Join Richard and Chris as they discuss the evolution of ancestral health practices and how reconnecting with our nutritional past can improve modern health. Richard shares his journey from athlete to practitioner and the insights that led him to found Vital Origin to make nose-to-tail nutrition accessible. They explore how an ancestral approach aligns with regenerative farming practices and our evolutionary design for optimal wellness.
Speaker 1 0:01
Welcome to the health from the Source podcast, where we’re dedicated to educating people about health, ancestral knows detail nutrition, regenerative agriculture, and the interplay between environment health and sustainability.
Speaker 2 0:13
Welcome, everybody to our very first podcast. You’re joining me Chris barrage, scientists, Farmer and beef processor. And you will also be joining Richard, who is
Speaker 1 0:29
functional medicine practitioner performance coach, physio nutritionist biohacker, sort of polymath in the health space, I guess?
Speaker 2 0:37
A all of the above. Correct. Excellent. And so in this first podcast, it’s the first of a six series podcast, we’re going to go through a lot around nutrition, health, ancestral health and the connection back to land. So in this first one, Richard, I wanted to delve a little bit into your background. And what brought you to this point where you are a practitioner in ancestral health. And, you know, tell us some of the views that you have on the, I guess, the evolution of this nutritional practice?
Speaker 1 1:20
Sure, yeah, I guess a bit of my personal background, first with myself, and then kind of evolving into clinical practice. But I first came across ancestral health many, many years ago, it’s probably been 15 plus years now that I first came across it. And initially, it was more for trying to actually improve my own health and optimise my own health at a time where I was still quite athletic, and competing in sports and kickboxing, and a few other things. So I was just trying to find ways to get the most out of my own health, my own performance, I’ve always been sort of trying to get the best out of my life as much as possible. And of course, nutrition plays such a big role in that department. So over over the years of trying to figure things out, reading different books, studying different things, I eventually came across this concept of sort of ancestral health, really, it started off sort of more than a Paleo Diet, which some people are quite familiar with already. And there is some early early books in early people in that space. And so I first kind of went down that rabbit hole and learn more about it. And it seemed to be quite common sense to me to consider things of looking at how our ancestral past was and what our evolution was that shaped our biology now, and how that influences how our health is today. And so that’s really the this sort of premise. So I started diving into that, applying it to myself. And then over time, it was doing things like personal training, nutrition and strength and conditioning, coaching, and eventually moved into clinical practice and physiotherapy, still bringing in nutrition and lifestyle, and still, along with that whole process of always trying to be better and trying to learn more, also started to study functional medicine, which was another area that inevitably, a lot of people end up finding, especially if you do have ongoing sort of chronic health issues, which some started to pop up. For me as well. I’ve had long standing issues with gut health, and IBS and things like that, and eventually, actually a diagnosis of an autoimmune condition. So functional medicine was another area that I started to learn and research a lot more. And it eventually comes to this melding of functional medicine, ancestral health, or really evolutionary medicine, which is a newer area, sometimes called Darwinian medicine. And we can kind of dive into that and what that’s about it, I, I then started to take these concepts and things that I’ve practised over so long, and started to apply it to a lot of the clients and patients that I was working with. And it’s quite phenomenal, how quickly you can see a change in health when you just start to make a few little switches to nutrition that align with our ancestral history and our ancestral past. And then we can dive in again, as to what that means when we look at nutrition. But it’s really quite a significant night and day difference in working with people, when you can see how some small changes to diet really, really change someone’s overall health and well being. So as I started to see more of that, and I continue to learn and still to this day, continue to learn and read and improve my practice. And but I just continue to see more and more people that I can help with these types of approaches. And so inevitably, obviously, that led to also having vital origin and being able to share a bit more of the sort of nose to tail nose to tail ancestral nutrition aspects from from a perspective where we have quite a phenomenal product.
Speaker 2 4:41
So from your perspective, and in a past life, I was a scientist and worked in a biopharmaceutical industry and that was very focused on new technologies construction of new molecules that had therapeutic Two aspects for for patients. So for you that there seems to be a bit of a fork in the road, there’s there’s the natural ancestral functional medicine. And then there’s the scientific construction of novel molecules and, you know, antibodies and so forth, which is where my background was 10 years ago. So for you what, you’re probably familiar with both what what for you means that the evolutionary medicine was was the path that you chose, as opposed to the other?
Speaker 1 5:41
I think one of the main things, and I use the quote that I often use, which is from an evolutionary biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, is that nothing in biology? Quickly? Yes, exactly, exactly. I try to memorise that as much as possible, because it’s a line I use often, but the line is nothing in biology makes sense, except in light of evolution. And that kind of hits it right on the nail. So when we look at human health and well being we’re considering ourselves, we’re biology, right? So we need to look at things from a perspective of evolution to understand our own biology, and what shaped our bodies. So I don’t find, although a lot of the Western and allopathic medical model has gotten sort of a more, I guess, direct treatment approach as far as one illness, one disease and then treating with pharmacology, I think we’re starting to learn now that the real scientific approach is melding in this lifestyle component. And there seems to be a growing increasingly evolutionary ancestral perspective, at least, perhaps in my community, but I think it is growing more and more. And what’s nice about the evolutionary medicine component is it actually, it ties in the Western medical scientific approach, because we have very, very hard evidence and textbooks, I have textbooks on my shelf right here, all about Darwinian medicine and evolutionary medicine. So we understand aspects of genetics and genomics, and how that shapes our health and shapes our overall well being. So when we understand those components, we can understand health and disease a lot better. And really, if you again, go down the layers, when we’re looking at Genetics, and Genomics, evolution is a fundamental component of that. It’s really what gave us our current genome and our current genes. But the thing that often gets missed with that very reductionist sort of scientific approach is the concept of the environment, and looking at how does the environment actually influence us. And so this is where the ancestral health model really comes in. Because there’s the saying that I think it was Loren Cordain is one of the early researchers that were pretty much stone agers living in the modern age. So our biology or genetics, everything about us, is still based on our Palaeolithic ancestors and sort of paleo diet, right. So until 10, to 15,000 years ago, when we had the Neolithic era where we started to have more agriculture, and we had more animals in farming, that type of stuff, pretty much all of our history as hominins as homosapiens, leading up to that we were hunter gatherers. And so most of our biology, our physiology, still thinks in that perspective is still shaped as a hunter gatherer. But now we have this crazy modern environment, things with like artificial lights and technology, and cars and pollution, and, you know, fake foods. And we’ve got all of these things now in our environment that our body honestly doesn’t really know how to respond to. And so this is one of the core premises of evolutionary medicine and ancestral health is something called an evolutionary mismatch or evolutionary discordance. So basically, our environment no longer matches what our body is used to. And then that leads to disease and chronic conditions and all sorts of things. So this is probably one of the biggest things shaping the current modern disease epidemic around the world, we call it diseases of affluence or diseases of modern modernity. I always struggle with that one. And, you know, when we look at some cultures from the past, whether and historical
Unknown Speaker 9:15
What do you mean by modernity?
Speaker 1 9:20
modernity? Sure, so anything of the modern modern age and modern age considered, you know, in the last couple 100 years, where we’ve really seen a change in our environment, from the Industrial Revolution, and from the Renaissance, really even back then there’s there’s been a lot that’s changed, but really, from industrial revolution to now there’s been a significant change as far as the types of things in our environment. So when we say diseases of affluence, we mean these sorts of affluence is a bit different. It’s more diseases that we see in developed westernised countries. So this is the typical chronic diseases so things like an increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diet DVDs, neurodegenerative disease, autoimmune disease, all of these chronic degenerative diseases seem to be increasing quite a lot in the last, you know, even one to two generations. Whereas before, we didn’t really have that. And we actually have pretty good historical records of, you know, more hunter gatherer tribes or Palaeolithic based cultures or ancestral cultures that they didn’t really have that much of that. And, you know, there’s some would
Speaker 2 10:24
say that that was that a, an output from improved diagnosis of diseases, and that our ability to diagnose and treat has improved. Is there any evidence to suggest like, despite the improved diagnostic skills that we’ve developed, these diseases are actually on the on the rise beyond just a higher rates of diagnosis? Yeah,
Speaker 1 10:59
yeah, that’s a common rebuttal that does come up. And I can’t remember some of the researchers off the top of my head. Now, I do have records of them. But there have actually been modern studies of doctors and other scientists that have gone to some of these modern day hunter gatherers that still exist. So there’s groups like the Congo and drawing a blank on a few of the other names, but there’s actually quite a few still in Africa in the endzone, and there’s been scientists who have gone and studied them. And they found most of the people to be in remarkable health. Where were the differences is they tend not to have a lot of the chronic degenerative diseases, like I mentioned, they they do suffer from more acute illnesses and infections. And and so that’s been the major difference is that those were the diseases, diseases that usually took us out previously, not so much the chronic disease. And now we see this increase in chronic disease, which, you know, the evolutionary perspective is, the theory is that evolutionary discordance or the mismatch, that there has been quite good modern records of people going in studying a lot of these cultures and groups that still live a more ancestral life. One of the most recorded and often cited individuals is Weston A price. He wrote a whole book called Nutrition and Physical degeneration, where he was actually a dentist, he went around the world to study different cultures, a lot of these ancestral cultures still living as hunter gatherers, he originally started to study their dental health and see how that was, but he ended up actually logging quite a lot of information about their overall well being. And again, it was quite remarkable to see the difference between these people who really, you know, they don’t have anything of modern life and technology. So they don’t necessarily have the sanitation we have the medicine and technology, we have to stay clean, stay healthy, and yet, they seem to still be devoid of a lot of the chronic diseases that we see in these affluent westernised cultures. And this has been replicated in a couple, couple other studies and researchers. So there definitely is evidence to show. And of course, even from a theoretical perspective, we can, we can understand why that makes sense. One of one of the main arguments that people will talk about, that kind of ties into what you’re bringing up is the life expectancy in the aspect, where a lot of these older cultures, the average life expectancy, or median life expectancy was much lower, say, you know, 30s 40s 50s, whereas our average life expectancy now is much higher 70s 80s, and so on. But what people don’t realise in looking at that is there’s a lot of nuance there. So things like child and infant mortality was extraordinarily high, something like one in four more infants actually died. So that goes into the average. And then also, a lot of people died from, as I said, infections and simple things that we can heal quite easy, even just sepsis, right. So if someone got an infection from scratch, and that became highly infected, they could die from that because they didn’t have antibiotics. So when you actually look at these confounding variables, and you remove the people who died either from infant mortality or some of these acute aspects, they actually lived quite long and healthy lives, and they lived with really good health span. So they actually maintain their vitality and robustness into old age. Whereas what we see now as people get older, even now in their 40s, and 50s, we’re seeing things like osteopenia, osteoporosis, high levels of frailty, cancer, heart disease, etc, which, you know, is considered to be quite young now. And so we’re seeing this younger and younger, even now we have childhood diabetes and obesity and a host of things. So, yeah, there’s there’s definitely a lot of nuance there. And I think it’s also good to dive into that and ask those questions, because the more we can delineate that I think it gives people people a clearer picture of how this potentially can be very beneficial for them.
Speaker 2 15:05
So just for for people who might be new to ancestral health? How would you describe it from from a diet perspective? You know, in very simple layman’s terms, is a no processed food is it? You know, understanding your health and using food as a as a functional medicine, it tells us a little bit about that.
Speaker 1 15:29
Sure, the easiest approach is, like you said, it’s avoiding processed foods. So the core basis of it is think about any type of food that requires modern industrial processing, and try to eliminate that. That’s the simplest and easiest approach. To get into the weeds of it more, you know, there are, there are certain, say the Paleo diet has very specific restrictions. And this is why I think ancestral health overall is a better approach and how I approach ancestral health is more from the larger macro picture. So a right away try to avoid processed foods, that’s going to be things that require modern processing and agriculture. So again, we talked about the Neolithic period. So when we look at the Neolithic period, and the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry, there were certain things that were introduced into the diet that weren’t there before. That’s going to be things like grains and legumes, particularly, because we could now create these things in mass fields. And we started to do things like mono crops, where we could have fields and fields of these crops that grow in a very unnatural way because we had the technology to be able to grow them. And this has been recorded quite a lot as to the detriment in our health when we switched to this more Neolithic way of life, where we started to eat more grains and moved away from hunter gatherer types of diets where we had more animal based foods. I think Jared Diamond in guns, germs and steel, talks about it quite a lot. I’m pretty sure he actually said it was the worst mistake humans ever made. Moving into more agricultural type of society because it had massive detriments on our health. We saw how overall height reductions, issues with bone and bone density. They saw things like increasing and rickets and a whole bunch of nutrient deficiency related diseases. Again, these have been recorded, and we can see it in some of the skeletons from people at that time. So we want to try to avoid those types of foods, again, grains, legumes, anything that really comes from mass mono cropping, because there seems to be a discordance in how our body actually reacts to those foods. The caveat to that is that we actually over time figured out how to process and eat these foods in a healthy way. So when we look at ancestral approaches to consuming these foods, they actually figured out that if you soaked, fermented and sprouted them, you actually removed a lot of the detrimental so called anti nutrients or other types of toxins in the plant that was detrimental to health. So you could actually consider if you’re going to eat grains, and legumes and those types of foods, it’s best to have them sprouted and fermented. So that’s a process. And it’s honestly, I’m always amazed at how our ancestors ancestors figured these things out. You know, we have all this stuff now you can just go on the internet and look it up. But somehow through trial and error, they figured out those things.
Unknown Speaker 18:28
I did have 20,000 years, correct?
Speaker 1 18:30
Yeah, they had a bit of time. A lot of trials
Speaker 2 18:33
through and work quite well over 20,000 years. Yeah.
Speaker 1 18:38
And I guess if you’re not necessarily working a nine to five, and you have lots of time to work on recipes and food and gathering a lot of time. And so those those are definitely the primary foods, some people you can get in to a bit of nuance. Some people would say certain things in the nightshade families might be detrimental to people, especially if you have autoimmune disease. There’s not a lot of solid evidence on that at the moment, it seems to be more anecdote. So nightshades would be things like potatoes, pepper, capsicum, paprika, those types of foods, tomatoes, those are those are big ones. So there’s more nuanced but from a general approach, try to stick to foods that could either be hunted or gathered naturally. And if you’re going to consume foods that do require some type of modern agriculture, like grains and legumes, try to have them as soaked, fermented or sprouted.
Speaker 2 19:35
And for someone such as myself, which probably have an 80%, Carnival, diet, mates a good things mates positive on the nutritional side of things for ancestral health. Yeah,
Speaker 1 19:55
absolutely. This is a obviously an area of quite a lot of discourse. At the moment, and there’s certainly a narrative against me. Yeah, yep. But Dr. Zoe harcombe, her comb is actually a great person to look at. She’s a PhD who studied public health and nutrition. She’s got a few really good bits on this. But basically, when we look at our human physiology, there are certain nutrients which are essential, essential, meaning we must consume them in the diet, or we will die. And so certain things like B 12, iron, zinc, there’s quite a few specific amino acids, which are really only sourced really well from meats that must be in the diet. So if you look at that perspective alone, then it would suggest that we must be eating meat, and it must be healthy for us, Otherwise, they wouldn’t be essential nutrients. And we have a growing amount of data now to show detriments to health when we remove me. Whether it’s mental health disorders and issues, even just simple nutrient deficiencies. Obviously, anaemia is one of the biggest ones so often from the lion or Lobi 12 worldwide actually affects a large amount of people now. So these nutrients are required in our diet, which suggests we must eat meat. There’s a few other really interesting theories. And we’ll say theories from a scientific perspective. But there’s a very strong database and scientific data behind it to suggest that this is probably the case. But we have something called the expensive tissue hypothesis, which is a suggestion that, as we evolved from the great apes, we actually started to consume more meat, initially as scavengers, and as we learned to hunt and use tools we could hunt better. And that shift from plant based diet to animal based diet allowed our digestive system to shrink. So we don’t have these large colons to ferment a lot of plant fibres, and it allowed us allowed our brain to actually become bigger, so we needed less energy for digestion, and that energy went to a brain. And so that’s for the expensive tissue hypothesis. And it’s a very strong theory that that shift towards eating animal based foods was a huge component to us becoming homosapiens. And becoming what we are now, other components as well, we look
Speaker 2 22:08
at also to neural development, as well, that the higher energy food actually enabled, advanced brain development, we assumed was, was the spark of us. Coming self aware, and, you know,
Speaker 1 22:27
that’s, that’s sort of the the basis of that whole theory of what allowed us to become what we are now, you know, even a simple nutrient deficiency of the 12, during gestation or during infancy can cause permanent brain damage. Right. And we’re unfortunately, we’re unfortunately, seeing this quite a bit in a lot of the vegetarian and vegan, mothers and kids, even their breast milk is deficient. So we’re seeing quite severe changes. So from that perspective, it shows just how important these nutrients are for our development. And for our health, we can look at even our gut health, our sorry, our gut physiology, when we look at our gut physiology, and there’s a few papers on this, which maybe we can put in the show notes. But when we look at it and compare it to other animals, and other mammals, our gut and our stomach acids, specifically is on the range of a carnivore or a scavenger, which suggests, again, we were scavenging meat, or we were eating a extremely high diet in meat, and so are at acidic acidity level is so low, meaning it’s very acidic. And that allows to break down protein and also to kill a lot of pathogens. So again, there’s a lot of evidence that suggests from a biology and physiology perspective, that we did evolve eating meat, and that that probably brings with it some health benefits to include it in our diet. And, you know, on the negative health side, just to touch on that a bit, and I’m sure we can talk about this later. But one of the, one of the biggest problems in the nutritional science space is a lot of it’s based on epidemiology. And so epidemiology is probably one of the lowest rungs of scientific quality, where all they’re doing is sort of sending out a survey and asking people what they ate. It’s often a food questionnaire, and then they’ll ask them what kind of conditions or diseases they have. And then they try to correlate those things. And one of the issues is correlation doesn’t mean causation. Right? So just because things correlate doesn’t mean one causes the other. And so we see a correlation sometimes with red meat and certain diseases. But what they don’t account for is things like the healthy user bias, which is where people who generally have a healthier lifestyle, may not eat meat because of the current recommendations, and that might be the factor. So maybe they’re exercising, they’re not drinking, they’re not smoking, and it has nothing to do with the meat. And so there’s a lot a lot of variables to consider. And there’s been some recent research that actually accounts for those confounding variables. And when we remove those confounding variables, there’s almost no support that red meat is detrimental. And again, there’s always some nuance in there and we you can get a little bit lost in it. If we look at things there are certain people People who maybe say hemochromatosis or hyper responders to saturated fat. And this is where the functional medicine side comes in, because we have to consider that every individual is an individual. And they have different genetics and different aspects. So you still need to personalise someone’s diet. But if we take at least the ancestral model as the starting point, that usually serves us pretty well. And then we can start to personalise and figure out what works best for them.
Speaker 2 25:27
And it’s really a medicine, about wellness, rather than treatment. Correct, which, you know, so much of the medicine has come from, okay, you have a problem, we need to fix it, as opposed to his madness, and you’re well, and it’s going to keep you well. So it’s a prophylactic approach, as well. So with your clients, what kind of percentage is it, you know, treating a preexisting issue, versus people starting to explore this type of health? They are healthy, and they want to stay that way.
Speaker 1 26:09
Yeah, I’ve a particular, I guess, demographic that I work with. So I actually have a relatively high amount of people who are more on that health optimization space. So they’re not necessarily they’re not necessarily dealing with any disease or chronic disease. And I work within my scope of what I treat in that space. But I do you have a group who they do have chronic issues, whether it’s functional GI issues, autoimmune issues, muscle, skeletal issues, chronic pain, there’s a few things in that space. But at the moment, I probably say it’s about 5050. But a lot of people in in my space and in the function medicine space, probably see a lot more in the chronic disease, because those people aren’t getting results from the standard care. And so they tend to go to the other options around and functional medicine tends to be well suited. And the ancestral health space tends to be well suited for working with people in that chronic disease area.
Speaker 2 27:06
There have fallen out of the traditional system. Which, which is it kind of an irony in itself is that what we call traditional, actually isn’t traditional at all. It’s quite modern. And we’re going back to ancestral, which is actually trending traditional. So all the all the terminologies got flipped all around. Yeah,
Speaker 1 27:32
absolutely. I think over time, I have faith in science. And I think you as a scientist as well, I’m sure sharing that. But I think eventually, through more research and better research, we will eventually come to a consensus, nutritional science is still very, very young. from a science perspective, we’ve only been studying it for maybe, what is it? 50 years really, if that since you know, we had the food guidelines, and certain things come on, that’s when it really ramped up. So it’s still still new, still young. And we still have a lot to learn. But again, if we think about what is what is the most parsimonious or what makes the most common sense, if we look at that evolutionary perspective, it really gives us a solid framework to start from, and to build from there to help people and again, clinically, and anecdotally, we see this quite a lot in the entire space in evolutionary medicine in working with people.
Speaker 2 28:27
It’s, it’s interesting, you say that, because I, as a farmer, as well see the analogy or the similarity between ancestral health and the study of really traditional ways of managing health and regenerative farming, which the science is starting to go into heavily now. And that’s actually going back to really, I guess, ancestral farming practices using modern technology, but going back and working in with the cycles of nature, and so forth. So we’ll get to talk about that very shortly, or to it. And thank you so much for giving us a little brief background of yourself and your interest and what brought you to this point of, you know, being heavily involved in ancestral health and helping so many people. So, thank you, Richard.
Speaker 1 29:27
Appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks for letting me sharing my story. I look forward to chatting with you about some regenerative agriculture and how that ties into sort of the bigger picture of sustainability and health not just for us, but for the entire planet.
Unknown Speaker 29:40
Look forward to it in episode two.