The Human Ecosystem

“They are not on the earth, but within the earth. They are part of stone, of the animals and of the wind.” – Jean Malaurie speaking of the Inuit

A crucial factor in sustaining health seems to have been lost; the maintenance of external and internal ecosystems. There is a disconnection in what is naturally a closed system, a cycle, creating linear paths that lead to nowhere.

As Hippocrates stated 2000 years ago, “all disease begins in the gut”. With ten bacteria cells to every one human cell we are more microbe than human. These bacteria communities vary depending on our environments, eating habits and hygiene behaviours. The people that live the closest to the earth do live within it- they share the bacteria of the animals they hunt or herd with the soil and with the other people in their community.

ponijiao-babies-movie

Ponijao from the Babies movie growing up “within the earth” of Namibia.

These people are much healthier than urban dwellers and less likely to develop autoimmune conditions.

Recent studies are finding more symbiotic relationships and connections in studying microbes and fungi- but it has been part of a more primitive wisdom for thousands of years. The human food project is gathering data from American faecal samples and exploring the bacteria on and within Hadza hunters. I am excited to see what they find.

The Gut of an Ill Informed Mimicker

I would like to intertwine a personal story here. If you have been reading my blog up until now, you know I love exploring origins. I love learning about traditional land use, especially in food attainment. After experimenting with low carbohydrate (LC) diets to lose fat, I stumbled upon the paleo diet. The idea of practical application of anthropology to find an optimal diet for humans was, and still is, extremely appealing to me.

Ketogenic diets were already explored at this point, and living in the north, I thought it was even more practical and sustainable to be LC-paleo; I was eating local, grass-fed beef. In the winter, there are not many plant foods a traditional hunter-gatherer can get their hands on in this biome (or so I thought). I also explored intermittent fasting and spent a good part of the last year skipping breakfast and sometimes lunch.

I developed heartburn for the first time in my life. Somewhat suddenly, foods that once didn’t give me too many problems hurt- high fructose fruit and many vegetables. Though already gluten-free, I started having cross-reactions with any little bit of dairy protein I ingested that led to inflamed joints. This ended up in a hospital visit with carpal tunnel symptoms. My diet was limited to mostly meat with some berries and citrus fruit with minimal vegetables.

During this time, I followed low-FODMAP diets and went through bouts of GAPS introductory diet, which consist of drinking bone broths and just eating meat. I figured this was all okay; after all, it isn’t as if the Inuit have had poor health on fat and meat.

I was probably wrong about the exclusivity of their diet.

Following a restrictive diet did not heal my intestinal tract; in fact, I got worse during the course of summer 2012 to summer 2013. A person with autoimmune disease will see positive effects in removing the reacting proteins…

But why are they reacting in the first place?

Look after your Ecosystem

Then I heard Jeff Leach on Chris Kresser’s podcast: You are What you Eat. Although there has been controversy about the optimal amount of carbohydrates in the paleo community, the GAPS diet and the elimination approach in general has always had a good reputation for healing guts. Jeff showed scepticism of this and spoke about the gut as if it was its own ecosystem. Starving off an apparent overgrowth (SIBO) would kill everything, and by reintroducing fibre and starch there would be a significant risk of returning it back to the condition that produced the discomfort in the first place.

Don’t Kill Off your “Good” Bacteria: Provide Substrates to your bacteria: plant fibre, and possibly even more important for my case and similar cases: resistant starch. The promise of resistant starch is spreading like wildfire in the online ancestral health community.

Add Bacterial Strains- Biodiversity is GoodDiet is probably only one portion. Our obsession with hygiene has probably gone too far. Probiotics are not going to be as effective as living “within the earth”.

If we are mostly bacteria it seems we should be more concerned about feeding them. For those with autoimmune and digestive issues I recommend listening to the podcast and try solving your issues with this knowledge and your own inherit wisdom.

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