RootCause MD on Liver King's 9 Ancestral Tenets
RootCause Dispatch #14
By now everyone has probably heard of Brian Johnson aka Liver King — engineer turned social media celebrity and animal-based entrepreneur. The crux of his message is that we should re-create the environment of our ancestral past as the best strategy to achieving optimal health in this day and age.
I fully endorse this approach and and have written about it previously in The Corruption of the Human Diet and Fundamentals of RootCause Medicine.
Luckily you don’t have to eat copious amounts of raw organ meat live on camera and haul hundreds of pounds of weights around to get health improvements from an ancestral lifestyle.
The Ancestral Tenets provide highly actionable advice relevant for everyone — from those trying to reverse metabolic dysfunction, improve autoimmune symptoms or simply trying maximize genetic potential for optimal health. Below I have added my own commentary to each tenet.
*Follow the link to read the entirety of Liver King’s comments on each tenet.
LK: The first Ancestral Tenet is Sleep because it trumps everything else! It’s the time when body and brain detox, recover, rebuild and restore. We can go many months without food, only a few weeks without water, but only a few days without sleep before we die. To improve your sleep, get early morning sun exposure at the same time everyday to regulate sleep / wake cycles. Finish your last meal 3 to 4 hours before bed. Enjoy the warmth of the sunset as the final environmental cue that the day is winding down, and then put on a pair of blue light blocking glasses so the blue light from your phone, or artificial lights, don’t trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime all over again.
RCMD: Sleep is critical. The most common ways I see people sabotaging their sleep is having screens in their bedroom, exposing themselves to blue light right up to the moment of lying down. This does a great job of inhibiting your body’s melatonin release from the pineal gland and preventing you from falling asleep promptly. Which in turn contributes to blue light toxicity and circadian disruption. Hence the value of blue blocking glasses.
The second most common mistake is exposing oneself to non-native electromagenetic fields in the bedroom (cell phone next to head) and sleeping in close proximity to broadcasting devices like wifi routers. I haven’t posted much on EMFs, but they disrupt mitochondrial function by constantly activating voltage gated calcium channels in your cells. Chronic exposure to EMFs leads to a state of chronic cellular stress and a host of non-specific symptoms. Not ideal when your body is attempting to heal from a range of other stress exposures during the day.
LK: The second Ancestral Tenet is Eat because we evolved eating the whole animal. In the modern world, we choose processed foods and muscle meats over the most nourishing, nutrient-dense bits like liver and bone marrow. The foods we evolved with for more than 2 million years are the same foods that we still expect today to heal and be healthy. Drop the processed foods, the seed oils and the liquid calories and start incorporating whole foods, liver, bone marrow, heart and bone soups into your primal fare to express the best version of you.
RCMD: Organ meats are the most nutrient dense foods that exist on the planet. Forget about plant-based ‘superfoods’ – nothing can beat liver, heart and bone broth for nutrient density and nutrient bio-availability. Most people are nowhere near including sufficient muscle meat, let alone organs — they are still dealing with addictions to processed carbs, sugar and seed oil rich junk food. As LK says, dump this industrial plant waste passed off as human food and start introducing ground liver/heart mixed with ground beef. From there you can try chicken heart or liver as a stepping stone to eating more ruminant organs.
The exact composition of diet will vary based on individual, but as a general rule I suggest meat, organs, seafood +/- full-fat dairy for all. If you’re doing a carnivore diet or trying to heal autoimmunity then stop here. If you’re healing metabolic syndrome you can add above ground or fermented vegetables if you like. If you are active, fit, sun exposed and free from metabolic dysfunction (quite a small number or people) feel free to further add regular fruit/honey and unprocessed carbohydrate sources like sweet potato as you prefer.
LK: There is a mismatch between our physical activity we experience in the modern world and our ancestral environment. This is almost as big a mismatch as is diet. That’s why the third Ancestral Tenet is Move. What you do with your body is just as important as what you put into it. By maintaining a “healthy level of movement,” one develops a healthy approach to consumption, where instincts become far more identifiable and beneficial. The well-being that builds from balanced movement trumps the need for consumption based satisfaction, such as food, painkillers, alcohol and drugs. We recommend first thing in the morning walking for thirty minutes. Early afternoon, walking for thirty minutes. After dinner, our Tribe walks in rain, snow or shine for thirty minutes.
RCMD: I view physical activity as essential for optimal health. But it is not required for the initial phase of severe metabolic disease reversal, and much progress can be achieved with lowering dietary carbohydrates and fasting. Nevertheless, it will turbocharge your progress and is preferable. Everyone should aim to incoporate the morning and the post prandial walk for several reasons. Early morning walk (prior to eating) outside helps circadian timing, kick start metabolic processes, curtail any morning hyperglycaemia. It sets you up for a good day. Eating after meals is also a highly effective way of dulling the glycemic affect of what you just ate — anyone with insulin resistance, Type II diabetes, gestational diabetes should make it a regular part of their routine. Use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to see the effect of different types of exercise on blood glucose.
The next step is resistance training — no matter how small. Wearing a weights vest around the house, walking with kettlebells, performing pushups all the way to heavy compound lifts like squat and deadlift. Do what you can based on your ability and training level. Progressively increase the weight. Get professional help if you have underlying comorbidity or haven’t exercised before to minimize the chance of injury.
LK: The fourth Ancestral Tenet is Shield because we need to avoid dangers just like our early ancestors did, but instead of running from lions, nowadays we run from seed oils, excessive wifi, EMFs, and man-made poisons. Dangers like these end up compounding and with an additive effect, they disrupt our hormones, metabolism and ability to get deep sleep. Start by turning off your wifi at night and stop wearing perfume. The name of the game is progress, not perfection.
RCMD: As you might have noticed from my twitter bio, I see modern dietary and environmental toxins as a major contributor to metabolic dysfunction, ill health and the silent but hugely serious issue of impaired fertility. We can roughly break these toxic exposures into three categories I) dietary – seed oils, processed sugar, and endocrine disruptors like phthalates, BPA from plastic contact with food. Add in agricultural herbicides like glyphosate and atrazine from contaminated water or industrially produced grains. II) Environmental – chemicals like phthalates and parabens in cosmetics, perfumes and care products, PFAS on teflon pans and certain clothing, smoke and particulates from polluted urban environments. III) Non-native EMFs – broadcasting devices like wifi, home wireless phones, proximity to cellular towers, etc. Whatever you do don’t put your phone in your pocket next to your gonads. Regarding this tenet, the hippies and natural health crowd were correct and miles ahead of the mainstream.
LK: The fifth Ancestral Tenet is Connect. Our early ancestors were in constant contact with the earth 24/7/365. The earth has a slightly negative charge which provides a grounding force for our electrophysiology. With the advent of rubber shoes, cars, houses and elevated beds, we no longer come into contact with this grounding force. Think about it, when was the last time you had your bare feet planted on the earth for any real duration? The benefits of connecting to the Earth include better sleep, improved blood pressure and anti-inflammatory and protection against EMFs. All you have to do is take your shoes off and put your bare feet directly on the earth or hug a tree. Start with 10 minutes and pay attention to how you feel.
RCMD: Not a topic I have written a lot about, however there is good evidence for benefit of grounding for a range of conditions. Most recently I read a paper showing reduced red blood cell (RBC) coagulability following a session of grounding. Ideally combine your grounding with your early morning walk and your sun exposure to get additive benefits. As for me? I like to walk shirtless on the beach in my Village by the Sea…with sprints and push-ups as I go.
LK: Comfort is not good for the organism. This is why the sixth Ancestral Tenet is “Get Cold.” In modern times, we simply put on some clothes, turn up the heater, or avoid the cold altogether by staying inside. No one likes that uncomfortable frigid feeling that comes with cold, especially when we have access to warmth 24/7. Our early ancestors were regularly subjected to cold, we have brown adipose tissue which is metabolically active for thermoregulation, we have 60,000 miles of blood vessels within us that are lined with smooth muscles that constrict (or) dilate based on our perception of temperature - this process of vasoconstriction and vasodilation is like exercise for your blood vessels - we’re purpose built for cold. For those seeking a better life, start with cold/hot contrast showers for 30 seconds at a time. Take notice how you feel afterwards.
RCMD: The practice of cold thermogenesis is a highly beneficial health behavior for a number of reasons. As Drs Jack Kruse and Jacob Montgomery would remind us, mitochondria benefit enormously from periods of cold exposure because it brings the electron transport chain complexes closer together and improves efficiency of electron flow. One reason why you feel so energized after a immersion in a cold stream, river or sea. For those overweight or metabolic dysfunction, periodic cold exposure will turbocharge your weight loss and normalization of your metabolic profile — this study showed how cold exposure massively increased your muscles ability to uptake glucose from the bloodstream, an interesting and logical response to shivering induced by cold. The 10 diabetics in this study improved peripheral insulin sensitivity by 43% after only 10 days of cold thermogenesis.
LK: The seventh Ancestral Tenet is Sun for the natural production of Vitamin D. This prevents tooth decay, increases immunity and improves overall health. The vitamin D produced in the body from midday sun exposure works synergistically with the other fat-soluble vitamins A and K which helps us to remineralize our teeth, support key metabolic factors, improve energy metabolism and optimize immunity. Look to Bone Marrow for vitamin K (the mk-4 variety), Mid-day sun for vitamin D, Liver for real vitamin A.
RCMD: Sun exposure is so important that it is hard to overstate. Let me add that Vitamin D (produced in the skin by exposure to UV-B wavelengths) is only part of the picture. Nitric oxide, a, potent vasodilator essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure is produced on exposure to the UV-A wavelength light. Near infra-red light penetrates your tissues up to 8cm and stimulates the production of melatonin, an extremely potent anti-oxidant, from your mitochondria in every cell of your body (see my recent thread Sunlight, Melatonin and Mitochondria).
We are evolved to be exposed to the varying light spectrum naturally emitted by the sun throughout the day, and receive this solar information through our eyes and on our skin. It entrains our circadian rhythm, programming cellular processes and regulating the entire organism. That means no part of your skin or body should be excluded from regular sun exposure, including your genitals...Delve down the quantum biology and mitochondrial health rabbit hole to appreciate why the sun is so important.
LK: The eighth Ancestral Tenet is Fight. Our ancestors evolved fighting, hunting, protecting, struggling, persevering and eventually winning. And when we win, we get rewarded with a boost of dopamine and androgens. In modernity, there are not a lot of natural opportunities to put yourselves in harm's way, to overcome real struggle, to really fight for something of value.
I believe for us to really thrive, we have to possess a type of high courage to continue to fight for something meaningful, to foster an inner fire, to take real risks and to continue to create ways to win. This is how we avoid falling into a rut. Look for opportunities that scare the shit out of yourself! In this way, we can honor the legacy of our ancestors and our biology so that we can enjoy the spoils of the modern world and express the best version of ourselves.
RCMD: Taking a holistic view of health, it is undoubtedly true that the concept of struggle is critical for our mental health and our perception of meaning in life. So many patients arrive in the clinic room with anxiety and depression of which a lack of meaning is a component cause. Humans without struggle like a border collie dog kept inside unable to run — it will eventually become neurotic and develop behavior problems.
We need overcome adversity in order to truly thrive. More literally, combat sports are ideal way to stimulate testosterone production and can be considered if trying to holistically treat situations of low serum testosterone (in addition to increasing red meat intake and avoiding xeno-estrogen chemicals).
LK: The ninth Ancestral Tenet is Bond. Since the inception of our species, we have belonged to a far greater purpose. Our ancestors purpose was guarding the perimeter from danger to protect one’s tribe, hunting and foraging to feed one’s tribe, building, tool making and weapon making to shelter and shield one’s tribe, caretaking and love making to nurture, to nourish and to grow one’s tribe, there was purpose in teaching and in tradition, and in play, that cultivate traditions and deepen social bonds. That kind of purpose, support, care and attention decided whether people would live or die. We still need that kind of bonding to be happy and healthy today. Start by simply spending focused, present time with loved ones and friends, we’ve always needed each other and we still do!
RCMD: Much can be said about this particular tenet. It is well established that human connection is critical to human health. Physical touch, intimacy, a feeling of belonging are all essential. Being within a group of likeminded people who share similar values, goals and dreams is our naturally evolved state. Find your person, your tribe, your people and and work together making the world a better place.
So there you have RCMD’s takes on Liver King’s 9 Ancestral Tenets. They could equally be named ‘9 Steps to Reversing Metabolic Dysfunction’ or ‘How to Resolve your Autoimmune Disease with Lifestyle’.
I challenge anyone to find me someone with severe Type II diabetes, obesity, major depression, etc performing all of the above. You won’t because they don’t exist. So do yourself a favor and start implementing these tenets.
How do you know know you’re doing it right? It’s a feeling you get. When you feel you could kill a full grown Lion with your bare hands…or swim across a Himalayan mountain river in full summer glacial melt flow...with a weights vest on.
The Rest Is Up To You….
— RootCause MD
May 24, 2022
Thank you for reading RootCause Dispatch.
Subscribe to the RootCause Journal of Medicine
Follow @RootCauseDoctor on Twitter
Join the RootCause Renaissance Telegram Channel
Contact me at rootcausemd (at) protonmail (dot) com
Support my work with a bitcoin (BTC) donation: PayNym +divinerecipe394 or email above for a deposit address
Great, timely article with excellent analysis and expansion to Liver King's Tenets
For tenet #6 Cold, recommend if anyone hasn't to try cold showers if they don't have access to a cold stream, river, or sea. The cold is a real turbocharger as RCMD noted.
A GRAND gift to me for my 65th birthday! Many thanks.