3

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Ancient diet vs. modern disease management and treatment

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 03, 2012 at 5:19 PM

[ Note: I'm taking the risk that this question may seem inflammatory by some. That's not my intent. I'm sincerely trying to understand a cultural phenomenon I've experienced on Paleohacks. ]

The Paleo diet is based on the idea that human biology hasn't evolved since whenever the paleolithic period was and that whatever paleo people ate is the optimal diet for us humans today. Most of us on Paleohacks believe this to a large extent or we wouldn't be here. In living paleo principles we turn away from "conventional wisdom" that would have us eat a grain-rich, low- to medium-fat diet with meat as a condiment. Yet, when dealing with modern diseases so many of us are very quick to run to the mainstream sources of treatment - chemo, radiation, and surgery.

I posted a question a few hours ago, If you were suddenly diagnosed with cancer, what would you do? As of this writing, the strong majority of votes for answers are along the lines of "do the conventional treatment."

Chemotherapy was first used in the 1940's. It has a roughly 70 year history. Acupuncture and other healing modalities have thousands of years of history. Why is there such a split between "eat a diet that's thousands of years old" and "try a medical procedure that is decades old?" Why aren't we considering medical treatments that are thousands of years old? In the realm of diet I see lots of us researching, asking questions, and experimenting on ourselves to see what might work for us. But, if my cancer question is any indication, many of us are unwilling to do the same researching, questioning and experimenting when our lives are at risk.

I think we need to dig deeper into this question than "the medical literature says this works and this doesn't work" since one can find studies that prove anything we want. That's why I think personal introspection, research, and trying different approaches is key.

For the record, I'm not saying I'd never go the conventional medical route. But, for me, it would not be the first place I'd go. I'd want a clear understanding of how much time I had before jumping into a more invasive treatment.

Again, no intention to inflame, just trying to understand what appears to me to be a "split."

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 03, 2012
at 09:45 PM

While you might not like taking a "poison", that "poison" might just cure what ails you. In terms of cancer therapies, treated folks live longer than untreated folks. Period. It might not be quality of life, but it's life and that's the only metric they use.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 03, 2012
at 08:47 PM

"Improved" is a loaded word. Modern medicine does a good job of treating symptoms instead of getting to the root cause. It also uses a great deal of poisons to do so. The last time I had a medication prescribed, the side effect list was 5 pages long.

26b0f1261d1a0d916825bd0deeb96a21

(5798)

on June 03, 2012
at 05:30 PM

Why don't you just include this in your other post?

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6 Answers

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2
3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

on June 03, 2012
at 06:30 PM

Treatment for cancer is still very primitive at best. I watched my mother (breast) and sister (colon) go through radiation, surgeries, and chemotherapy. While their advanced cancers may have caught up with them eventually, both died from the ravages of the chemo treatments. The treatments MAY have added 6 months to their lives at most. I'd have to think long and hard about doing any chemo if I was diagnosed with an advanced cancer. I'm going the prevention root and eating a decent paleo-type diet and making sure my Vitamin D3 levels remain at a good level. Thankfully, both of their cancers were not linked to genetics, but I am sure both had undiagnosed celiac disease/gluten sensitivity based on their lifelong symptoms (I know from my own genetic testing, that one of my parents carried a marker linked with celiac and the other carried a marker for gluten sensitivity).

5
326d927c5dd53f1a731ecfe75fdba571

(111)

on June 03, 2012
at 05:47 PM

Paleo is not about reenactment. Paleo is about doing what's optimal for your health. Diet-wise, that's healthy eating, but modern medicine has greatly improved over what we had available in the stone age.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 03, 2012
at 08:47 PM

"Improved" is a loaded word. Modern medicine does a good job of treating symptoms instead of getting to the root cause. It also uses a great deal of poisons to do so. The last time I had a medication prescribed, the side effect list was 5 pages long.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 03, 2012
at 09:45 PM

While you might not like taking a "poison", that "poison" might just cure what ails you. In terms of cancer therapies, treated folks live longer than untreated folks. Period. It might not be quality of life, but it's life and that's the only metric they use.

4
Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

on June 03, 2012
at 06:07 PM

I trust in science. I think paleo has a lot of science behind it. I like studies and experiments. While I don't think any one study is proof in and of itself, I am still interested in what they say and then applying what appeals to my life.

Traditional medicines may have some unproven benefits, but as Tim Michin says, "You know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work? They call it medicine."

My daughter had a stroke at birth. She has severe epilepsy and a host of other issues. I have tons of experience with doctors, and tons with lay people who don't know what they're talking about suggesting unproven and potentially harmful "alternatives" for her. I research everything, and the data that I trust is firmly on the side of her doctors.

It is everyone's right to treat things as they wish, but if I get cancer, I want modern doctors to treat me, with modern diagnostic equipment.

3
7f7069fc4d8d2456cec509d0f9e9bb34

(865)

on June 03, 2012
at 08:37 PM

If I had cancer, I would seek out a Tibetan Doctor or a real Ayurvedic doctor. Traditional Medicine has a long history of successfully treating cancers. There is excellent research going on at Emory right now about the efficacy of Tibetan herbal treatments for liver cancer, and it turns out the traditional formulas are everything you would want in a cancer treatment. Other than that, I would find the best TCM doctor I could find.

As a preventative measure herbal medicine is even better. If you are not eating fruits, herbs become your fructose-free source of antioxidants and protective phytochemicals. I think that if a person is avoiding fruit or eating all meat and fat, then herbs are necessary to be healthy.

Many poo-poo traditional medicine and therapies as being unsophisticated or superstitious, but that is because they are looking from the outside and do not understand them. The traditional medicine system reflected in Tibetan medicine probably predates writing and civilization, and I think prehistoric man was way more sophisticated than we give them credit. Many things that are now "cutting edge" in Western Medicine (psychoneuroimmunology, the connection between the gut and the brain, functional medicine in general) are old hat and obvious facts in the old tradition.

2
F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on June 03, 2012
at 09:15 PM

Modern medicine is on a spectrum. It does trauma care very well. It does certain illnesses less well. And then there's all the quackery that fills up the advertising space on television. I would not hesitate to use modern medicine in a traumatic injury. I may do more research and make more cautious choices with something like cancer, making it somewhat more likely (but not a given) that I would choose chemo over some other alternative treatment. If I can't sleep at night, however, there's no way on god's green earth I'm going to "ask my doctor" for a pill.

1
5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on June 03, 2012
at 07:45 PM

You wrote that "The Paleo diet is based on the idea that human biology hasn't evolved since whenever the paleolithic period was and that whatever paleo people ate is the optimal diet for us humans today."

Not speaking for anyone else since there is actually quite a wide range of opinions on this, but my take on this is "

"human biology hasn't evolved" much or significantly in most areas. We have clear evidence of two separate mutations that led some humans of northern European and Near East extraction to tolerating lactose. That is why a lot of us here can tolerate dairy. Whether it is actually good for us is another matter.

"whatever paleo people ate is the optimal diet for us humans today" There are a lot of things that people will eat when they are very hungry that may not be completely optimal. If its between eating some grass seeds and starving I'd go for chomping the sorghum, because starving is even more not-optimal. We know that some paleo people ate at least a small amount of sorghum (a grain) from evidence on some grinding stones. We don't know how much or how often, although as far as I know no evidence show grain to have been a common element of the diet. Whether it was or wasn't I'm going to go by the evidence of what is healthy for us.

Evolution is a guideline towards what is best for us to eat, and how we evolved to live. Once we look at the world through the lens of evolutionary biology we can see more easily what is likely and what to further explore. Then go from there.

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