In today's modern world we experience levels of wealth and comfort that our ancestors could only image. Yet, this same society that has generated more entertainment, food, and income for the world has made chronic disease and poor physical fitness common place in just about every modern culture on the globe.
Our culture is rapidly trying to normalize weakness, obesity, and chronic disease as something that is just a part of normal life and aging. Even America's most popular magazines glorify obesity as beautiful, without any recognition of the dangers and societal health care costs associated with of the obesity epidemic.
However, a look at the lifestyles of our ancestors and hunter-gather societies still in existence today (e.g., the Hadza in Tansania), prove that living a more ancestral lifestyle is the key to reversing this trend and achieving robust health.
A study of the Tsimane' tribe in Bolivia showed that nearly 9-10 adults over the age of 40 had virtually zero risk of heart disease. (1) Diabetes and obesity were equally as rare. But why?
Study of these cultures has proven that the key to staying strong, muscular and mentally healthy comes from living an ancestral lifestyle that mimics the natural way we evolved to use our bodies and live in this world. Not from starvation diets, cleanses, or fat burners.
So what is Ancestral Health
Accordingly to the definition posted on AncestralDoctors.org, Ancestral Health focuses on combining the traditional lifestyle habits of our ancestors with modern medicine (where necessary) to prevent and treat chronic disease.
This is obviously a vague definition with few details, but in practice an ancestral lifestyle provides a simple set of principles you should follow daily if your goal is to achieve the same health and fitness today's wild animals, as well as our ancestors enjoyed centuries ago.
How to Live an Ancestral Lifestyle
Step #1: Drink Clean Water
Our government does the best they can providing "safe" water to the masses. However, that doesn't mean municipal water won't slowly kill you over time. Think about it; your neighbors are all peeing out pharmaceutical drugs and birth control hormones, while also pouring paint, cleaner, oil, and just about everything imaginable down the sink.
We didn't even mention the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals, and industrial chemicals that make their way into our water via our modern industrial machine.
Because of this it is important to only drink ultra pure water like reverse osmosis as often as you can. This will dramatically reduce the amount of pollutants you consume daily. Just make sure to add back beneficial minerals and electrolytes, as most methods for purifying water remove everything, including the minerals essential for proper nervous system function.
Step #2: JERF - Just Eat Real (Natural) Foods
Focus on eliminating processed food and the three devils of the food supply: processed grains, sugar, and hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils. Focus on eating protein equal to your ideal bodyweight in grams, supplementing with fruit, honey, and fermented dairy.
There is growing debate about the pros of cons of eating large amounts of vegetables, but if you like them, go for fermented or cooked over raw, as this helps reduce the amount of plant defense chemicals and makes them easier to digest.
Step #3: Supplement to fill in the gaps
Okay, our ancestors didn't have access to dietary supplements, but we know they used plants, herbs, and other items for medicinal and dietary purposes. We should do the same.
Adding supplements like grass-fed beef testicle and liver, pine pollen, and other beneficial superfoods can help supercharge your nutrition and provide your body with essential vitamins, minerals, and amino-acids from foods you would not likely add to your normal plate.
Step #4: Move your body and lift heavy things
Our bodies need to be moved frequently and with intensity. Modern science has shown us that high intensity strength training, combined with the right amount of walking, running, and stretching, can help prevent nearly every major health issue.
Do you think our ancestors sat at work all day, then on the couch all night, only to then go to bed and sleep for 8 hours? Hell no. Our ancestors had to work hard to survive, which included building everything in their villages, hunting, and gathering water. This kept them fit and healthy without the need for "exercise."
At a minimum, you should strive to get 30-60 minutes of intense strength training at least 3 times a week. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue and must be used in order to keep it healthy. If you don't stimulate your muscles, sarcopenia will literally cause them to fall of your body as you age, leaving you weak, feeble, and susceptible to disease.
In addition to weight lifting, try to get 20-30 mins of walking in everyday. When you move a lot, it is incredibly easy to stay lean and fit.
Step #5: Get adequate sunlight on your skin
Seek to get as much sunlight on your skin as you can. If you can't, at least supplement with vitamin D.
Many modern researchers believe the risk of sun exposure to be grossly overstated. Why? it's not that UVB light doesn't damage DNA or contribute to skin issues. It does. It is just that modern man spends all day indoors and likely doesn't get enough sun exposure to worry about the risk of serious skin issues.
If fact, most people get far too little sun. Studies have shown the sun to be essential for the production of vitamin D, which is essential for hormone health, immunity, and bone strength.
In our opinion, you should be more concerned about the chemicals in your lotion and soap, then the sun. Just saying...read the labels.
Also, despite what popular Instagram models tell you, you do not need to tan your privates. This is completely unnecessary.
Step #6: Prioritize Sleep and Reduce Stress
I am sure you understand the importance of sleep on your hormones and overall wellbeing, so we won't restate too much of the obvious here.
Just focus on good sleep hygiene and attempt get at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night.
Our ancestors did not have TVs or cells phones loaded with blue light, so they likely went to bed when it got dark, and rose with the sun in the morning, keeping their circadian rhythms in line with nature.
You obviously don't need to be a hermit and hide in your house as soon as the sun goes down, but you can turn the lights off, put your phone away, take a hot shower, get to bed at a reasonable time.
Conclusion: Living a more ancestral lifestyle, comes down to simplifying your approach and prioritizing a few things, especially real food, clean water, sleep, and high intensity exercise. Add some high quality superfoods and sunlight, and you'll see incredible results.
- Kaplan H, Thompson RC, Trumble BC, Wann LS, Allam AH, Beheim B, Frohlich B, Sutherland ML, Sutherland JD, Stieglitz J, Rodriguez DE, Michalik DE, Rowan CJ, Lombardi GP, Bedi R, Garcia AR, Min JK, Narula J, Finch CE, Gurven M, Thomas GS. Coronary atherosclerosis in indigenous South American Tsimane: a cross-sectional cohort study. Lancet. 2017 Apr 29;389(10080):1730-1739. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30752-3. Epub 2017 Mar 17. PMID: 28320601; PMCID: PMC6028773.
- Mead MN. Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr;116(4):A160-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.116-a160. Erratum in: Environ Health Perspect. 2008 May;116(5):A197. PMID: 18414615; PMCID: PMC2290997.