Healthy and Happy in a body you love
The Disclaimer stuff: I'm not a health professional, the information on here is just that. It's not advice. It's what I've learned and that I found helpful in my own health journey. I've tried to use trusted, peer reviewed, sources. But please remember, things change, new findings occur. I've not made this site for me, or anyone, to be dragged down some Interweb alternative facts reality. Thanks
Metabolic Health 101
Knowing how and why your body works is the first step in understanding how best to work with it to optimise our health
Our bodies have evolved to be genetically optimized to thrive on the same type of lifestyle and diet as our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Our bodies are struggling to keep us healthy in our 'modern' lifestyles.
It has made sense, for many people who strive to be healthy, to actively explore possible ancestral solutions to help maximise their health.
It's how we evolved
Homo sapiens, or modern humans, emerged in Africa around 300,000 years ago. Our species evolved from earlier hominids, such as Homo erectus and Homo habilis, and eventually migrated out of Africa and across the globe.
Hunter-gatherers, or people who subsist by hunting wild game and gathering plants, emerged around 10,000 years ago during the Paleolithic era. Before the development of agriculture, humans were primarily nomadic and relied on hunting and gathering for their survival.
As hunter-gatherer societies emerged and grew, they began to adapt to their environments and develop specialized skills and knowledge. This allowed them to survive in a wide range of habitats, from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rainforest.
The Diet of Hunter-Gatherers
Hunter-gatherers typically have a diverse and nutritious diet that varies depending on their location and the season. They often eat a combination of wild game, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
One of the key advantages of the hunter-gatherer diet is its high protein content. Wild game and fish are rich sources of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue.
Hunter-gatherers also consume a variety of plants that provide important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some common plants that are eaten include berries, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
The Transition to Agriculture
Around 10,000 years ago, humans began to develop agriculture, which allowed them to settle in one place and cultivate crops. This marked a major shift in human history and led to the development of civilization as we know it today.
As humans began to farm and raise animals, their diets changed dramatically. They began to consume more grains, such as wheat, rice, and corn, as well as dairy products, such as milk and cheese.
While agriculture allowed for greater food security and the development of larger, more complex societies, it also led to a decline in the diversity and nutritional value of the human diet. The shift towards grain-based diets led to a decrease in protein and micronutrient intake, which can lead to malnutrition and other health problems.
The evolution of Homo sapiens and the emergence of hunter-gatherer societies marked a critical point in human history. The hunter-gatherer diet provided a diverse and nutritious source of food that allowed humans to thrive in a wide range of environments. However, the development of agriculture led to significant changes in the human diet and has eventually led to a decline in nutritional diversity.
The Body's Metabolic Health and Homeostasis
Our bodies have a complex set of metabolic systems that work together to maintain health and balance. These systems include metabolism, blood sugar regulation, hormone production, and many others. Maintaining the proper balance of these systems is critical for overall health and well-being. One way the body accomplishes this is through the process of homeostasis.
What is Homeostasis?
Homeostasis is the body's ability to maintain a stable internal environment, despite changes in the external environment. The word "homeostasis" comes from the Greek words "homeo," meaning similar, and "stasis," meaning stable. Essentially, homeostasis is the body's way of keeping things in balance.
For example, when our body temperature rises due to exercise or a hot environment, our body responds by sweating to cool us down. When our blood sugar levels drop, our body releases hormones, such as insulin, to bring them back up.
How Homeostasis Works in the Body's Metabolic Systems
The body's metabolic systems are constantly working to maintain homeostasis. One important example is blood sugar regulation. When we eat, our body breaks down the food into glucose, which is used as energy by our cells. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps to regulate our blood sugar levels by allowing glucose to enter our cells for energy. When our blood sugar levels drop too low, the pancreas releases another hormone, glucagon, which causes the liver to release stored glucose back into the bloodstream.
Another example is our body's response to stress. When we experience stress, our body releases hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare us for a "fight or flight" response. These hormones increase our heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, providing our body with the energy it needs to respond to the stressor. Once the stressor has passed, our body returns to its normal state through the process of homeostasis.
Homeostasis is a critical process for maintaining the proper balance of our body's metabolic systems. By constantly monitoring and adjusting our internal environment, our body is able to maintain optimal health and function. Understanding homeostasis and its role in our metabolic health can help us make informed decisions about our diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle.
Understanding the Gut Microbiome and Its Importance in Health
The human body is home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Many of these microorganisms live in our gut, where they form a complex community known as the gut microbiome. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The gut microbiome is incredibly diverse, with hundreds of different species of microorganisms living together in a complex ecosystem.
In recent years, research has shown that the gut microbiome plays a critical role in maintaining our health and well-being.
How Does the Gut Microbiome Work?
The gut microbiome plays a critical role in many aspects of our health, including:
Digestion: The gut microbiome helps break down and digest the food we eat, allowing our body to absorb essential nutrients.
Immune function: The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in our immune system, helping to protect us from harmful pathogens and viruses.
Brain function: The gut microbiome has been linked to our brain function and mood. Research suggests that imbalances in the gut microbiome can lead to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Weight management: The gut microbiome may play a role in weight management, with certain types of bacteria being associated with obesity and others with a healthy weight.
The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is critical for overall health and well-being. An imbalance in the gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including:
Digestive problems: Dysbiosis can lead to digestive issues, such as bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation.
Immune dysfunction: Dysbiosis can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Mental health issues: Dysbiosis has been linked to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Chronic diseases: Dysbiosis has been linked to chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
The gut microbiome is a critical component of our overall health and well-being. It plays a crucial role in digestion, immune function, brain function, and weight management. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors is important for preventing a wide range of health issues and promoting optimal health.
The Right fuel
Why Our Evolved Body Systems Need Proper Nutrition
Our bodies have evolved to function optimally with a balanced diet that provides all the necessary nutrients. The nutrients we consume through our diet play critical roles in various body systems, including:
Digestive system: Nutrients are required for the proper functioning of the digestive system, allowing for the breakdown and absorption of food.
Immune system: Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system that can fight off infections and diseases.
Endocrine system: Nutrients are required for the proper functioning of the endocrine system, which regulates hormones and metabolism.
Nervous system: Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system that regulates body functions such as movement, sensation, and cognition.
What Happens When We Don't Get Proper Nutrition?
When we don't get proper nutrition, our body can experience a range of health issues, including:
Weight Gain: Consuming too much of certain types of food, such as sugar and saturated fats, can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Chronic Diseases: A lack of essential nutrients can lead to chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Mental Health Issues: A poor diet has been linked to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.
Proper nutrition is essential for the optimal functioning of our evolved body systems. A balanced diet that provides all the necessary nutrients is essential for maintaining good health and well-being. Without proper nutrition, our body can experience a range of health issues, including malnutrition, weight gain, chronic diseases, and mental health issues. By making healthy food choices and maintaining a balanced diet, we can ensure that our body systems operate at an optimal level for our health and well-being.
The Importance of Sleep for Our General Health
Sleep is an essential part of our daily routine that plays a critical role in our overall health and well-being. Adequate sleep is necessary for maintaining optimal physical and mental health. In this handout, we will explore the importance of sleep and the health consequences of inadequate sleep.
What Happens During Sleep?
Sleep is a complex process that involves various stages of brain activity and physical changes. During sleep, our brain waves slow down, and our body goes through a range of changes, including:
Repair and Recovery: Sleep is essential for repairing and recovering our body tissues and cells, including muscle tissue and the immune system.
Memory Consolidation: Sleep plays a critical role in consolidating memories and learning new skills.
Hormonal Regulation: Sleep helps regulate hormone levels in our body, including those responsible for appetite, metabolism, and stress.
The Health Consequences of Inadequate Sleep
Inadequate sleep can lead to a range of health issues, including:
Weakened Immune System: Inadequate sleep can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Obesity: Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain and obesity due to hormonal imbalances that affect appetite and metabolism.
Mental Health Issues: Inadequate sleep can lead to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Chronic Diseases: A lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
How to Get Better Sleep
Getting adequate sleep is critical for maintaining good health and well-being. Here are some tips for getting better sleep:
Establish a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Create a sleep-conducive environment: Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine: These substances can disrupt sleep.
Manage stress: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
Sleep is an essential part of our daily routine that plays a critical role in our overall health and well-being. Inadequate sleep can lead to a range of health issues, including weakened immune system, obesity, mental health issues, and chronic diseases. By establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a sleep-conducive environment, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, and managing stress, we can improve the quality and quantity of our sleep and ensure optimal health and well-being.
The Impact of Stress on Our Health and Well-Being
Stress is a normal part of life, and everyone experiences it from time to time. However, chronic or long-term stress can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. In this handout, we will explore the effects of stress on our physical and mental health.
What is Stress?
Stress is the body's response to a demand or challenge. It can be triggered by a variety of factors, including work, finances, relationships, and health concerns. Stress can be beneficial in small doses, as it can help us stay focused, alert, and motivated. However, chronic or excessive stress can lead to health problems.
Physical Effects of Stress
Chronic stress can have a range of physical effects on the body, including:
Increased Heart Rate: Stress can increase heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular problems over time.
Digestive Issues: Stress can lead to digestive issues such as indigestion, stomach ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Weakened Immune System: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Sleep Disturbances: Stress can disrupt sleep, leading to fatigue, mood changes, and other health issues.
Mental Health Effects of Stress
Chronic stress can also have a significant impact on our mental health, including:
Anxiety and Depression: Chronic stress can lead to anxiety and depression, which can have a long-lasting impact on our mental health and well-being.
Cognitive Impairment: Chronic stress can affect our cognitive function, including memory, attention, and decision-making.
Substance Abuse: Chronic stress can lead to substance abuse as people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress.
Behavioral Issues: Chronic stress can lead to behavioral issues such as anger, aggression, and withdrawal.
Managing stress is critical for maintaining good health and well-being. Here are some tips for managing stress:
Identify Stress Triggers: Identify the factors that trigger stress in your life, and try to avoid or manage them.
Practice Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
Exercise: Exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress, as it can release endorphins that help improve mood.
Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional to help manage stress.
Chronic stress can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health. By identifying stress triggers, practicing relaxation techniques, exercising, and seeking support, we can manage stress and improve our health and well-being. If stress is affecting your life, seek the help of a mental health professional who can provide you with the tools and resources you need to manage stress and improve your overall health.
The Primal Blueprint is a lifestyle philosophy that emphasizes the importance of mimicking the lifestyle of our primal ancestors to improve health and well-being. The following are the 10 Laws of the Primal Blueprint created by Mark Sisson. How they worked for our ancestors and why they can work for modern humans:
Law1: Eat Plants and Animals
Then: Our ancestors thrived on a diet of plants and animals, providing them with vital nutrients for life, brain function, fitness, and immunity. Today's diet differs greatly from our primal ancestors, so it's crucial to look back and model our eating habits after theirs. Primal humans had diverse diets based on environmental factors, and there's no one-size-fits-all diet. Our ancestors ate sporadically due to food availability, leading to efficient energy storage in the form of body fat, muscle, and liver glycogen, to be burned during food scarcity.
Now: Don't be dismayed by the genetic trait to store extra calories as fat - by choosing the right foods, prioritizing whole, nutrient-dense foods and minimizing processed and industrialized foods, you can leverage this mechanism to your advantage, maintaining optimal body fat and stabilizing appetite and energy levels. It's about moderating excessive insulin production resulting from our modern processed diet and taking control of our genetic traits.
Law 2: Avoid Poisonous Things
Then: Throughout history, humans have conquered every corner of the earth by consuming a diverse array of plant and animal life. Our primal ancestors developed keen senses of smell and taste, as well as efficient liver, kidney, and stomach functions, to adapt to new food sources and avoid falling victim to poisonous plants that were common while foraging and settling in new areas. Our sweet tooth today is likely an evolved response to the universal truth in the plant world that anything sweet is safe to eat. Moreover, the ability to gorge on sweet foods and store excess calories as fat was an evolved survival mechanism to endure harsh winters with limited food availability.
Now: Modern humans can benefit from this rule by avoiding processed and industrialized foods that we are learning can contain harmful toxins and chemicals. Though some might not be immediately harmful, many are being recognised as potentially having long-term harmful effects on our health.
Law 3: Move frequently at a slow pace
Then: Early man was constantly on the move, engaging in a variety of low-level aerobic activities like hunting, gathering, foraging, and migrating. This daily movement prompted their genes to build a robust capillary network, providing oxygen and fuel to their muscles while effectively converting stored fat into energy. Unlike today's sedentary lifestyle, early man did not go for long periods without moving, avoiding the metabolic and cognitive problems that arise from prolonged inactivity. They also didn't engage in chronic sustained high-intensity workouts like modern fitness enthusiasts. Such counterintuitive behaviour would have depleted their muscle and liver glycogen stores, leading to fatigue and vulnerability to predators or starvation. Our genes are designed for occasional feats of endurance with ample downtime, including sprinting for survival when facing danger, and extensive daily movement like walking.
Now: Modern humans can benefit from this rule by incorporating low-intensity physical activity into their daily routine, such as walking or gardening.
Law 4: Lift Heavy Things
Then: Our ancestors were constantly on the move, engaging in bursts of intense physical activity - hauling firewood, building shelter, climbing rocks and trees, and foraging for food. These brief but intense muscle contractions triggered biochemical signals that led to improvements in muscle tone, size, and power. Their active lifestyle demanded physical effort, and their bodies adapted accordingly.
Now: Get the most out of your workouts with brief, intense full-body exercises like squats, pushups, and pull-ups. These functional movements are key to developing and maintaining lean muscle mass, optimizing your metabolism, increasing bone density, and preventing injuries. Plus, they help balance your hormones and blood glucose levels.
Law 5: Sprint Once in a While
Then: Survival of the fittest was the rule in the primal world, and running was the key to staying alive. Primal man's ability to sprint when danger struck determined whether he would pass down his superior genes. Those life-or-death sprints triggered a hormonal cascade that built his resiliency to go even faster next time
Now: Brief, all-out sprints help increase energy levels, improve athletic performance, and minimize the effects of ageing by promoting the release of testosterone, human growth hormone, and other hormones into the bloodstream.
Law 6: Get Adequate Sleep
Then: Our ancestors were in tune with their hormonal rhythms, guided by sunrise and sunset. Early mornings marked the start of the day, while evenings meant safety in huddling together and resting. Hunter-gatherers needed this downtime for repair and rejuvenation after their active lifestyles.
Now: In today's fast-paced, stressful world, sleep and restoration are often overlooked. Sleep is vital for immune and endocrine function, cognitive function, tissue repair, appetite regulation, and fat metabolism. Excess artificial light, digital stimulation, toxins (sugar, alcohol etc), and stressful morning routines disrupt our sleep patterns.
Law 7: Play
Then: Our ancestors spent hours every day involved in various forms of social interaction not related to their core responsibilities of securing food and shelter and caring for their young. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers reveal that they generally work far fewer hours and have more leisure time than the average 40-hour-plus modern working week.
Now: Modern humans can benefit from this rule by incorporating play and leisure activities into their daily routine, such as playing sports or engaging in creative hobbies.
Law 8: Get Plenty of Sunlight
Then: Early humans, or cavemen and women, were not cave-dwellers; they spent their time outdoors pursuing survival and leisure activities. Sun exposure was essential for manufacturing vitamin D, critical for healthy cell function and cancer prevention. Diet alone cannot provide enough vitamin D; we need sunlight on large skin areas during peak solar intensity periods. Developing and maintaining a slight tan during summer indicates sufficient vitamin D production for year-round health. Our Homo sapiens ancestors in East Africa easily obtained enough vitamin D and adapted with dark skin pigmentation and thick hair to prevent overexposure. The importance of vitamin D is evident in the evolutionary adaptation of lighter skin pigmentation among populations who migrated farther from the equator. Lighter skin enabled more efficient vitamin D synthesis from sun exposure, crucial for survival in less sun-kissed regions like Europe. Alternatively, oily, cold-water fish remains the only significant dietary source of vitamin D.
Now: In today's modern lifestyle, getting enough sunlight for sufficient vitamin D levels is not a given. We tend to spend a significant amount of time indoors, in confined spaces like cars, offices, and homes, and often use sunscreen excessively when we do go out in the sun. Additionally, many people live in regions with latitudes that are not in sync with their ancestral genetics, which puts darker-skinned residents of higher-latitude areas at risk of vitamin D deficiency. These abrupt changes in human lifestyle are believed to contribute to various serious health issues. To ensure optimal levels of vitamin D for overall health, it's crucial to make a conscious effort to spend ample time outdoors, allowing large skin areas to be exposed to direct sunlight strong enough to generate a tan. In cases where sun exposure is compromised, taking vitamin D supplements can also help. In today's predominantly indoor lifestyle, prioritizing adequate vitamin D intake is essential.
Law 9: Avoid Stupid Mistakes
Then: Our ancestors possessed keen observational skills and a strong sense of self-preservation to avoid danger. They were constantly scanning, smelling, and listening to their surroundings, always vigilant for potential threats like saber-toothed tigers, falling rocks, poisonous snakes, or even a simple twisted ankle from a careless step. They honed their risk management skills to perfection, as even minor mistakes could have disastrous consequences. For instance, a scraped knee could lead to a life-threatening infection if left unchecked. The ability to keenly observe and manage risks was crucial for survival in their daily lives.
Now: While we no longer face the threat of vicious tigers in our modern lives, we often invite different forms of pain and suffering through careless actions. It's important to buckle your seat belt, avoid drinking or texting while driving, and be prepared and vigilant during outdoor activities such as backpacking or biking down steep hills. Even when using tools like blowtorches, chainsaws, or tile cutters, it's crucial to exercise caution. By dedicating a little more attention and energy to risk management in our day-to-day lives, we can ensure a long, happy life and pass on our superior genes to the next generation.
Law 10: Use Your Brain
Then: Not too long ago, Homo sapiens coexisted with other hominid species on our planet. However, today, we are the sole surviving human species. Scientists attribute our survival not solely to our big brains, as other hominids like Neanderthals also had large brains. Instead, it was our capacity for complex thought that gave us the edge. Our superior abilities for language, abstract thought, and higher-level cognition allowed us to adapt to a changing world.
Early Homo sapiens used their brains to develop better tools, hunting strategies, and communication skills, which further fueled the growth of our brains. Over just a few thousand generations, the size of the human brain rapidly increased due to optimal dietary choices and our continued reliance on complex thought, much like a muscle that gets stronger with use. The remarkable evolution of our brain function is evident in the fact that hunter-gatherer communities across the world independently developed language, tools, and advanced hunting methods.
Now: While it may be argued that we utilize our minds extensively to navigate and survive in today's world, the reality is that many of us find ourselves stuck in unfulfilling or monotonous jobs, lacking continuous intellectual challenge and stimulation. Studies on general intelligence have consistently shown that curiosity is a key indicator of profound intelligence. The good news is that opportunities for intellectual stimulation abound in our daily lives.
By committing to personal challenges, such as learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, or enrolling in an evening college class, we can actively engage our minds and keep them sharp. Research has shown that keeping our brains active, just like our bodies, can reduce the risk of devastating mental conditions such as depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's.