We don’t take credit for everything, of course, but the fact remains that the Primal/ancestral health community has been championing principles that directly oppose the conventional wisdom for nearly a decade. And while serious researchers have been paying attention to and studying these issues individually for years, no one had really synthesized them under the evolutionary umbrella. Now that our movement is becoming more popular and the scientific case for its principles more solid than ever, denying that a bit of sun might be good for you or that sitting is killing you slowly or that eggs aren’t deadly after all is no longer tenable.
Yes, Primal health principles and positions are getting mainstream recognition. Let’s take a look at some of the major ones.
That sitting is bad and exercise might not be enough.
Everyone knows that being sedentary is a poor health choice. But most people figured the solution was to set aside regular times each week to exercise. Formal exercise was the answer, and movement was segregated from “normal” life. As long as you hit the gym every other day, you could do nothing for the remainder of your time and be perfectly healthy.
That’s just intermittent sedentism, though, and it doesn’t work. Frequent low level movement throughout the day punctuated by intermittent bouts of intense exercise is what I’ve prescribed for years, and the mainstream is beginning to get the hint. Articles lamenting the prevalence of sitting, its scary effect on our health, and how exercising isn’t enough to counter it come out on a regular basis now.
Going barefoot isn’t insane.
Going barefoot is perhaps the most intuitive Primal lifestyle change. People can deny the meat-eating, fat-loving, sun-seeking behavior, they can claim that “sleep is for the weak” and “gluten-free is a fad” all they want, but they can’t ignore the shoeless feet that humans have been born with for millions of years. The bare feet we wear to bed at night somehow use to walk without teetering over and falling or twisting an ankle on the way to the bathroom are also fairly competent vehicles for daily locomotion.
Ignoring the big push back from podiatrists (likely worried about losing patients and orthotics addicts), the mass media coverage of barefooting has been reasonable. They don’t wholeheartedly endorse it, but then again, neither do we without caveats like “do it gradually” and “walk before you run.” Harvard even has a guide to safe barefoot running. And the people who matter – the ones who decide to or decide not to go barefoot, as opposed to the experts urging them to reconsider – are embracing it; sales of shoes that emulate the unshod state have stabilized but remain high.
Saturated fat isn’t so evil.
Saturated fat was a big hurdle to overcome for everyone, even in the ancestral health community. I never really considered it to be a big issue, but decades of indoctrination about the evils of saturated fat made – and makes – it the most stubborn piece of misguided CW.
Things are changing. Dr. Oz just came out in support of saturated fat on his blog and on his show (with Peter Attia). Late last year, a British cardiologist wrote in a leading medical journal that “saturated fat is not the problem.” The pathetic response dripping with cognitive dissonance from the experts doesn’t change the reality: people are realizing that saturated fat in the context of a healthy diet is not the problem and may even be a healthy fuel source.
That your gut bacteria affects your
brain and almost everything else.
It used to be that suggesting the gut could affect the way your brain functioned would get you laughed out of the room for peddling woo-woo alternative medicine nonsense. And sure, there remain some holdouts among the cynic – I mean skeptic – community, who insist that “it’s too early to make conclusions” and thus “don’t waste your time trying to figure out gut health until the experts reach consensus and your doctor can tell you what to do.”
Meanwhile, reasonable people agree that the gut is the next big thing – in mental, digestive, immune, and overall health – and that we have plenty of actionable information. The Public Library of Science (PLOS) blog is writing about fecal transplants, for crying out loud. NPR is writing about the ability of your gut bacteria to control your mind, and Wired just published an interview with a researcher obsessed with the danger posed by antibiotics to our gut bacteria.
That leaky gut exists.
Mentioning leaky gut used to get you laughed out of a doctor’s appointment. It used to be the province of the quacks, the charlatans, the snake oil salesmen, and the ancestral health community.
We didn’t make it up. Researchers have been studying and referencing “intestinal permeability” and the exogenous agents and physiological conditions that cause it for years. It’s an established fact that the tight junctions lining the small intestine can become “leaky” and permit passage of potentially harmful or antigenic compounds into the body. Heck, for infants, a decent level of intestinal permeability is physiologically normal, expected, and even necessary! But until recently, it wasn’t acknowledged as real in the mainstream.
And even though it remains off the radar of most medical professionals, the Daily Beast just published a piece acknowledging both its existence and probable role in many illnesses. Will that change everything? Nope. It’s a good start, though.
Gluten can be a problem for people without celiac.
Although fervent opposition persists, the notion that gluten can be problematic for people other than celiacs is gaining wider acceptance.
One of the top tennis players in the game is famously gluten-free. Gluten sensitivity is an accepted clinical entity. Google searches for “gluten” have been trending higher month over month for years, while the number of searches for “celiac” has plateaued, indicating that something else is going on. Around 30% of American adults currently try to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets, according to a recent poll, and gluten-free dating sites are helping gluten-free dieters match up with people who share their situation. To top it all off, the FDA’s just weighed in with some official standards for gluten-labeling.
That sunlight isn’t just an agent of death and disfigurement.
The mainstream coverage of sunlight is still mainly negative, but there’s a little ray of hope poking through: a begrudging acknowledgment that strict avoidance of it often results in vitamin D deficiency. Even if their answer is to keep avoiding it and pop a few D3 capsules, they’ve admitted that the sun provides a benefit, and that’s big.
You’ve got the most prestigious publication in the history of the world, the Daily Mail, cautioning against strict sun avoidance in 2012. The Huffington Post published a similar message in 2010. Anti-sun hysteria remains the law of the land, but the message is significantly softened.
Butter is better than margarine.
For years, we were told that margarine was the healthier choice. It had SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY behind it. Plus, we made it, and everyone knows that we’ve conquered and surpassed nature. Except margarine is disgusting. The older ones were full of trans-fat and the new ones are full of omega-6.
As for butter? US butter consumption has reached its highest level in 40 year and margarine has tanked. Butter is back, my friends, and untouched, unsold containers of weirdly-solid-at-room-temp margarine are filling dumpsters and crowding landfills as we speak. Not even the back alley vermin will touch it, preferring instead to scour the butter wrappers for remnants. Margarine lost. Butter won.