Very few would argue that we are quite different from ancient, primal humans. After all, everything in our world has changed, from how we live and work to how we communicate. The speed at which the human world of technology moves is exponential comparable to our cave dwelling ancestors and their hand carved stone tools. However, maybe that is exactly what we are wrongly assuming: that we are that different. As Eric says, maybe the modern software that we are trying to download (food, work, and daily life) is just not compatible with our ancient hardware.
Ancient is not synonymous with simple. Our body and its functioning is a miraculous symphony of chemicals and electrical signals that we are still only beginning to understand. It’s all working towards the dynamic goal of something we call homeostasis, internal balance. A balance similar to what exists in the natural world: the natural ebb and flow of everything in cycles. Now look around you, think about your home or workspace, your schedule, your mentality: how much of it is in flow of natural cycles?
From where you sit, turn the knob of your time machine and rewind back 40 000 years to the Later Stone Age. Imagine what your life would look like. Humans were beginning to spread around the world. There was art, culture, jewelry and there were structures and carvings of what may have been deities, but it was probably all quite simple. We were already thinking and communicating through abstract symbols, but there was no need for the complexity we assign to everything these days. As it was you only knew a few dozen people. There were many opportunities, more threats, and unanswered questions to ponder. However, we probably only knew what we knew, our questions were simple, and so were our problems. Our fears and dangers were predictable, but also simple. They did not have a range much larger than our tribe or territory. Life was still hand to mouth, but there were far fewer variables, and much more time to just relax, play and sleep.
At this point our HPA axis (the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis or feedback loop between these glands) that controls our stress response would have been well established, as modern anatomical humans had been around for at least 100 000 years. So when we encountered stress in our primitive world- a predator entering our cave, chasing a herd of gazelles, a sick child, or environmental event that changed our territory, we produced the proper quantity of epinephrine to cope, and it was regulated by cortisol. We also had the same backup system based on our the circadian rhythm. It triggered the release of more cortisol early in the day when we would be out hunting or foraging, and less as we wound down to get to sleep. This predictable chemical messaging, driven by the pineal gland and so-called clock genes, made it that much easier to obtain homeostasis.
However, cortisol does much more than regulate your stress hormones. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. It would seem that cortisol is a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being.
So nowadays why can’t the body just continue to do it’s thing and the HPA axis continue normally? Like everything else in this modern world, it is trying to multitask and constantly interrupted. Too much cortisol released too frequently can wreak havoc on our systems because all of our heal, rest and restore systems are put on pause for an impending threat that we rarely fully escape. Excess cortisol also creates an overwhelmed immune system and persistent inflammation. In our ancient world, a persistent, recurring stress, like a long drought producing famine, would be an eventual cause of death in those with weaker immunity, other illnesses or injuries. It might have been an event that wiped out whole tribes.
Nowadays this stress still kills us, it is just called different things and may take longer. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. More than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
The good news is your body tends to give you a warning before the life threatening diseases take effect. Your adrenal glands, the cortisol producers, get tired out from their ceaseless production line and become sloppy or exhausted. The HPA axis is no longer in synch with the circadian rhythm or there’s just not as much cortisol produced. The rate of inflammation may slow down, but all those other important tasks triggered by cortisol cannot be completed. This means that a person may experience:
- blood sugar imbalances
- low energy levels
- mid-afternoon dip in energy
- tired on first waking in the morning
- trouble falling asleep &/or trouble maintaining the second half of the sleep cycle
- impaired cognitive performance (brain fog)
- lowered immunity
- decrease in lean muscle mass
- increased abdominal fat (and thin limbs)
- decreased bone density
These are symptoms of a condition the holistic community has named Adrenal fatigue. The allopathic medical community does not recognize Adrenal fatigue. The medical term applied when the adrenal glands do not release adequate amounts of their hormones is Adrenal insufficiency. Interestingly, the two conditions share the same set of symptoms. The difference is that Adrenal insufficiencies are caused by damage to the glands (often caused by autoimmune reactions) or use of glucocorticoids, whereas Adrenal fatigue is caused by a lack of the proper building blocks or energy to support the adrenals or proper hormone production. The common solution is to supplement the lagging hormones but many professionals in both communities are hesitant to do so. If glands are supplemented for too long they may never produce by themselves again. This creates a cascade of health issues and side effects, some of which are very dangerous.
So what is the alternative? Follow the natural human diet to correct imbalances and restore adrenal health naturally. Here is an example of how WildFit achieves this:
- We take time to breathe (thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system)
- We prioritize proper hydration
- We encourage increasing healthy fats
- We encourage eating only nutrient dense, high quality proteins
- We encourage increasing the quantity and quantity of green food
All of these enhancements to your diet and lifestyle means providing key nutrients so that the body can decrease biological stress and nourish the adrenal glands. This helps create an overall metabolic reset for a tired and worn body, so that it can revert back to proper hardware functioning.
With proper nourishment and oxygen your circadian rhythm and its associated glands and clock genes can function better. This improves sleep quality. Proper nutrition and sleep enables your body to decrease inflammation and restore immune balance. If the body is not feeling sore and worn out by chronic inflammation it can produce more energy and motivation. This can increase time outdoors and activity levels, which in turn regulates overall body function and mood. The same way that your body cascades into poor health, it can rebalance itself to vibrant health. It just needs you to provide the right building blocks and environment for it to do so.
Summarized, a simple life may be the best one. Our diet, lifestyle and environment shape our health and longevity. You’ll be on the right path to wellness if you can learn to live the idealistic parts of our hunter gatherer ancestors lives: work less, play, move and rest more, get outside and be in the moment, We’ll be talking about how to correct Adrenal fatigue all month, so stay tuned to our Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages for more tips, hacks and insights.