While medical centers have evolved and remedies can easily be purchased for pretty much any health concern, the overall health of humans today is much lower in comparison to our ancient predecessors. It seems ironic, right? In a world of vitamin gummy bears, Clorox wipes, and Emergen-C drinks, people today are oddly struggling to keep their bodies as healthy and happy as those who lived before us.
In fact, we are making certain kinds of bacteria go extinct!
Let’s look at other cultures to see how we improve our health and adapt to our ancestor’s methods.
Studies show that the two main differences between our modern Western lifestyle and that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors are diet and physical activity.
In a country that estimates nearly one in 10 people are obese and where one in three are overweight, it’s no surprise that the Western diet is of concern. And of course, risks of being overweight—such as diabetes, heart failure, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases—heighten said worry.
It may come as no surprise that the modern diet is extremely different than that of our ancestors. When you think of a caveman’s dinner menu, Pop Tarts, Coca Cola, and Chewy granola bars don’t exactly come to mind.
There are many theories to what exactly the Paleolithic diet included, but most will agree that this diet was rich in proteins and high in fibers. The foods consumed included a diverse variety of plant foods and wild-caught meats. This diet was overall low in fat.
Looking at the build of hunter-gatherer Native Americans, with their well-defined faces, straight teeth and fit physiques, it’s clear that the foods these individuals were eating benefited their well-being from the inside-out. Studies show that skeletal remains from these hunter-gatherers were free of tooth decay and bone deformities. In fact, historical science shows that American Indians were free of tuberculosis and that women rarely encountered difficulty during childbirth.
In regards to a more modern-day group, the Hadza people—a group of hunter-gatherers in savannah-woodland environments of Northern Tanzania—still use a forager approach to food and maintain much healthier guts than ours. While no living population gives us accurate insight into our species’ past, the Hadza live quite similarly to our Pleistocene ancestors, providing us with insight into the critical ways we may be harming our own bodies in comparison.
The Hadza people hunt with bows and use small axes and digging sticks as construction tools, rather than vehicles, guns, and other modern equipment. Like many foraging societies, the Hadza people divide genders, with men hunting game and women harvesting plant foods. Similarly to the Native Americans, Hadza typically get about 95 percent of their calories from wild foods, such as berries, meaty game, baobab fruit, and honey.
The Hadza’s guts look totally different than ours. Their guts show higher levels of microdiversity than most modern guts, and they have a much greater ability to digest and extract nutrients from fiber-rich foods than most modern humans.
The Hadza people reveal that the modern paleo diet is actually not the most effective diet for having high microbial diversity in the gut, which is linked to preventative disease. Hadza people eat a diet much higher in starch than what most paleo dieters consume today. Paleo dieters often eat similarly to the low-carb Atkins diet, which misses the major advantages of starch-loving probiotics.
You see, our ancestors didn’t have to think about it. They didn’t take probiotic pills (and they didn’t eat apples and carrots, either!). Their guts weren’t messed up like ours, simply because there weren’t so many foods available that are capable of messing up the gut!
What do Hadza eat?
- Unprocessed foods
- Black eyed peas
- Termites (for probiotics)
- Baobab fruit
Common Microbiome Disruptors
- Avoid antibiotics.
- Avoid formula-feeding children. Formula-fed babies miss out on probiotics transmitted from breast milk, and not having these essential nutrients as an infant inevitably leads to issues later on.
- Stop over sanitizing.
How To Get Probiotics Without Having to Eat Termites
- Eating probiotic-rich fermented foods. (Do you know which are the right ones?)
- Eat cooked sweet potato, instead of simple carbs.
- Consume high quality meats. The bad fats in meat isn’t as quality, and can actually poison your gut terrain.
- Eat a minimum of 80 percent plants and plant-based foods in your diet!
- Learn advanced skills in Gut Rebuilding
To be honest, very few of us plan to head into the woods this evening to shoot down a buck for tonight’s dinner. That said, there are easy ways to implement advantageous aspects of the ancient nourishment back into our diet.
This starts with fermented foods.
The practice of fermenting foods has existed for thousands and thousands of years. It originated in parts of Asia, with sour-tasting vegetables providing a myriad of health benefits for the intestines. Packed with probiotics and nutrients beneficial to our intestinal system, ferments are incredibly good for our bodies. Studies show that eating ferments can actually be better for us than taking probiotic supplements!
The standard, modern American diet is actually one of the only diets in the world that doesn’t normally include fermented foods. But these “ancient superfoods”—such as miso and sauerkraut—have been used as “superfoods” to aid our gut and digestion for over 10,000 years. Our ancestors learned the benefits early on, but for some reason, we’ve replaced nutritious dieting with fast food and soda pops.
A hunter-gatherer lifestyle undoubtedly required significant physical stamina. With a diet of lean meats, varied plants, and fermented foods, the added movement helped keep fit and strong bodies. Increasing your activity levels will reap numerous physical benefits. This means that if you have a desk job, you get up every hour and stretch, walk around. You do 20-40 minutes of cardio 3-7 times a week. You do some strength training/weight bearing exercise at least once a week.
You walk or ride your bike to work. You change your vacations to include physical activities to keep you moving. Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to feel like punishment. In fact, for most people, they feel more excited about it when there is some sort of goal – your ancestor’s goal was not about the exercise at all, it was about hunting or gathering food!
Regularly sanitizing our hands and wiping down our kitchen counters and work desks with cleaning wipes is actually doing more harm than good. Our immune systems are suffering because of our seemingly obsessive cleanliness. Childhood allergies are on the rise from this insanely OCD practice.
After the Hadza kill an animal, they actually use the partially digested plant material from the inside the animal’s stomach to rub the blood off their hands. Then, the dry their hands off with grass. The microbes and acids from the contents of the stomach of the animal actually kills of any pathogens. THIS is not how we think about sanitization at all in the West.
When you start learning to ferment your own foods, you will begin to understand the way that microbes can actually provide better protection from pathogens than sanitation can. In fact, the lactic acid produced by the bacteria that make sauerkraut sour is actually so effective at killing food-borne human pathogens, the pork industry has begun using lactic acid to prevent Salmonella.
Comment below and let me know: What’s one thing you can adopt from our ancestors?