Another information-packed, nutrient-rich day at the Ancestral Health Symposium.
The first session of the day was titled: Parasites are Paleo: The Hidden Cost of Modern Hygiene. This one was a test of our skepticism and critical thinking I’m always talking about. The universe of micro-organisms that populate our bodies inside and out are a delicate balance, and when we cropdust internally or externally we kill indiscriminately, and that’s not good. Some of these guys aid our health through digestion or skin health. Our children are growing up in the Purell environment and we don’t yet know what the results of that are going to be. Statistics are showing that when our children are exposed to dirt and mud they have a lesser incident of allergies and asthma. (Please know that this is way oversimplified, and I’m linking to the lecturer’s website/book because much of this is new enough to me I can’t speak authoritatively.)
I attended another session called Survival Panel, mostly out of interest for son Sam, and his interest in survival skills. This was a panel looking at the hunting/gathering activities that our ancestors would have engaged in compared to the movement/stressors/nutrition we have modernly. Guess what? We are pretty far removed from those skills. One of the questions after the session asked the inevitable question about eating insects, which of course is a big topic in this group. As broadminded as I pride myself in being, I’ve got a huge ick-factor about this I’m struggling with.
Next was a really interesting lecture about the Rise of Monotheistic Religions as a Cultural Adaptation to Infectious Disease. Many religious edicts relate to cleanliness with regard to burial, ritual for food preparation, sexual rules, etc that may have helped religions keep a stronghold through this hygiene code through religious authority. The lecturer for this, John Durant has appeared on the Colbert Report talking about the health of hunter/gatherers.
Lunch break at a Paleo conference was: water buffalo meatloaf, potatoes, squash and zucchini in olive oil, salad, and kombucha to drink (yeah, the potatoes were a surprise to me too – more on that later). The meatloaf was wonderful, and provided by one of the vendors. I’m still amazed at how beautiful everyone here is, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching people interact during the meal. I have no idea why I have no picture of this – too hungry, I guess.
Then we had that poster session I mentioned. Folks were invited to present their research (on a poster, duh) informally in a mix-and-mingle area where they could chat and explain their research. There were several N=1 posters – folks who have applied paleolithic nutritional science to themselves for a period of time (mostly about one year), and did extensive data gathering. Weight loss, lowered blood pressure, more energy – all of the typical health markers improved for these experimenters.
After lunch we went into a panel discussion about the Ketogenic Diet and Athletic Competition. The rock stars on this panel were Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson. Mark came in 4th in the Hawaii Ironman on a ketogenic diet (a fat-burning rather than glucose (sugar)-burning diet). We hung on every word of this one. It appears that one may lose the top, highest performance (top speed) but endurance increases dramatically. This makes sense in light of the evidence that our muscles can only retain so much glucose (enough for about 30-45 minutes), but our fat stores, even on a lean person, are massive. Son Sam and I are doing an Ironman together next year (looking at Chattanooga in September 2014), and it’s my intention to train on a cyclical ketogenic plan.
Dr. Georgia Ede presented a session about Nutrition and Mental Health that blew me away. Because carbohydrates create inflammation in the body, her research is centered on studying whether or not this inflammation, that eventually may lead to diabetes or some kind of autoimmune disorder, may also have an effect on mental health. She was very cautious about even inferring connections, but her research is so promising in connecting diet to some of these diseases (ADHD in particular), and fits with the statistics of what our children are eating.
Then we attended a very sobering session about Malnutrition and Starvation in the World, and about how we, the global human community, can help to feed the world. The conventional wisdom is to produce more grains. Dr Alyssa Rhoden spoke about how to reclaim some parts of the world from the desertification that comes from growing corn and return it to grazeland, and to grow more diverse organic vegetation. This topic is political and ethical as well as economic, and I’m including this link and this link if you are interested in more information.
The last session of the day for us was an introduction to Pasture and Grassland Ecology. I am particularly interested in this, since my little slice of paradise in Tennessee includes 8 acres and all the animals whose pictures I’m always posting on Facebook. I already have my little garden, and the chickens provide beautiful eggs, but even if I never eat another animal off the land there, I would like to restore the topsoil and care for the groundwater as much as I can. Our lecturer for this has a blog: grassbasedhealth. His topic included the question: Is An Ancestral Diet Sustainable?
So that has been day 2. Just a side note: we’re not just attenders of this conference, we are also working here as the Investigators for Code of Conduct Violations. While all of that is super top secret, I can say that we have not been very busy. Correlation does not imply causation, as we know, and it has been nice being able to attend the lectures.
Today is Eliott’s birthday, so our dinner tonight will not be Paleo. Don’t be hatin.
Thanks for reading!