Pop Quiz: What do excess body fat, heart burn, constipation, eczema, insomnia, and depression have in common?
Answer: They are all “common” health woes today that were anything but “normal” through most of our evolutionary history. And they are all caused―or at least worsened―by poor food and lifestyle choices.
Common But Not Normal
So many people today suffer from chronic health conditions that most of us just accept as unavoidable facets of modern life and growing older. But it is critical to understand that problems with weight, digestion, skin, sleep, cognition, etc. are not normal nor inevitable no matter how common they may be.
A Pill for Every Ill?
Thanks to ubiquitous advertising from pharmaceutical companies, most people assume that the solution to these chronic maladies is simply popping a pill. Yes, prescriptions and over the counter drugs can help supress or eliminate symptoms, but the problem is that they don’t address root causes.
Okay, So What Are the Root Causes?
If asked to explain the root cause of common modern health issues like obesity, heart disease, and heart burn, most people (including both laymen and medical professionals) will usually chalk things up to “bad luck” and “bad genes.” Genetics certainly do play a role, but the good news is that epigenetics―the turning on and off of genes based on environmental signals―is far more important and far more within our control. Though we can’t change the genetic code we are born with, we can make important changes to how our genes are expressed through changing how we eat, move, sleep, socialize, and manage stress.
A Better Solution
All of these “common but not normal” conditions stem from a mismatch between our ancient genes and modern lifestyles. Instead of seeking a temporary, symptom-masking solution, you can instead address the actual root causes and find greater long-term improvement by better aligning your diet and lifestyle with what your genes are programmed to expect:
- Eat a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, species-appropriate diet full of lots of ample fat, animal protein (protein from animals and seafood is far more bioavailable than that from plants), nuts and seeds (if you tolerate them), and low-glycemic, in-season fruits and vegetables (if your gut can handle the fiber). And perhaps most important? Break up with sugar! It’s like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend who might be enticing in the moment, but makes you feel worse after indulging.
- Get lots of low-impact movement each day (e.g. walking) and do occasional, short, high-intensity efforts like weightlifting and sprints. Lengthy cardio sessions are not necessary nor particularly good for the body’s stress levels, weight loss, well-being, or overall health.
- Get at least 8 hours of deep, restorative sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room. If your schedule and lifestyle allow it, avoid waking up to an alarm clock. If you struggle to fall asleep, try to minimize your exposure to blue light (television, computers, mobile devices, house lights, etc.) after dark by wearing orange glasses, installing F.lux on your computer (which automatically changes the brightness and color of your display based on the date, time, and latitude), turning on Night Shift on your iOS device or installing Twilight on Android devices, and committing to powering down all devices at least an hour before bed.
The body has an amazing innate ability to rebalance itself if it gets the nutrients and rest it needs to perform the way it evolved. When we start eating real food, and sleeping and moving to support our body, those “common” symptoms will alleviate or disappear altogether in a matter of weeks.