What is Ancestral Nutrition Really About?
Ancestral or Evolutionary Nutrition follows the understanding that humans have adapted to and, for the most part, thrive better on a seasonal and natural diet than we do on a modern processed food diet.
Eating a Nutrient Dense and balanced diet has been seen to reverse many of today’s chronic health challenges. In fact, if you restrict certain foods long enough there is a good chance that you can even bring an Autoimmune Disease into remission. Some of us will need some appropriate nutritional supplementation as well.
The easiest way to introduce you to the Ancestral approach to healthy eating is to take on a little journey through time. If you went back in time to the origin of agriculture you would be eating the diet of a homesteader. This would include seasonal vegetables, animals and their by-products like eggs and dairy along with occasional grains and beans, always balanced out with some fermented foods.
If you went a little further back you would be a migratory tribal hunter-gatherer, following large herds of game. Being migratory means that your diet is entirely made of what you can find, day-to-day. This would include abundant and familiar seasonal plants, nibbles and occasional feasts of every bird, fish, and animal you can find.
Before that, you would have been a scavenging proto-human, following wolves and ravens around looking for large animal carcasses. This way of eating would have included some seasonal plants as well.
If you went as far back as humans have been around, you would find yourself at the beach, during an Ice Age. As strange as that may sound, the theory that humans evolved from primates while learning to swim and hunt for fish makes a lot of sense. And, from a medical perspective, that way of eating is the most Nutrient Dense and Anti-inflammatory there is.
The Four Healthiest Diets on Earth
If there was one diet that worked for everyone and solved every health problem, we would all know about it and hopefully be eating that way. When working with complex autoimmune conditions I always recommend my patients try four different diets in order and see what feels the best. In my opinion, they are the four healthiest diets on earth because our physiology has obviously adapted to them successfully or we wouldn’t be here. I have included some general guidance on duration. If you have autoimmunity and know the stage or severity of your situation then you will need to choose the right combination of dietary protocols and durations. If you are working with a clinician who focuses on nutrition, they can help you decide those details.
In my experience, the longer you have been ill, the more complex and severe your autoimmune condition, the longer this will take and the more ‘ancestral’ your diet should be.
The Ice Age Diet
Duration: 5 -10 Days. Repeat monthly until you are satisfied with the results.
The Ice Age diet focuses on eating a lot of fish, preferably raw. The only way to do this safely is to purchase sashimi grade fish, which means that it has been frozen at a very low temperature and long enough to kill any parasites. This brings the anti-inflammatory benefit of fish oils into your digestive system without the interference of the machines and chemical processing that makes fish oil capsules.
The mucous membrane of your small intestine is essential to your health. If you were to stretch it out, it would be the size of a tennis court. I recommend most of my patients start with this diet or with fasting as the best ways to reset the front line of their immune system. By eating a lot of fish for a few days you can help lower inflammation and help rebuild this essential barrier. If the idea of raw fish is too extreme for you, other options include steaming, poaching or making stews and chowders.
After fish, the Ice Age diet asks you to eat a lot of sea vegetables, Anti-inflammatory vegetables, medicinal herbs and a moderate amount of fruit. Vegetables like leafy greens, cucumbers, beets, and garlic are all a good start. Fruits like berries, sour cherries, avocados, and tomatoes (for most people) are also a good start.
Medicinal herbs like turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, and matcha are all delicious ways to make a meal more medicinal or a beverage more beneficial. My personal favorite anti-inflammatory tonic is called Golden Mylk. You can find the recipe on my website here.
I can say from decades of personal and clinical experience that eating this way for five to ten days has helped thousands of people suffering from chronic illness truly begin their healing process.
The Scavenger Paleo Diet (Keto)
Duration: Two to Four Months depending on your age, medical history and condition.
I am often asked to put this whole nutritional perspective into one sentence, so here goes…
“The focus of the A-AIP is to maximize Nutrient Density while reducing Anti-nutrient intensity and keeping some options open.”
After reducing inflammation with the Ice Age Diet, the next step is to support metabolic stability and tissue repair for as long as you need to or for the rest of your life. It usually feels too good to stop!
Historically, after ice ages, humanity followed freshwater sources away from the oceans back into the mountain, valleys, and plains of the rest of the world. Following more skilled hunters like wolves, all of our Ancestors became scavengers, bashing bones apart for marrow and brains, gnawing on joints for cartilage all while nibbling all of the new plants they discovered. Now that is a Nutrient Dense Diet.
Eggs are one of the most Nutrient dense foods on Earth. Unfortunately, they can irritate your gut lining if you have a sensitivity or if your gut is still inflamed and leaking. Egg yolks contain lecithin, which is very good for your liver gallbladder and brain. Lecithin also contains phospholipids which are essential for the health of all of your cell membranes. If you cook your egg yolks to the point they are solid the lecithin is destroyed. I recommend poaching your eggs or just use the yolks for homemade mayonnaise. If you are not sure if eggs are OK for you, only have them three times per week.
Eating this way can be a life-saver for people who are very depleted or burned out. It is also an amazing opportunity for those looking get into better shape in a hurry. This way of eating can be challenging at first because it contains a lot of unfamiliar or ‘gross’ foods like liver. You do have to eat anything that you don’t want to, but I highly recommend expanding your palate and give your cells a chance to make up for many years of living on credit.
The Tribal Paleo Diet
Duration: 4 Months to 2 Years
The Tribal Paleo Diet is very nutrient-dense because you can choose from such a larger variety of foods. This approach to meal planning is great for resolving Candida Overgrowth Syndrome, Leaky Gut Syndrome, as well as recharging your liver with all of the fats, proteins, anti-oxidants, bioflavonoids, vitamins, and minerals that it needs to do a good job. This diet is the best choice for long-term recovery from disease and it is a long-term and sensible approach to losing weight.
This part of the Ancestral Autoimmune Protocol is a great entry place for most people who are new to restrictive diets. If this is the first real flare-up of your medical condition you may get better with diet alone after a few months. IF you are an old hand at using restrictive diets to downregulate an angry immune system, you may be able to stabilize your health with this diet, but in most cases, I still recommend taking some time to reduce inflammation, cleanse your cells, detoxify your liver and rebuild the nutrient stores of your whole body.
This is still a plant-based diet but I encourage you to follow your cravings for protein for a few months. I only recommend frying or “searing” meat about once a week, and less often if you have any serious medical concerns. If you are suffering from any significant neurological problems or are concerned about reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, then avoid frying animal protein as much as possible or forever. Also, try and eat an equal ration of fish and fowl, as consuming too much chicken, turkey or duck can create a tendency towards inflammation.
If you have just gone through the last two diets, Congratulations! You have reduced inflammation throughout your whole body, especially your brain. You have also taken the time and put in the effort to nurture and repair every inch of your body, which is probably a lot thinner by now. Now is the time to rebuild and challenge your Gut and Microbiome to be able to assimilate more complex foods. Some of these foods contain small amounts of the Anti-nutrients which will help you assess how calm or how irritated your immune system is. Most of these new foods are also very nutrient dense and/or starch dense in ways that are always very satisfying. Enjoy all of the new things on your grocery list.
Because you are already living well on the ingredients of the Ice Age and Scavenger Diets there are not a massive number of new choices to add. Sorry – they are all Yummy though. Instead of organizing the dietary changes by ingredients I am going to introduce the new ingredients with respect to the seasons. Many people have to or chose to eat this way for a few years, so to increase the overall benefit in the long-term, eating Seasonally actually really matters!
The Healthy Homesteader Diet
Duration: 2 years to Lifelong
Honestly, given modern health statistics, I think that this way of eating should be recommended for anyone with any chronic health problem, especially with children.
The Healthy Homesteader Diet is a great choice if you are physically active and in good health. After all, homesteaders worked all day. It combines everything from the Ice Age and the two Paleo Diets with all of the bounty that comes from animal husbandry and farming.
Now you can add a few dairy products and some grains and beans. To counterbalance the negative influence of eating more starch, you should eat Lacto-fermented foods like Kimchi, Sauerkraut and other living foods.
To learn more about the A-AIP, the Ancestral Autoimmune Protocol download my patient support guide (coming soon).
To learn more about Ancestral Nutritional medicine, please enjoy the following articles:
The Healthiest Cooking Oil
Mayonnaise is Medicine
Are You Confused About Cholesterol?
Why Diets Don’t Work – 5 Part Series