Darwinian medicine is an approach to health and disease that’s rooted in evolutionary science – most notably the fundamental Darwinian recognition that natural selection is the supreme sculptor of life. Much of the focus is on the evolutionary mismatch concept, which dictates that misalignment between evolved biological features and environmental conditions breeds malfunction and disease. One of the main purposes of the site is to investigate how we can reconnect with nature, rewild our bodies, and reclaim our health, while still enjoying the benefits of modern technology.
4 steps to get started
1. Read a 1-minute introduction that explains what this site is all about
To learn about health, one must study health, but we must begin now, because soon there won’t be any recollection of what good health really is.
– Albert Einstein
It could be argued that we’ve now reached this point where we have no recollection of what good health really is. Chronic health problems such as acne vulgaris, overweight, irritable bowel syndrome, myopia, and cardiovascular disease are so prevalent nowadays that they are sometimes considered to be a natural part of human life.
Things haven’t always been this way…
Electricity, private transportation, fast food, and modern technology are now an essential part of most people’s daily life, and it’s often forgotten that these things are extremely novel additions to humans’ environment. Throughout the vast majority of our evolutionary history, these modern innovations were nowhere to be found. It wasn’t so long ago that all humans lived as hunter-gatherers.
Although our milieu has changed dramatically since the Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago – 10.000 years ago), our ancient physiology and biology are – to a significant extent – still with us (1, 2, 3). Our Stone Age bodies haven’t been able to keep up with the rapid environmental changes that have occurred over the last ~10.000 years – and especially the last couple of centuries – and as a result, mismatch diseases now run rampant in the modern world (1, 2, 4).
Animals that live in their natural habitat and eat the food they are well adapted to eat, are healthy and lean, while domesticated and caged animals, which are given grain feed and rounds of antibiotics, become sick. The same principles apply to humans; a statement that’s supported by research showing that most of the degenerative diseases that run rampant in industrialized societies are rare or nonexistent among hunter-gatherers and non-westernized, traditional populations (1, 5). Not only are these people largely free of chronic diseases such as type-1 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, but their general health is also much better than that of industrialized people.
Mainstream medicine has helped us combat some infectious diseases, treat acute – often life-threatening – health problems, and decrease infant mortality, but it has largely failed when it comes to preventing and properly treating chronic mismatch diseases. In order to combat these diseases and achieve good health, we have to realign our diet and lifestyle with our genetic identity. This doesn’t mean that we should “go back to the Stone Age”; rather, it means that we should bring evolutionary health principles into our modern way of life.
On this site you’ll find information about nutrition, exercise, and medicine that’s based on a combination of evolutionary theory and modern scientific research. The overall goal is to find ways to build a healthy body and achieve a fulfilling life by applying the best from both the modern world and the evolutionary past.
2. Learn more
If you want to learn more about what this blog is all about, a good start is to check out the page on Darwinian medicine. You can then move on to read more about the evolutionary mismatch concept, as well as the pages on hunter-gatherers and traditional people, the human genome, and the human microbiome. If all of this peaks your interest, you can dig into the hundreds of posts here on the site to explore further, or if you feel you are ready to get on board at once, just continue directly to the next steps.
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4. Improve your health
Darwinian medicine can help you turn the vision you have up in your head of your desired health condition into reality. It doesn’t matter whether you’re unfit and overweight, highly trained and lean, or sick and unable to exercise, all that matters is where you want to go…
As you’ll quickly gather if you read this blog, the overarching recommendation is to follow a Paleo-inspired lifestyle. That said, it’s important to bear in mind that there is no one size fits all; things have to be adjusted to meet the specific goals, needs, etc. of each person. This is particularly true for people who suffer from chronic health problems and/or have specific health & fitness goals they’re trying to reach.
Diet, microbial exposure, exposure to harmful substances, stress, sleep, physical activity, and sun exposure are lifestyle factors that have a particularly potent impact on our health, and they are therefore given the most attention on this site. Below is a list of practical diet and lifestyle recommendations that can help you improve your health.
- Use the original human dietary template (meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats, fruit, roots, and nuts) as the starting point for designing your diet.
- Eat plenty of fiber-rich plant foods.
- Regularly eat fatty fish, organ meats, and/or other foods high in omega-3.
- Choose wild, organic, and/or grass-fed food over conventionally produced foods whenever possible.
- Consider taking up intermittent fasting.
- Adjust your diet in accordance with your goals, activity levels, and health status. E.g., if you’re very physically active, you may find that you need to include some starchy grains such as brown rice in your diet to achieve peak athletic performance.
Strategies you can use to rewild your body:
- Eat fresh, minimally washed plant foods from a trusted source (e.g., backyard garden).
- Occasionally eat small quantities of a diversity of fermented vegetables, preferably organic and homemade. Sauerkraut, kimchi, and other lacto-fermented foods are packed with bacteria, some of which could help you boost the diversity of your gut microbiome.
- Do some gardening.
- Avoid antibacterial products and harsh cleaning products.
- If you’re a female, perform vaginal births (if possible) and breastfeed your child(ren).
- Pick up bacteria from healthy humans and animals.
- Spend more time in natural environments.
- Take good care of your home’s microbiome.
- If your microbiota is severely damaged, consider performing one or more microbiota transplantations or taking a drug designed to restore microbial diversity of the gut.
Exposure to harmful substances
Strategies you can use to reduce your exposure to harmful substances:
- Avoid using antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs unless you have to.
- Stay away from harsh cleaning agents and antibacterial products.
- Seek out non-toxic, “natural” beauty and cleaning products from reputable brands.
- Seek out a high-quality source of drinking water, and avoid plastic bottles if possible.
- Restrict your consumption of foods that come in containers that leach potentially harmful compounds.
- Reduce your use of cosmetic products.
- Replace conventional chemical-laden products with natural alternatives.
- Prepare your food using “safe” cookware.
- Gently cook your food to reduce the production of harmful compounds such as advanced glycation end products.
Strategies that can help you take control of your stress levels:
- Don’t let ancient adaptations that are mismatched to the modern environment control your behaviour. In other words, don’t let your temptations get the best of you, but instead plan your life according to what you know is best for your long-term health and happiness.
- Establish boundaries so that technology does not rule your life.
- Avoid unnecessary “noise”. E.g. constantly checking e-mails and phone messages, spending hours on social media looking at what other people do.
- Include some occasional bursts of acute stress into your life. E.g., cold showers, “facing your fears”.
- Regular exercise, consumption of a healthy diet, and good sleep habits are all important for preventing chronic stress.
- Plan your life according to what’s important for you.
- Try to resolve energy-consuming relationships, difficult job situations, etc.
- Seek out and nurture meaningful relationships instead of focusing on online communications.
Strategies that can help you sleep more and better:
- The notion that sleeping 8 straight hours every night is the normal and/or optimal way to sleep has little evolutionary support. That said, from the perspective of getting the best possible sleep within the parameters of our modern lives, a concentrated bulk of 6-9 hours sleep each night is pretty good.
- If you have the opportunity and desire to sleep biphasically, there’s no reason not to do so.
- Keep to a routine.
- Reduce or eliminate your use of light-emitting electronics at night.
- Don’t work out right before bed. The short-term burst in cortisol can make it harder to sleep.
- Install f.lux (a program that makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day) or another similar program on your computer.
- Expose yourself to a lot of bright light during the day.
- Consider using amber goggles in the hours before going to bed.
- Sleep in a completely dark room.
- Avoid stressful activities before bed.
- Use a dawn simulator alarm clock.
- Consider listening to sounds of nature before bed.
- Nail down the rest of your lifestyle. E.g., physical activity, stress, sun exposure.
- Learn good exercise technique!
- Do lots of light-moderate intensity activities such as walking.
- Regularly perform multi-joint strength exercises such as the squat, lunge, deadlift, push-up, pull-up, and press.
- Occasionally sprint and do moderate-to-high level intensity exercise with intervening periods of rest and recovery.
- Avoid excessive high-intensity exercise (e.g., prolonged, high-intensity endurance training, extreme bodybuilding-type training).
- Use minimalistic footwear or train barefoot if you can.
- Work out outdoors if you can.
- If your goal is to achieve good health and develop multifaceted fitness, an organic fitness regimen (as loosely described above) is ideal.
- If you have specific goals (e.g., maximize strength and/or muscular development, run a marathon, or sprint as fast as possible), you can still use the evolutionary template as the foundation for your workout programs, but you should specify your training and focus on progressive overload.
- Tan gradually, and avoid getting burned!
- Pay attention to latitude, time of day, and season.
- Avoid using sunscreens if you can. Sunscreens – even many of the “natural” brands – contain many potentially problematic ingredients.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene in order to increase your protection against sun damage.
- If you have very light skin, 10 minutes of sun exposure a couple of times per week could be sufficient to give you a good dose of vitamin D. If you have dark skin, you need a lot more. Brief, repeated exposures may be more efficient than one concentrated session in terms of vitamin D production.
- Choose sunlight over vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D supplements don’t provide the same spectrum of benefits that you get from sunlight.
- Cover up (e.g., clothes, hat) to avoid excessive exposure.
- Sun tanning is superior to the use of indoor tanning devices. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid indoor tanning devices.
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