I love this article! Although technology has brought us wonderful things, it has also made life too easy for us when it comes to our health! Add the fact that we are living in a sea of toxins! Make it a healthy day! Lisa
Ancient Success and Modern Challenge
Writing in the August 2004 American Journal of Medicine, Dr. George P. Chrousos of the National Institutes of Health explains the potential hazards of a mismatch between human genetics and human behavior. At the core is the body's stress response. It involves the brain, especially the hypothalamus, the pituitary (or "master") gland, the sympathetic nervous system, and the adrenal glands. In response to stress, this intricate network pours out several hormones such as cortisol and other glucocorticoids, adrenaline and other sympathomimetic amines, vasopressin, and interleukin 6 and other cytokines that mediate inflammation and immunity.
You don't have to be a scientist to know how the stress reaction feels and looks. Your heart beats faster and harder, and your blood pressure soars. Your breathing gets faster and deeper, and your pupils widen. Your muscles tense up, and your hair may bristle a bit. Your skin becomes cool and clammy, your mouth gets dry, and your stomach may churn with tension. You feel alert and awake but tense and nervous. The changes that go on inside your body are just as impressive. Stress activates your clotting mechanisms and turns up the immune system. Blood sugar levels rise, white blood cells pour into circulation, and urine production slows. These changes prepare humans to cope with danger. But they evolved when the dangers were predators, privation, and physical dangers. Today, most Americans live in a protected world of plenty. Our world has changed, but the stress response has not.
Think about it. Our earliest ancestors depended on their physical prowess for survival. Life itself hinged on obtaining food by hunting and gathering, both strenuous activities. Finding shelter, evading predators, and coping with the whims of Mother Nature also required strength and endurance along with a quick wit. Anthropologists tell us that at the dawn of humankind, in the late Paleolithic era, people lived in small bands that roamed over large areas to find food and shelter. Human population was sparse; scant resources, low fertility, and a hostile environment limited population to a density of just one person per square mile. Society was simple, with most of the people performing identical tasks. The most important task was obtaining food. Typically, it was a question of feast or famine. One to two days of virtually continuous physical activity were required to obtain sustenance. These bursts of exercise were followed by several days of feasting and celebration - but even during these primitive holidays, our ancestors were amazingly active, dancing, playing, and traveling up to 20 miles on foot in a single day to visit and trade with other clans. All in all, an average day's physical activity burned up about twice as many calories as a typical American uses today.
Stone Age people hunted wild game, trapped fish, and gathered fruit, nuts, seeds, and tubers. They weren't able to store food, so they ate what they could when they could. The result was feast or famine; even today, the human metabolism remains dedicated to storing calories in body fat to provide fuel in time of need. The Stone Age diet was high in protein but very low in fat. Meat was a major source of protein, but wild game was lean and low in fat because the animals ran free and eked out a subsistence living on vegetation - no pens, grain bags, antibiotics, or hormones for them! Dairy products were unknown, and carbohydrate consumption varied, but the primitive diet was very high in fiber and had plenty of vitamins, iron, and minerals - except for salt, which was scarce. Caloric consumption was up and down, probably averaging about 3,000 calories a day.
The agricultural way of life still prevails in much of the developing world, but in the 19th century, the industrial revolution produced incredible changes in the United States and Europe. Labor-saving devices made life much easier, replacing physical labor with mental work. New agricultural methods made food cheap and plentiful. Technology and mass production made refined grains, sugar, and salt - to say nothing of tobacco and alcohol - readily available. Our brave new world was born.
Modern science has accelerated the pace of change and has spread technological advances to the far corners of the globe. Life is much better (and much longer) today then ever before, but some good things have been lost. Exercise is one, dietary diversity another. We've replaced hoes with tractors, brooms with vacuums, and stairs with elevators. Fresh foods are out, refined, processed foods in; that means less fiber and vitamins but more salt, sugar, fat, and calories. Freed from physical labor, people have used their heads to carry science and technology to new heights, creating a society of unprecedented affluence and convenience. But progress has its price. Mental stress is one example, environmental pollution another.
Sedentary living and processed foods extract a price both in health and in dollars. Our genes retain most of the Stone Age imperatives, but life in the fast lane does not. Human DNA cannot provide a substitute for the exercise that has all but vanished from contemporary work stations. The human metabolism is still programmed to cope with the Stone Age threat of starvation, not the burden of overabundance. Evolution is too slow to have yet produced ways to manage today's high-calorie, high-salt, high-fat, low-fiber diet. The body has no new enzymes to fight the effects of tobacco, excess alcohol, and illicit drugs. The nervous system remembers how to respond to the threat of a saber-toothed tiger but has not figured out how to cope with a raging boss or rush-hour traffic. And as industrial pollution changes the environment, a sea of toxins presents new challenges to human genes and human health.
Back to the future Molecular medicine is on the verge of making genetic engineering a clinical reality, but it can't possibly bring Stone Age genes up to Space Age standards. Since science can't reshuffle your genes, the only way for you to restore nature's balance is to adopt a more natural lifestyle. Fortunately, you can get back to basics without returning to the farm, much less the savannah. Here's how: · Eat well. Consume a variety of foods to restore nutritional diversity. Favor vegetable-based foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals. Eat whole-grain products that contain the fiber you need. Avoid animal fat; get your protein from fish, poultry, beans, and legumes. Reduce your dependence on processed foods, salt, and simple sugars. Eat smaller meals on a regular schedule, balancing your caloric intake with your expenditure of energy. · Exercise regularly. Add physical activity to your daily life by climbing stairs, walking instead of driving when possible, and carrying your own parcels. Set aside 30-45 minutes nearly every day for moderate exercise; walking, jogging, biking, swimming, dancing, gardening, and tennis are good examples. For best results, add exercises for balance, stretching exercises, and prudent resistance training. · Control stress. Balance work and play, stimulation and relaxation, companionship and solitude. Achieve all you can, but take time to enjoy every day. You can get back to the basics by incorporating the best aspects of modern life to live naturally, enjoyably, and healthfully. It's all in your genes.
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