has not worked and cannot work.

We have to explore all the powerful reasons why most of us in rural settings are over weight.

That is what I am trying to do here.

What the social part of the equation shows us that we cannot take charge of our weight alone. Our families and friends will work to sabotage this. We have to find a place in a new community that will support us.

This is why organizations such as UFIT work so well. Maybe UFIT’s most valuable asset is not the workout but the social environment that the workout takes place in. Here is a post that explains this power.

Ideally we have to be accepted to begin a big change. We have to be with people we trust. These may often NOT be our friends and family. We then have to do a lot of new things a lot in their company. We are in effect creating new habits. Then after 2 years or so – not a short time. We will become a new person.

I doubt that any serious attempt to reduce obesity in rural settings will suceed if we don’t add in a support piece.

Your don’t believe me? See for yourself.(Disclosure I have advised UFIT)

 

Marriage – Good and bad for our health

Many of us have heard that marriage is good for our health. But this may not always be true – if your marriage is full of conflict, it may be bad. You may be better off without him or her!

Here is a very good article in the NYT by Tara Parker Hope on the work of Ronald Glaser and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, are also, fittingly, married to each other.

“While it’s clear that marriage is profoundly connected to health and well-being, new research is increasingly presenting a more nuanced view of the so-called marriage advantage. Several new studies, for instance, show that the marriage advantage doesn’t extend to those in troubled relationships, which can leave a person far less healthy than if he or she had never married at all. One recent study suggests that a stressful marriage can be as bad for the heart as a regular smoking habit. And despite years of research suggesting that single people have poorer health than those who marry, a major study released last year concluded that single people who have never married have better health than those who married and then divorced.

All of which suggests that while Farr’s exploration into the conjugal condition pointed us in the right direction, it exaggerated the importance of the institution of marriage and underestimated the quality and character of the marriage itself. The mere fact of being married, it seems, isn’t enough to protect your health. Even the Healthy Marriage Initiative makes the distinction between “healthy” and “unhealthy” relationships when discussing the benefits of marriage. “When we divide good marriages from bad ones,” says the marriage historian Stephanie Coontz, who is also the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, “we learn that it is the relationship, not the institution, that is key.”

 

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 & 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?

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)

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.

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?

Vitamin D – The struggle

There remains a battle going on about what is the best dose – though now little debate about how important having enough D is.

Here in full is the Statement of the Vitamin D Council

Caucasian skin produces approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D in response to 20–30 minutes summer sun exposure. This is over 16 times higher than the US government’s recommendation of 600 IU per day!

This high rate of natural production of vitamin D3 cholecalciferol(pronounced koh·luh·kal·sif·uh·rawl) in the skin is the single most important fact every person should know about vitamin D—a fact that has profound implications for the natural human condition.

Technically not a “vitamin,” vitamin D is in a class by itself. Its metabolic product, calcitriol, is actually a secosteroid hormone that is the key that unlocks binding sites on the human genome. The human genome contains more than 2,700 binding sites for calcitriol; those binding sites are near genes involved in virtually every known major disease of humans.

Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.

Vitamin D’s influence on key biological functions vital to one’s health and well-being mandates that vitamin D no longer be ignored by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health.

If well adults and adolescents regularly avoid sunlight exposure, researchindicates a necessity to supplement with at least 5,000 units (IU) of vitamin D daily. To obtain this amount from milk one would need to consume 50 glasses. With a multivitamin more than 10 tablets would be necessary. Neither is advisable.
… Continue Reading

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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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