A distressed customer brings his 2017 Toyota Prius to the mechanic. His semi-new car is already having a multitude of issues. The mechanic has seen this before. The car looks like shit, at least ten years older than its actual age. It can only turn right. It sputters, stalls, and only runs for a few miles before overheating. It leaks oil, and both back tires are flat. The mechanic starts asking questions. Here is the interaction.
Customer: I don’t know what is wrong with it. This car is only a few years old. It’s supposed to be a reliable car. I am so frustrated that I’m becoming depressed.
Mechanic: Well, the car looks a little beat up. What have you been doing with it?
Customer: Not much, it idles all day. Once a month I take her muddin’.
Mechanic: You never turn it off? Why not? Also, I’m not even going to ask about “muddin’.
Customer: I needed a cool room to store milk from the farm and I like the radio. So I use the AC and sound system in the Prius. Muddin’ is off-roading after a raining spell. No paved roads around here for her here either.
Mechanic: WTF? Tell me you’ve been changing the oil and using a high octane gasoline.
Customer: Umm, I haven’t changed the oil since I bought her, but I generally use unleaded gasoline, well that and diesel, or whatever I can find around the farm. Yesterday she got lighter fluid and moonshine. Also I generally refer to my Prius with a feminine pronoun or by her given name of “Charlene.” You should know that Charlene smokes like crazy too.
Mechanic: Moonshine? Smoking? Charlene?
Customer: In my defense, you will appreciate that I made a few key upgrades. I surgically tripled the size of the front airbags, which made her a bit front heavy. So then I packed on 75 pounds of extra padding in the rear seats, and I painted the side panels with barbed wire and Chinese lettering. That there word (pointing to the Thai word for “Lady-Boy”) means “Macho-Man Randy Savage” in China.
Mechanic (pouring himself a scotch and staring out the window in quiet contemplation): I picked a helluva week to quit doing blow. You should go now.
This interaction is very similar to countless encounters I’ve had in my clinic, except I am not allowed to openly drink at work. The Prius is a thinly veiled metaphor for the human body. Both were expertly designed by the Japanese to be operated in a specific way, and both perform amazingly well when properly operated, but not surprisingly they will break down and fail if not treated correctly or used for the wrong things.
As I study the results of many unrelated experiments in the field of human health, I find they are forming an amazing pattern that keeps repeating. Studies find that beneficial interventions are those that are in keeping with our ancestors way of life, whether it’s avoiding processed foods, fasting, sauna, more sleep, or getting more sunlight. Our forefathers did that shit for millennia. They didn’t sit under UV lights for 12 hours and then jog for 30 minutes. The number of examples demonstrating this concept continue to pile up. We are often told by “experts” to do things that run counter to our nature like, like you need to eat six meals a day, avoid the sun, consume whole grains, or juice literally everything in your fridge. If experts tell us to do something with little or no evidence, and that advice seems to run counter to our human history, then we should probably go ahead and ignore such advice.
Our ancestors started walking on two legs about 7.2 million years ago. Our bodies have been evolving over that period to eat, move, and live in certain ways. For the past few hundred years, we have tried to swim against the tide of our own human evolutionary traits. The more modern our society gets, the more we stray from our ancestors way of life, and not coincidentally, the worse our collective health becomes.
When we study groups of people who still live as our ancestors did, in a hunter-gatherer society, like the very fit gentleman pictured above, we find some amazing things. Despite not having floss, electric toothbrushes, or biannual dental cleanings, these indigenous people have great teeth well into old age, without any cavities, although admittedly some could benefit with some orthodontia. My dentist friends described the futility of dentists going on humanitarian missions to remote communities because of this fact. However when cultures start getting a little bit of “westernized” food, oral health immediately implodes.
These pre-agrarian communities are untouched by the ravages of modern afflictions like obesity, dementia, autoimmune disease, diabetes, cancer, breast implant complications, and Dad-bod. These people have stronger immune systems, and stronger brain function into old age. By all accounts, they tend to have stronger lats, pecs, sense of direction, and body odor than we do. Despite the dangerous nature of all that hunting and gathering, these people have a life expectancy similar to those in the Western world (after adjusting for infant mortality), and they do not have access to any modern healthcare, 24 Hour Fitness, or Trader Joe’s! Furthermore, they walk around semi-nude for most of the day, and while this likely plays no part in their amazing health, it’s a trend I am trying to get started anyway. The hunter-gatherers live as we were intended to live and according to their Prius’ owner manual. To be clear, I’m not advocating for hunting with spears or moving into caves, huts, or going anywhere without 4G service, as this seems extreme. As modern healthy people we should keep these principles in mind but still make time for happy hour, jet-skiing, and weekend trips to Vegas. Achieving the health of our ancestors and benefitting from the modernity of today is literally the best of both worlds.
In future articles, I will discuss the different ways recent scientific studies keep pointing to our past as humans for the keys to great health and repudiate the bad science and “expert” opinions of the last 50 years. It’s clear that we can get healthier using the principles of our ancestors that is backed by the science of today. Also I’ve included lots of shirtless pictures of super fit hunter-gatherers. These pictures will help to stimulate us visually and also justify my Google search history from the past 6 or 7 years. Please join me on this journey.