20 Aug 2022

Healthy Living: Obesity - modern vs ancient diets

Healthy Living: Obesity - modern vs ancient diets

Just under four in ten (37%) of people have a normal weight, six out of ten (37% overweight and a further 23% obese) overweight or obese in Ireland

Obesity is undoubtedly one of the major health issues of our modern world. I don’t take weight-loss clients in my clinic, but I help with the consequences of the excess pounds; chronic pain, hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, imbalance in the immune system and so on.

While working on the chronic health problems the weight naturally comes off as the welcomed side effect.

I recently listened to my colleague Alexandra Dobbs of Grassroots Nutrition in one of her regular slots on Spirit Radio, comparing our modern diet and food security to the diets of our ancestors and even just our grandparents’. She mentioned direct evidence from bone chemistry of our ancestors such as the measurement of the stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen, which revealed how their diets were much more diverse – and it often included times of famine. Fasting was not a choice, but a consequence of scarcity, which now we know the health benefits of.

With the industrial revolution we now have food security, which is a blessing – but we also received the very three things that contribute to our major health problems: introduction of refined foods, toxic chemicals and the reduction of diversity.

The constant availability of food – often in processed, low nutritional value but high empty calories format, means you can be overfed and undernourished.

Having a sweet treat is now the everyday norm – often more than once a day, and refined crisps and juices count as one of your five-a-day! Processed meals and treats lead to blood sugar imbalance and the growth of your midriff area as a result.

The man-made toxins your body has hard time to eliminate have a strong oestrogenic effect on your endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances and interfere with your gut flora – both leading to weight gain.

Lack of diversity in plant foods means reduced diversity in our gut microflora, the microscopic creatures that live in your digestive system that give you many health benefits.

Time and again research have highlighted that lack of gut flora diversity have been found in all chronic diseases, while healthy people tend to have more diversity in these beneficial bugs. There is evidence of a strong connection between a less diverse gut flora, lack of certain strains while abundance of others and obesity, through the mechanisms of systemic low-grade inflammation.

What is the solution? Go back to the way you were supposed to eat; natural, wholesome foods prepared the traditional ways. Look for new plants; introduce different grains above the wheat, oat and rice. Try new vegetables and fresh or dried herbs. Go to your local farmers’ market and look for more types of the vegetables – different colours, ancient varieties.

Experiment with the great variety of spices, seaweeds and wild plants – the latter available through experienced foragers.

Finally, treat a treat as a treat – have it on occasions, not every day. Find pleasure in other areas – like a relaxing bath, music, dancing, nature walks, prayer and meditation, a good book –

Whatever gives you those positive feelings.

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