After hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, homo sapiens can reflect back on that journey with feeling reasonably satisfied.
We find ourselves at the top of the food chain, and despite some commercial arguments to the contrary, impacting our environment in unpreceded ways.
Before we get too self-satisfied, considering the 4.5-billion-year history of our planet, accessing our ‘success’ may still be too early to call.
There are 4 things that have played a significant role in our success, but now may be our greatest challenge to achieving good health in our modern world.
Let’s look at each one as it was, and why it challenges us today.
1. Stress and inflammation
When faced with danger or threat our bodies responded by initiating a stress response which diverted blood supply from our organs to our muscles, increased our blood sugar to energise those muscles and reduced our immune response to face the immediate danger.
The process was short-lived and our nervous system reverted to the rest-and-digest phase.
The same is true of inflammation, our first line of defence in dealing with the trauma of infection, which focused on healing.
The problem today is that there are so many stressors which include emotional, environmental, nutritional, postural and dental factors, that stress our system constantly and compromise our health.
Many of them place our body in a state of chronic inflammation which is the common denominator in all preventable chronic degenerative diseases. Our exposure to the stressors of our modern world and the resultant chronic inflammation is a huge challenge.
Our ability to adapt to a wide range of foods across the globe ensured our survival.
The discovery of fire meant a wider range of foods became available to us. The food was always whole, fresh, local, seasonal and most importantly we adapted to scarcity and hunger.
Food was not always in plentiful supply.
Today we have an overabundance of seemingly cheap ultra processed foods – that is until the environmental and health costs are factored in. When they are, it is clear that our food also poses a great challenge.
From the moment we rose up onto two feet and right through the agricultural and industrial revolution, movement has been an integral part of our existence.
Since the technological revolution, we spend more time sitting than at any other time in human history. We sit at work, we sit when we watch others engage in sport, and we sit as we communicate with the world.
Lack of movement is a huge problem.
4. Communication and relationships
What always distinguished us from all other species was our ability to communicate and transmit information from one generation to another. Printing further increased that ability to communicate over time and space.
Relationships within our family, tribes or communities are what gave us strength.
According to a 75-year study by the Harvard School of Public Health, tracking all health parameters, the best predictor of longevity, health and wellness is our close relationships.
The last 30-40 years of the technological revolution have given us access to more information than ever in human history, together with the ability to keep in touch with those in distant parts of the world.
In this “attention economy”, with 24-hour news and social media cycles, we may have thousands of ‘friends’ and might even be ‘liked’ by many. However, we are losing sight of the importance of those real relationships with those sitting next to us.
It is easy to get lost and stressed by the bombardment of notifications.
In order to solve a problem, it helps to know what that problem is.
Our solutions to the four greatest health challenges are:
- Identifying and minimising the 5 stressors that compromise our health;
- Consuming foods that are fresh (and avoiding ultra processed foods) while exploring, rather than fearing, hunger and scarcity – an important part of our human journey;
- Getting out and moving our bodies AND
- Valuing, nurturing and engaging the meaningful relationships in our lives
These are four simple suggestions for improving your general health and wellbeing.
We explore how to take control of your health in our health programs, found inside the Unstress Online Membership.