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Healthy Living: Ancient genetics meet modern life

"Diets and food trends influence mental health directly and should be thoughtfully considered before making any real commitment."
Healthy Living Powell River
Vaaseenaa, iStock, Getty Images Plus

A nice aspect of writing about mental health topics is that, well, mental health is everything.

Much is still unknown about our brain, however. We do know that without it we are pretty much just muscle, fat, bone, connective tissue and some other stuff wrapped in about 20 square feet of skin.

Mental health can be defined as, vaguely, everything.

Diets and food trends influence mental health directly and should be thoughtfully considered before making any real commitment. What we fuel our bodies with determines how we think and feel and, conversely, how we think and feel informs our food choices.

Good nutrition can be a stabilizing force when facing long term, chronic mental health challenges such as bipolar disorder, or, a short term crisis such as trauma related to the death of a friend or family member.

Our minds and bodies merge completely when striving for overall wellness.

Many views around diet are strongly advocated in our multimedia-based, information heavy lives. Ketogenic, Atkins, Mediterranean and various forms of fasting diets have recently competed for our attention in our quick-paced popular culture.

Lately, the Paleolithic, or stone-age diet, has been a choice for an increasing number of people. The diet consists of foods thought to have been consumed by paleolithic humans: an earlier nomadic model of us that existed from a few million to around 12,000 years ago. Hunters and gatherers ate wild things such as berries, nuts, roots, fish and other wild meats.

Paleolithic humans lived before farming and agriculture brought a mass produced food supply that includes grains and the domestication of animals that previously roamed freely on the ancient landscape.

As well, the relatively recent development of agriculture brought villages, then cities and the disappearance of a free-roaming lifestyle that is believed to be embedded in our DNA and, therefore, a fundamental part of who we are as humans.

Historians estimate the population of the earth was six to 10 million people 10,000 years ago, before hunter and gatherer paleolithic humans were gradually phased out by agriculture-based, Neolithic farming communities.

We can only speculate, with sparse evidence, as to why our ancient ancestors gradually chose to forgo foraging for a farming-based life. The rise of agriculture set the conditions for Earth’s population to rise to its current worrisome level.

Modern life’s metal and glass skyscraper-dotted mega cities and processed, mass-produced food systems seem in conflict with our paleolithic ancestor’s wild harvested nutrition and wandering, active lifestyle.

The evolutionary discordance hypothesis is the term related to the feeling or belief that life is out of balance and our deeply formed stone-age genetics are unable to cope with the modern world of fast everything, especially food.

The choice of our diet and lifestyle is crucial to mental wellness and personal fulfillment and affects everything we experience in this life.

There are no journals of scientific study to back up the paleolithic diet, but 2.5 million years of humans successfully hunting and gathering fresh and wild foods while living an active lifestyle might be enough evidence for me to give it a serious try.

Robert Skender is a qathet region freelance writer and health commentator.

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