Killing you softly
I was lucky enough to have missed out on processed food as a child. My mother is Spanish and food is a big part of Spanish culture. She always cooked with raw, natural ingredients and we always ate dinner together as a family. I do the same. In Spain, it is still common to see four generations of one family out for Sunday lunch. In the area where we live many people still grow much of their own food and although they still have their problems, a large majority live actively well into their 90s. As a new euro-aboriginal I look very closely at how to work with nature in everything I do, because I find this approach pleasurably challenging and because it is really dumb to work against nature. This principle guides all my adventures in permaculture and nothing brings it home more clearly than a look at what has happened to human animals as the result of abandoning their indigenous diets in favour of western processed food.
In 1939, Dr Weston A. Price, published and extraordinary book, that became very well-known: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. (Link to the full text of the book here.) Dr Price, a Cleveland dentist, was troubled by the levels of decay he found in the mouths of his patients, often accompanied by other diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, allergies, poor vision, asthma, lack of coordination and behavioral problems. He observed that crowded, crooked teeth were becoming more and more common, along with what Price called “facial deformities”–overbites, narrowed faces, underdevelopment of the nose, lack of well-defined cheekbones and pinched nostrils. He questioned whether such degeneration could be natural and decided to travel to various isolated places on the earth and where the inhabitants had no contact with “civilization” to study their health and physical development.
His research, conducted over a 10 year period, took him to the Swiss Alps, the Orkney islands off the coast of Scotland, to Eskimo communities in the far North, Indian tribes in Canada and the Florida Everglades, Southsea islanders, Aborigines in Australia, Maoris in New Zealand, Peruvian and Amazonian Indians and tribesmen in Africa. He took photographs everywhere he went and they are documented, along with is remarkable and consistent conclusions in his remarkable book. He focused on counting cavities and tooth decay, as this is a measurable indicator of general health.
Everywhere he went, he found the same story. Where the natives ate their traditional diet still, based on the food that was available to them locally and prepared in the traditional manner, their teeth remained strong and straight into their old age, with very few signs of decay. The populations on the native diets had decay rates from 0-3% on average. As soon as these populations switched to a Western processed food diet, based on white flour, sugar, pastuerized milk, devitalised oils and canned goods, everyone developed rampant tooth decay with 30% or more of their teeth affected. His photographs vividly portray the destruction of the natural beauty and physical perfection of all people, of all races, where their broad smiles and proud faces became narrow and pinched, with narrow nostrils, overcrowded mouths and weak jaws. These deformities appeared in just one generation. When the prospective parents moved away from their traditional diets and had children, the children all displayed the deformities. There were even examples of families in which the older children were normal, but the younger children displayed increasing severity of deformity in accordance with the level of dietary changes of the parents. Even worse, mental retardation, TB, cancer and other illnesses started to emerge where they had not been known in the communities previously.
The photo below, from his book, is of two brothers. The younger, on the left, was born after the parents switched from the traditional Orkney diet of mostly seafood and oats, with very few fruits or vegetables, to a modern diet. Do your recognize that look? Which brother do you think looks the healthiest?
When Dr Price got back to Cleveland, he began laboratory examination of the food items from the native communities he had visited and comparing them to modern foods, a process he continued for the rest of his life. He found that these diets contained at least four times the minerals as the American diet of his day. Additionally, the traditional populations knew how to prepare grains and tubers through soaking, fermenting, sprouting and sour leavening so as to increase their vitamin content and make minerals more available. When it came to fat soluble vitamins, he discovered that the diets of healthy native groups contained at least ten times more vitamin A and vitamin D than the American diet of his day! These vitamins are found in abundance in animal fats–butter, lard, egg yolks, fish oils and foods with fat-rich cellular membranes like liver and other organ meats, fish eggs and shell fish.
I challenge anyone with any intelligence to read Dr Price’s book and not be enraged at the damage that has been done to humanity by the modern diet. (Cursory research will reveal which tribe claims responsibility for early sugar and flour refinery development.) The damage caused by processed food is not some abstract concept from the past, it is happening today and it has probably happened to you. If you are lucky enough to have had grandparents or great-grandparents who lived in their indigenous communities and you have photos of them, look at the photos and compare their faces to yours. Do they have full moon faces and strong features? Is your chin narrow, or receding? Are you a mouth-breather? Did you have to wear braces on your teeth as a kid? Do you have fillings? Do you, or any of your siblings or children have difficulty breathing, learning, or behavioral problems? These things are not normal, but caused by poor nutrition, resulting in the interruption of hereditary characteristics.
Dr Price’s description of the degeneration he saw in 1939, is even more obvious today:
“The problems of modern degeneration can in general be divided into two main groups, those which relate to the perfection of the physical body and those which relate to its function. The latter include character as expressed in behavior of individuals and of groups of individuals which thus relate to national character and to an entire culture.
In an enumeration of the phases in which there is a progressive decline of modern civilization, it is essential that we keep in mind that in addition to an analysis of the forces responsible for individual degeneration, the ethical standards of the whole group cannot be higher than those of the individuals that compose it. That recent mass degeneration is in progress is attested by daily events throughout the world. The current interpretation for individual character degeneration largely places the responsibility on a conditioning factor which exerts an influence during early childhood and therefore is directly related to the environment of the child. These, therefore, are postnatal conditioning factors. An important contribution to this phase comes directly from the experience of primitive races and indicates that a more fundamental conditioning factor had developed in the prenatal period. If, therefore, large groups of individuals suffer from such a prenatal conditioning influence, new light will be thrown upon the larger problems of group deterioration. History seems to provide records of such mass degeneration as, for example, those which culminated in the so-called “dark ages.” That some such mass degeneration is now in progress is suggested by leading students of human welfare.”
Dr Price never said that people were being deliberately harmed by processed food – I think that is now blatantly obvious. Since the 1940s, almost every bit of government advice on food has been incorrect or incomplete, with a revolving door between the food giants and the regulators so that dietary advice favours the industry at every turn. With GMOs the food and agriculture industries have not just humans, but the whole food chain of the planet under fire. The solution is as elegantly simple now as it was in Dr Price’s time: return to the diet of our ancestors.
Here is another paragraph from his book in which he comments on the isolated community he investigated in the Swiss Alps, who ate mostly dairy, with rye bread, meat once a week and bone soup during the week.
“As one stands in profound admiration before the stalwart physical development and high moral character of these sturdy mountaineers, he is impressed by the superior types of manhood, womanhood, and childhood that Nature has been able to produce from a suitable diet and a suitable environment. Surely, here is evidence enough to answer the question whether cereals should be avoided because they produce acids in the system which if formed will be the cause of tooth decay and many other ills including the acidity of the blood or saliva. Surely, the ultimate control will be found in Nature’s laboratory where man has not yet been able to meddle sufficiently with Nature’s nutritional program to blight humanity with abnormal and synthetic nutrition.
When one has watched for days the childlife in those high Alpine preserves of superior manhood; when one has contrasted these people with the pinched and sallow, and even deformed, faces and distorted bodies that are produced by our modern civilization and its diets; and when one has contrasted the unsurpassed beauty of the faces of these children developed on Nature’s primitive foods with the varied assortment of modern civilization’s children with their defective facial development, he finds himself filled with an earnest desire to see that this betterment is made available for modern civilization.”
Dr Price, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, described whole communities in which everyone was healthy and radiantly beautiful, according to their racial type. It seems to be beyond the imaginations of most people to day to think that such a thing is possible, let alone desirable. Yet, he was also clear that it is possible to correct the problems we see everywhere today, within one or two generations, with a return to our indigenous diets.
What is Your Indigenous Diet?
Your ‘indigenous’ diet is literally the diet that is native to the place where you live. It is not the same as the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet takes its name from the Paleolithic period, around 2.6 million years ago, commonly referred to as the Stone Age because archeological studies say that human animals were using tools made of stone at that time. The Paleo diet is based on what is considered to be the hunter-gatherer diet and eschews all processed foods and dairy products, as these would only have been widely available after the agricultural revolution, some 12,000 years ago. I’m in no doubt that the Paleo diet is superior to the average modern western diet, just avoiding processed foods is a big plus, but it is limiting in many ways. Stone Age man would not have eaten lean grass-fed beef, he would have eaten the whole animal and fat was especially prized in ancestral diets. The Stone Age man of the tropics would have had a very different diet to his arctic cousins and what does anyone really know about what they ate back then anyway?
In contrast, Dr Price provided well-documented evidence of the health, beauty and well-being of people eating an indigenous diet, comprised of the foods nature provided locally. Dr Price remarked how all the people eating their traditional diet were strong, healthy and beautiful, no matter where the lived in the world, with none of the defects we have come to consider as normal. Everyone, with varying degrees of effort, can eat an indigenous diet. Why bother? Well, his whole book is packed full of examples of how people had better health, better teeth, higher IQ, greater immunity and higher moral values, before they started eating processed foods. He stated clearly that the degeneration was the same across all the groups he investigated, and whether they were racially pure or mixed race made no difference. Processed food is as effective as a bullet to the head, but slower, thus allowing you have more time to take evasive action. The interruption to the hereditary characteristics can be reversed, before it becomes fixed in future generations. In biological terms, this would mean returning to an indigenous diet before conceiving, as was common practice among all ‘primitive’ peoples. For those with no interest in conceiving, correct nutrition is still the route to health, immunity and vitality.
Be clear on this, it is not conceptual. Processed food is your enemy. It is killing you and your family, invisibly and slowly, but this is an enemy you can defeat and must defeat if you want a full and happy life. This enemy is not invisible, it is lurking in your kitchen, pretending to nourish you as it destroys your brain. You cannot get to its manufacturers or the architects of this plan (at the moment) but neither do you need to. All you need to do is throw it out and keep it out – sugar, white flour, cookies, canned goods, sweets, chocolate, cakes. Just throw it all out and find fresh, local alternatives. If this is too difficult for you, then you are already one of the walking dead. The only thing stopping you is that you don’t believe that this is true. That’s fine, but if you don’t investigate for yourself you will never know, but the enemy in your kitchen will still be killing you while you procrastinate.
In our modern world, most of us eat the wrong things for the wrong reasons. We eat out of boredom, habit, entertainment (taste and excitement), for all manner of emotional reasons, for energy boosts, but rarely for nutritional needs. However, once you try nutritionally dense food, rich in minerals, fats and vitamins, your body recognizes that it is better than processed food, but you still have to train your mind out of bad habits. I can’t stress enough, that for anyone who wants to engage in the battle for humanity, this is your very own, personal front line. The next step is to discover what is local and what is in season and buy more of that. You will have less variety, but better nutrition and better health. Grow as many indigenous vegetables as you can, yourself. I’ll be writing more on what I’m growing here and why, in another post.
At the most fundamental level, you participate in Gaian Alchemy through the food you burn in your body and the ‘waste products’ that you expel back into the environment. Your food is involved in many biochemical and electrical interactions in every cell and organ in your body and it also provides information, processed in your spleen. Is it so difficult to imagine that the sweetness of summer berries, eaten warm from the bush, might tell you something about the winter to come? Primitive people knew of where to go to find the right food at the right time because their senses were tuned into the intelligence of the land they lived in.
There are some lovely stories of indigenous wisdom in Price’s book and this wisdom is not lost, but available to anyone who chooses to live in such a way that Wisdom can reach them. Here is one account from his adventures:
“Another illustration of the wisdom of the native Indians of that far north country came to me through two prospectors whom we rescued and brought out with us just before the fall freeze-up. They had gone into the district, which at that time was still uncharted and unsurveyed, to prospect for precious metals and radium. They were both doctors of engineering and science, and had been sent with very elaborate equipment from one of the large national mining corporations. Owing to the inaccessibility of the region, they adopted a plan for reaching it quickly. They had flown across the two ranges of mountains from Alaska and when they arrived at the inside range, i.e., the Rocky Mountain Range, they found the altitude so high that their plane could not fly over the range, and, as a result, they were brought down on a little lake outside. The plane then returned but was unable to reach the outside world because of shortage of fuel. The pilot had to leave it on a waterway and trudge over the mountains to civilization. The two prospectors undertook to carry their equipment and provisions over the Rocky Mountain Range into the interior district where they were to prospect. They found the distance across the plateau to be about one hundred miles and the elevation ranging up to nine thousand feet. While they had provisions and equipment to stay two years they found it would take all of this time to carry their provisions and instruments across this plateau. They accordingly abandoned everything, and rather than remain in the country with very uncertain facilities and prospects for obtaining food and shelter, made a forced march to the Liard River with the hope that some expedition might be in that territory. One of the men told me the following tragic story. While they were crossing the high plateau he nearly went blind with so violent a pain in his eyes that he feared he would go insane. It was not snow blindness, for they were equipped with glasses. It was xeropthalmia, due to lack of vitamin A. One day he almost ran into a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs. Fortunately, they did not attack him but moved off. He sat down on a stone and wept in despair of ever seeing his family again. As he sat there holding his throbbing head, he heard a voice and looked up. It was an old Indian who had been tracking that grizzly bear. He recognized this prospector’s plight and while neither could understand the language of the other, the Indian after making an examination of his eyes, took him by the hand and led him to a stream that was coursing its way down the mountain. Here as the prospector sat waiting the Indian built a trap of stones across the stream. He then went upstream and waded down splashing as he came and thus drove the trout into the trap. He threw the fish out on the bank and told the prospector to eat the flesh of the head and the tissues back of the eyes, including the eyes, with the result that in a few hours his pain had largely subsided. In one day his sight was rapidly returning, and in two days his eyes were nearly normal. He told me with profound emotion and gratitude that that Indian had certainly saved his life.
Now modern science knows that one of the richest sources of vitamin A in the entire animal body is that of the tissues back of the eyes including the retina of the eye.”
You experience the very same spark of native intelligence when you notice the dandelions pushing through the lawn at the first signs of spring. Why do you notice these more than the other ‘weeds’? Maybe it is because of their bright yellow flowers, which would be a call signal to a ‘primitive’ of the northern hemisphere. Bitter dandelion leaves are a spring liver tonic. I use a handful in our morning juice when they are young and fresh. They also high in vitamins and minerals. One cup of dandelion leaves contains 112% daily recommendation of vitamin A, 32% of vitamin C, and 535% of vitamin K. They also contain 218 mg potassium, 103 mg calcium, and 1.7 mg of iron. Native people and new euro-aboriginals would know that eating dandelion leaves in spring boosts the digestive system and helps detoxify the liver, so that things don’t clog up later in the year. You respond to the same call when you spring clean your house.
The Planetary Animal Mother is always guiding you to the foods you need for optimum health, well-being and immunity. Dr Price found little evidence of the diseases we now accept as normal, such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, in the primitive people he studied and they remained healthy and active into their old age. He didn’t find one case of alzheimers or Parkinsons, diseases that are so prevalent in the aging populations of today. The problem is that the planetary mind, the Wisdom Goddess, cannot guide you to the right foods in the toxic wasteland of a supermarket, stacked with chemicals and fakery.
“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine thy food.” Hippocrates
Animals in the Indigenous Diet
I confess that I am a failed vegetarian. I tried to be a vegetarian for many years and only ever managed it for three in a row. I tried because I love animals and I don’t like the idea of killing them to eat, even though I like the taste of their flesh. I’ve learned that the aspects of my life that cause me the greatest discomfort are those that demand deeper analysis, and that ultimately offer the most profound lessons. This is what drove me to explore the relationship between land, diet and people and to write this post.
It is a fact that most ‘sacred foods’ of indigenous people were derived from other animals. Whether eggs and milk, organ meats, bone marrow, fish, shellfish or grubs, depending on what was available where they lived, the foods that they prized and gave to young people to prepare them for conceiving were all animal products. All evidence shows that they had healthy babies, until they switched to a western diet. This gave me pause for thought.
Another fact is that it is difficult to get the required amount of fat soluble vitamins/activators A, D and K without eating animal foods and these activators are necessary to enable the release and use of minerals in the body. Most soils are mineral deficient, most food is mineral deficient (as compared with the same food of 50 years ago) and most people are mineral deficient. This is a problem that demands attention, if you value your health and quality of life. It is the root cause of tooth decay in many vegetarians and vegans, who are otherwise eating very healthily. Of course, there are ways around this through supplementation and by eating imported food and Vitamin D is dependent on where you live, your skin tone and how much sun exposure you get. It is complicated and requires a lot more effort (and money) than eating local, organic meat and dairy, if you can get that. It’s not the indigenous diet for northern Spain, where fruit and vegetables are not abundant in the winter months, but there is plenty of game and seafood and I have no desire to make life more difficult for myself for no good reason. But what about the poor animals?
This is when you really get to the root of the issue. All animals, including human animals, are heterotrophs, meaning that they have to eat other life forms to survive. Plants and algae are autotrophs and can produce their food through photosynthesis. There is no moral issue regarding eating animals per se, it is perfectly natural. The moral issue regarding eating animals is because of the unspeakable cruelty and suffering caused by the agro-food-retail industry. This is an abomination that I do not support in any respect. The agricultural revolution drove people off the land and gave rise to the mega-cities, another strand of the programme to make us docile and compliant slaves, moving people away from the source of life and their traditional practices. City-dwellers have become squeamish and induced into a false moral stance that goes against the law of nature.
And it is ineffective. Whether I eat meat or drink milk or not has zero effect on the agro-food-retail industry. The price and availability of meat, fish, milk and eggs are not driven by demand, but by the cost of production and factory farming, with larger numbers of cattle or chickens, is more profitable for both farmers and the food retail giants. It is a huge generalization error to claim that if everyone stopped eating meat or animal products, the agro-food-retail industry would be forced to change, because you have no influence over the controlling factors. To predicate your food choices on this fantasy is delusional. Not wanting to eat meat is an individual choice, for which there are consequences, but it is not a virtuous act.
The final nail in the coffin of my vegetarian ideals, came after the wild boar ate all my potatoes, for the third time, after having already helped themselves to the sweet corn for two years in a row. Wild boar are prolific around here. We’ve come face-to-face with a few, while out walking the dogs and see many others at a distance. A sow can have four to 12 piglets, twice a year and a fully grown wild boar can weigh 100kg or more. This would feed us for the whole year and if we don’t hunt them, we would be overrun as they don’t have any natural predators – they are also very tasty. I started eating meat regularly again last year and I feel stronger, sharper and healthier for it.