In the diet world, people can get so focused on eating the right foods, determining what the best type of cooking oil and ingredients are and other diet related aspects of life, that they forget to focus on the other aspects of life including what chemicals and lifestyle factors we are putting in or on our body. Paleo is NOT just about diet changes, it's an entire lifestyle shaped around the relevant parts of life that our ancestors lived.
Here are some essential changes that will further protect your health and happiness outside of the diet and fitness realm:
Use Fluoride-free toothpaste
Look on your toothpaste label. Most say if swallowed, contact poison control center immediately. Your mouth absorbs some of this regardless of how careful you are. A lot of big name doctors including Dr. Mercola have talked about the dangers of sodium flouride. It is capable of creating an insulin resistance, which then can lead to glucose intolerance. Flouride can also cause fluorosis (damage to tooth enamel, particularly those discolored spots seen on children or teens teeth) mainly ages 0-8. Although I have seen many adults with these remnants of enamel damage too. source I highly recommend this toothpaste.
Eat organic fruit and vegetables
There is a list infamously known the dirty dozen (foods you should buy organic).
It can become very un-affordable for some and the benefits for buying the least contaminated foods organically are not as important. If money isn't an issue, always opt for organic food sources!
This type of food is usually more colorful, which is an indicator of even more phytonutrients than the conventionally grown source. Conventional food is so nutrient depleted, it's not worth buying.
You must go at least half organic, I know it's not cheap. Pay now or pay later (with your health), your choice.
Minimal or no microwave usage
An easy alternative to warm up your food is to place your food in a small skillet for a few minutes on medium heat.
If you work in a place where a microwave is your only option, take a few extra minutes to heat your food the more natural way and put it in a food thermos before heading out. Dr. Mercola also wrote a more extensive page on why you shouldn't use the microwave here. Honestly, you should just realize that most of Paleo is common sense and it shouldn't take a study of something for you to realize it's bad for you.
Cook with or consume grass-fed butter/ghee and/or MCT oil
MCT oil is a more pure form of coconut oil that contains closer to 100% of MCT itself, which stands for Medium-chain triglycerides. I am regurgitating information when it comes to the science behind MCT oil, but I personally have noticed the fat-burning effects from adding it to the end of a meal. Don't use it as a cooking oil since it will damage the fats.
Drink exclusively water and herbal tea blends
Drinking Green tea and chamomile can reduce stress, relieve symptoms of depression, improve sleep and many other benefits. Drinking tea is a great way to achieve mental and physical well-being.
Of course, avoid McDonalds famous $1 Sweet Tea special.
We love green tea and oolong. It's also about the meditative mind state that the tea brewing process puts you in. Slowing down time even for a few minutes to watch the tea disperse is one of my favorite parts of the night.
Green tea also contains an amino acid that boosts our calming neurotransmitter GABA. Learn more in my interview with Clinical Nutritionist Beverly Meyer.
A commonly overlooked aspect of our lifestyle habits is our caffeine consumption. Is it a crutch for you?
Excessive amounts of coffee, energy shots, energy drinks, soda and even your special occasional ice cream treat such as Ben & Jerry's Heath bar crunch contains 84mg of caffeine in an 8oz serving.
For other foods, drinks and their associated caffeine content, look here. The daily recommended amount of caffeine is >250mg.
Caffeine is a highly addictive and can lead to addiction or withdrawal symptoms including shaking and nervousness, anxiety, headaches and more. Here is the source, but I can tell you from personal experience, you don't need a study to realize the negative effects that too much coffee can cause.
Poor sleep quality could be a red flag to start focusing on the amount of caffeine you consume, especially within 5 hours of bed time.
Add up your pot of coffee, your 5-hour energy shot, your pre-workout powder to pump you up before the gym and your excedrin to reduce your headache (which also contains caffeine).
You see how you can easily become dependent and suffer from caffeine dependency.
There are worse things in the world than caffeine addiction, but, let's look at the effects of too much below.
What you should expect with low amounts of caffeine in your lifestyle
Steady levels of energy throughout the day.
I was never an excessive coffee drinker, and I completely agree a couple cups a day of high-quality coffee is fine.
However, once I reduced the amount I was consuming, I had more steady energy throughout the day. This reduction of caffeine leads to less ups and downs, that style of energy fluctuation is distracting and leaves you exhausted.
Coffee and energy drinks are an average of $3 a pop and can add up fast!
Now I'm not saying you need to quit one of the beautiful small things in life that you love, but just reevaluate your drinking style and consider buying in bulk. Check out Liz at Paleo on a Budget for even more money saving tips. I also do a podcast with her that's featured on iTunes, you should subscribe!
Despite all the effects of too much caffeine, there was a study that indicated that women who drank more coffee experienced less depression.
The #1 most essential thing to remove from your life is?
Stress, A.K.A. the silent killer.
Humans adapted to survive and live with stress in very scattered amounts such as finding food, hunting, injuries and more, but it wasn't the type of incessant stress we live with in the 21st Century.
We live with chronic stress thinking about things that have never existed to the human brain before. Without proper deep breathing, relaxation techniques, a proper exercise routine and diet, our society is a recipe for mental disaster.
Here are some of the stressful conveniences and things that would not have existed in Paleo times:
Driving any vehicle takes an incredible amount of persistent focus. Your body was not built for driving a car, it was built for motion on it's own.
This is something that we have trouble dealing with neurologically. Your body has never been able to travel at 60, 70 or 80 miles an hour before while inside a metal box with a steering wheel attached to it. This process obviously wears you out; I've seen it from family and friends in the trucking industry.
It literally wears down your brain and body. If you have to drive and need relief, I recommend this memory-foam lumbar cushion.
Not to mention the fact that our commutes that take over 30 minutes can lead to bad posture, low back pain, stress, anxiety, anger and more. You know what you feel when you drive, just try to relax and sit up straight when you do have to drive.
Our ancestors would not have had the need to comprehend and plan for the future the way we do today. Nor would they have understood the concept of paper with faces on it that we call money.
We say it has value so now our entire system and way of life depends on it. This is something very unnatural to the human brain, which could be the reason our monetary system doesn't run so efficiently.
Now, we sign 30-year mortgages, 5-year car loans, and basically never ending cell phone contracts.
I'm not saying that we will be able to escape bills and the negative side effects that they toll on your mental health, but simply to reduce them as much as possible. I wrote an article about living with less and the associated benefits of getting rid of my TV and other "american essentials".
Some people prefer to work for companies due to the benefits you receive, having a regimented daily pattern to make income, being comfortable with a brand behind you and to protect you etc.
There are many benefits of working for companies, here are the top 100 companies to work for, Google being #1.
The point is, beyond a tribe leader or natural alpha male, there would have been a lot less opportunities and times where you'd have to listen to someone for your life (income) to depend on it.
Bad bosses can cause adrenal fatigue and can blend into your free time away from the job. This is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Make the separation between work and play very distinct.
Besides fire, our only light source was the sun.
There is a large disconnect from the importance of the sun, especially for third-shift and hospital workers on night shift.
They never get to see or feel the sun with their work and sleep schedule! That is highly unnatural and should be avoided if possible as well.
Incandescent, fluorescent and all other modern lighting systems affect your melatonin production, especially when around them at night. They can mess up your body's natural circadian rhythm and lead to insomnia, anxiety and other effects.
Dr. Hansler and I discussed artificial light as being one of the most detrimental aspects to modern life. Listen in here.
Dr. Kruse and I discussed artificial light and also came to the conclusion that artificial light (at night) is one of the most detrimental aspects to modern life for both humans and other species. Listen in here.
You must purchase a pair of these blue-blocking glasses and wear them each night 20 minutes after sunset.
When's the last time you actually sat in complete silence out in nature? What did you hear?
It was beautiful I'm sure.
The loudest thing in nature would have been very short lived such as thunder, trees cracking, rocks falling etc. There were no car amplifiers with huge speakers, bars and clubs with booming sound systems, concert arenas with million watt power systems, sports events with hundreds of thousands of people all yelling at once in an enclosed aluminum box.
Construction equipment and machinery is notorious for damaging hearing over long-term. Did you know that your nose and ears never stop growing? My guess is that ears continue to grow to supplement the natural loss of hearing.
Protect your ears and avoid excessive noise whenever possible (get out of the noise of the city and on to a natural space as often as possible).
Noise stresses out your Central Nervous System.
Besides birds chirping and other animals' noises, humans lived to wake up to the sunrise.
Waking up to alarm clocks is extremely stressful to the body and sets us up for a fight-or-flight response. As we thought about earlier, there would have been no light or reason to get up before this otherwise.
Waking up at 5AM, getting dressed and driving to work are all very unnatural ways of life to a human.
Waking up naturally before sunrise is extremely hard, but can be done. My advice to wakeup with inner peace is to wakeup to peaceful music. I wrote an article about how peaceful music in the morning can improve your entire day and life outlook.
There are many other things that are not natural to human life and can be changed. If you'd like to share them, please leave a comment on this page.
How you can deal with the listed modern conveniences
Live car-light or car-free
You're thinking HAH! Don't.
Leo from Zen Habits wrote about his experience with going car-free. If you live in a city where this is possible, go for it.
This is something that not all people can do, depending on your location. Some cities are structured for public transit systems, subways, biking etc.
If you are fortunate enough to where you can function without a car, it can be extremely liberating, I use my car rarely in the summertime, I ride 6 miles round trip to the market/grocery and 3 miles roundtrip to the gym. Not only is it liberating, but avoiding cars for transportation changes the way you view the world.
There are so many benefits to using other forms of transport, you'll see flowers you've never seen before, notice wildlife more, or find a new restaurant on the street you drive down everyday.
Live a minimalist life
If you haven't already, you can read about the benefits of a minimalism here.
It's something that's changed my life and will improve yours too.
We live in a society where consumerism is completely accepted and praised, something that does not lead you to happiness. Instead, it leads you to clutter, the mental feelings that you have to keep up with all the latest gadgets and more.
Don't get me wrong, I love good quality products, so buy for quality not quantity. Spend more now on your vitamins and minerals for better health, rather than buying Wal-Mart brand and paying with your health later down the road.
Become an entrepreneur
James Clear wrote about the health benefits of thinking like an entrepreneur.There are schemes to make money everywhere you look, don't go for that.
Instead, practice deep breathing, reevaluate your life and determine what your passion is. Most things you enjoy, there are other people that enjoy those too. You can learn to develop a product for that passion, write a book on helping others with that passion etc. Go with your gut instinct on this one, realistically it can be hard to achieve any real traction in that sort of mentality.
The world loves innovation; research, network and spread truth and happiness, within those parameters you will find happiness and success.
Use dim lights or candles after dark
Unless there is something pressing to do, going to sleep with the sun is the way we are programmed.
However, especially in certain areas where winter nights are incredibly long or daylight is not achieved at all, modern lights have to be used.
If you must be around artificial light at night, use these glasses (they look dorky, but you're preventing cancer, yeah seriously, go listen).
Once you become more in tune with your life and body, you will naturally get tired as the sun sets. I wakeup to the sunrise everyday on the dot, it's a miracle. If you must use lighting, have a 3-wick candle near your computer or work desk to get tasks done, not only is it a highly meditative and healing way to get things done, but it lets your body operate how it should. You will sleep much better by changing this.
Avoid loud places and use ear protection
I love live music. Live music is very Paleo (haha, technically). There wouldn't have been synthesizers and saxophones in that time, but music is definitely part of our spirit.
When going to concerts or any loud place, use ear protection. There are certain earplugs known as acoustic earplugs which enable you to keep the clarity of the music while protecting your ears. It's a must in this day and age where people think "the louder the better".
Wakeup naturally or to peaceful music
The reality is, most people do not want to risk being late or take the time to try to wakeup naturally.
With set times to start work, it can make you feel anxious worrying about if it's time to get up. I admit, that is hard to do. That's why you should wakeup to peaceful music instead.
Search online for your favorite piano melody or peaceful song. Whatever makes you feel good, but is not too shocking. Something starting out with screaming and a crazy guitar riff may not be the most peaceful thing to wakeup to. Every smartphone has the capability of music as a ringtone, if you need specific help with setting it up, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This list is not the cure all, our society is vastly different than our ancestors way of life.
Our new way of life helps us relax in many ways since we don't have to directly hunt for food in the same way and worry about other survival techniques as much.
These are just some of the day-to-day changes that you can make to positively impact your thoughts and life itself.
I hope you learn more modern ways of life that you can change to suit your genetics more. Spread these changes to your friends and family, our goal is to create a huge tribe of healthy, thriving people that are happy and feel great!