Eat Like a Human
RootCause Dispatch #17
Ancestral appropriateness is the main thesis and mental model of #RootCause Medicine. To best cultivate optimal health today, we should look backwards into the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens and re-create, where appropriate, the same diet and lifestyle.
Bill Schindler is an archeologist who made a career from this approach. Like Weston Price 80 years ago, he visited native people living their traditional way and studied the methods and practices that they use to hunt, gather, collect and prepare food.
The crux of his work surrounds not only what we should eat but when we should eat it and how it is prepared. He argues that act of traditional food preparation – cooking, fermentation and detoxification — is key to ancestrally appropriate eating and helped us unlock the maximum amount of nutrients while disarming any toxins.
He is also a staunch advocate for local and seasonal consumption of foods.
Contrast this approach modern industrialized food system. Frakencrops (mostly domesticated monoculture GMO wheat/corn/soy) grown with synthetic fertilizers in mineral-deficient soil, doused in herbicides and refined using a laundry list of chemicals to produce high calorie but micronutrient deplete, shelf stable ‘food’. Then trucked around the country and around the world.
Not in any way ancestrally appropriate.
Dr Schindler’s book Eat Like a Human contains an excellent summary of his various takes on correct preparation and consumption plants, animals, grains, dairy and even insects.
Here are some excerpts I found particularly insightful and interesting…
Our lack of awareness about plants’ native toxicity – and our rejection of eating vegetables only when they are in season – mean we are, essentially, slowly poisoning ourselves. This is especially problematic for plants containing toxins such as oxalates, which can build up in our bodies over time. Even worse, through domestication and genetic manipulation, we’ve reduced these plants’ nutritional density, medicinal value, and flavor.
Dr Schindler isn’t advocating a complete avoidance of plants, rather his emphasis is that seasonal consumption and correct preparation was how our ancestors disarmed these organisms and unlocked nutrients for consumption.
And I mostly agree with him. In today’s society the over-consumption of these inappropriately prepared plants has massively contributed to disease. Most significantly to metabolic dysfunction and auto-immune disease from highly refined grainsand seed oils.
On witnessing Mongolian herders butcher a yak
On the freezing steppe, I watched unorthodox butchering strategies unfold before me like none I’d ever seen before...I began to understand that what these people valued from this animal was nothing like what we, in our Western culture, value.
With the exception of the spleen and the gallbladder (which were fed to the dogs) nothing was wasted. With hands like surgeons the herders worked to remove the liver, heart, kidneys and lungs…
Once all the blood and organs were removed, all surgical precision disappeared as the herders removed the meat. There were no prime cuts or subprime cuts, or any recognizable individual cuts of meat as there would be on our plates in the West. Everything was chopped up together into fist-size chunks each containing its own proportional share of meat, gristle, marrow and fat.
What the Mongolian herders prized is the opposite of the expensively priced cuts in the boutique butcher shop in your downtown metropolis. Lacking any societal hangups on the taste or texture they go straight for what nourishes them in the most effective way. This means micro-nutrient density (organs, blood) and macro-nutrient energy density (fat). An approach that makes a lot of sense when the health and future reproductive success of your tribe is prioritized as the highest goal.
The good news is that you don’t need to butcher a large ruminant yourself (although I would recommend it) — cuts like liver, heart, bone marrow and suet are the cheapest in the butcher shop.
On Samburu Tribesmen
Three young Samburu warriors stood sentry over the entrance to the trail that led to their village. They all wore brightly colored traditional attire, and their physiques were striking. In fact, for all my travels around the world I had never encountered anyone who looked as healthy. Tall, lean and muscular, they had broad faces split with wide smiles of straight, gleaming teeth. Their eyes were white and their skin glowed. And they looked this way despite a diet of very little meat, fruits, or vegetables. They had no access to supplemental vitamins, grocery stores, nutritionists or even fluoride.
The nutritional secret to these warriors perfect state of health was in fact regular consumption of fresh cow blood drawn straight from the jugular vein and fresh milk, drawn directly from the udder, mixed together and drank on the spot. Similar to Weston’s Prices observations of the Masai, who were frequently noted to be over six feet tall on the same diet.
To me, it raises the question of what exactly is the value of the academic disciplines of nutrition, dietetics and nutritional epidemiology that are collectively unable to explain or assimilate this empirical observation into the theoretical framework which influence the dietary habits of an entire nation.
Rather than seeking to understand how such a purely animal-based diet is able to promote such an optimal degree of health, these academic disciplines continue to act like the propaganda arm of the agricultural and food industries, which is essentially what they are.
Collectively we are disconnected from ancestral practices that we used to access our most vibrant, healthy state of being. Bill’s work fills in more of the gaps of the metaphorical ‘user manual’ for our species, the blueprint for optimal health.
I recommend reading Eat Like a Human or listen to Bill’s podcast appearances with Dr Shawn Baker and Zac Bitter on Human Performance Outliers Podcast, with Brian Sanders on Peak Human (I, II, III) or with Paul Saladino on Fundamental Health.
It really is as simple as avoiding processed food, eating seasonally, eating the whole animal ‘nose-to-tail’ and preparing any plant matter you choose to eat in the correct way.
If you do all these things correctly, maintaining a spare tire and multiple pill prescriptions will become a challenge.
The Rest Is Up To You….
— RootCause MD
June 24, 2022
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"To me, it raises the question of what exactly is the value of the academic disciplines of nutrition, dietetics and nutritional epidemiology that are collectively unable to explain or assimilate this empirical observation into the theoretical framework which influence the dietary habits of an entire nation." WOW, perfectly said! I need to check out this book. -Madison
Unfortunately bone marrow is not one of the cheapest. I will agree with liver, heart and kidney.