What is ancestral health?

 
 

Don’t know what ancestral health is all about? Read on for why it works!

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ancestral, primal, paleo - confused? don’t be!

Both primal and paleo are lifestyles that respect our human biology. And either can be termed an ancestral health approach.

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We didn’t evolve to sit on sofas. Or at a desk all day. Neither have we developed a digestive system to cope with the vast amount of chemicals that surround us or brains and eyes that can cope with the blue light that emits from our phones, tablets, TVs and computer screens.

Ancestral, primal and paleo approaches all try to enhance health by eating and living in a way that supports our bodies and doesn’t fight against our human heritage.

The main difference between primal and paleo is simple. Can you can tolerate dairy and do you want to include it in your food choices? If that’s a yes, a primal approach is the one for you using where and when you can get it (and afford it) raw, full-fat dairy as the best choice.

so it’s back to being cavemen and women then?

Unless you have a time machine, it’s going to be impossible! But there’s loads you can do and unlike many fad diets or hard-sell diet products and pills, there’s real science and millions of years, behind the ancestral health approach.

Foodwise it’s lots of vegetables (see your Mum and Grandma were right about eating your greens!), good protein, good fats including nuts and seeds, seasonal fruit and using herbs and spices liberally. Oh and small helpings of 85% dark chocolate to boost your antioxidants and satisfy those cravings. Ok you’re right, cavemen didn’t get to have chocolate but you have to have some fun too!

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Cavemen and women would have mostly survived on what vegetation, nuts, seeds and seasonal fruit they could gather and meat and fish when they were successful at hunting. Today we don’t need to hunt. Food is available 24 hours a day in huge choice and is partly why we find it easy to overeat.

its more than what you put in your mouth

How you move matters but what you eat, and increasingly when you eat, matters more.

‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’. I have no idea who first said it but there’s nothing truer when applied to muscle. We lose muscle mass as we age and with sitting now labelled as the new smoking, our sedentary lives glued to screens, social media and entertainment, comes at a cost. Your ability to move suffers. You age and not necessarily well. And you compromise your body’s ability to fight illness and diseases. And you probably feel awful.

Obesity and lack of functional movement add up to fed up. Literally. Fed up but not nourished. Fed up, unhappy, depressed and anxious often follows. What kind of life is that? We all deserve the best. We all deserve to feel our best. We all deserve to be our best selves.


primal movement

  1. Move frequently

  2. Lift heavy things - your own bodyweight works so include planks, pull-ups, push-ups and squats

  3. Sprint sometimes

  4. And don’t forget to play!

The primal movements above are basic functional moves - the ones that keep you doing stuff. For example, if you lose the ability to squat, you’ll find it difficult to get up out of your chair or up from crouching to reach into that low kitchen cupboard. Pull-ups and push-ups build and maintain upper body strength so you can lift that toddler or lift your shopping out of the trolley and carry it.

Sprinting may sound like a step, or many, too far for you. But pushing yourself to higher intensity exercise improves your cardiovascular health and your fat-burning!

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Cut down on blue light

Why? There’s loads of research now that shows it interferes with your body’s natural circadian rhythms. It interferes with melatonin production which means you’ll find it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep. Which of course, disrupts your energy levels the next day and can also add to that horrible feeling of low mood and general sluggishness. Sleep deprivation has real impact as any new mum and dad will attest to!

Changing your blue habits is easier than it sounds. You can set your phone to more warm colours than blue using the nightshift mode - see here for the how and you can do the same for your PC or Mac too. Switch your living room bright lights down a couple of hours before bedtime for lamps or candles if you like them. The red/orange spectrum are the colours you’re after. Think sunset and those gorgeous colours. Even more important, do this for your kids if you have them. It helps signal it’s time to start winding down for bed and for melatonin to kick in.

get good quality sleep

We all know that feeling when you wake up and you don’t think you’ve had any sleep at all. What’s interesting is that the latest research shows that it’s not how much sleep you get but it’s the quality that matters.

So what do you do? Ideally, sleep in total darkness. That means no light from phones, LEDs, alarm clocks or light pollution from outside. That’s a tougher ask than you’d think. Have a look around your bedroom and see what light sources you do have. The easiest option is to turn stuff off. Turn your TV off fully at the plug and if you can’t bear to turn off your phone, then at least make sure you turn airplane mode on and turn it face down and not in your bed! If you need a light for little ones or to get to the bathroom, then use a nightlight with an amber or orange light so you can get back to sleep quickly.

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Sleep experts say adults should try and get eight hours. That’s eight hours in bed, not necessarily asleep! So work out what time you have to be up and be ready for bed more than eight hours before - if you wind down by having a shower or a bath, all the better. The hot water helps relax you and also shifts blood to your skin, lowering your core temperature which helps you sleep better.

Your bedroom is better at a cooler temperature too as your body reduces temperature to fall asleep. So turn down the radiator, keep light to the barest minimum you can and get a good night’s sleep.