500 Words – Raw Vegan Requiem -873-

I recently spent a full year on a raw vegan journey after I found a group on Facebook that promoted Natural Hygiene that promoted a diet that was not only vegan but one that followed a diet primarily based on fruit and gentle leafy greens. I also decided to remove garlic, onions, caffeine, dark chocolate, even added salt, and bore deeply into eating mostly fruit and salads as suggested by this aforementioned group. The only exception was a small amount of homemade hummus added to my salads in place of dressing. So I guess if someone wanted to nitpick a little they could say that I was only 98% raw vegan. There is too much evidence and data demonstrating that those that live the longest eat legumes on a daily basis. That and I just make good hummus.

I feel it was a worthwhile endeavor that allowed me to learn firsthand a lot about how the human body functions when exposed to a raw vegan lifestyle over a long period of time. Not something a lot of people can say. An its overall cleansing effects on my body were well worth the time and effort. I am grateful for what it did for me and I still believe that it was the right thing to do.

Would I recommend this diet to everyone? Not necessarily. It would depend on the individual and what their diet had been like for the year leading up to their wanting to take on such an endeavor. If they had been a strict vegetarian for a year first then by all means. I wouldn’t see any problem in making the shift. If they were omnivores, I would suggest transitioning to a vegetarian diet for a good six months beforehand. I believe healthy and gradual transitions are the best way to find success in dietary changes.

These days I am no longer a raw vegan for a number of reasons, but most importantly is because there is no evidence that it is the best way to go about getting to 120 years of age with a body that looks and feels no more than 34. Aside from the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that such a hygienic Edenic diet would do such, my main concern with the raw vegan or even fruitarian diet is that it is too easy on the body ultimately resulting in a more fragile state of existence, premature decline, and lower mortality overall.

Humans did not become the dominant species by eating a perfect or overly hygienic diet. On the contrary, it is because of much adversity and stress in our lives that brought us to where we are today.

An all-fruit diet in today’s world is problematic because we just don’t have access to enough variety on any given day to have a wide enough diversity of nutrients to make it even feasible to get enough of what we need, in the way our body would need it for our body to thrive.

And then there is the overly-hygienic state that an all-fruit diet will land your body in that would ultimately leave you with a microbiome that has diminished diversity which is not a good place to be. Our body and mind need to be exposed to small amounts and diversity of stress on a regular basis to maintain a strong state that can better deal with unforeseen future adverse situations. An overly hygienic, or sterile state is not a good place for a human or any other organic life form to be found outside of a sterile or hygienic environment. And none of us live in a cleanroom. We live in a diverse world filled with much adversity and as such our body needs exposure to adversity and even small amounts of environmental stress to remain anti-fragile and strong when unforeseen future adversity should arise.

To be clear, I am still a vegan by definition because it provides us with the greatest opportunity to make it to 120 years with a body that looks and feels no more than 34. However, I don’t believe that we need to limit ourselves to a raw diet and that adding certain plant-based foods that need to be cooked first is an important part of greater longevity and a fuller life experience. They provide a necessary and beneficial derivation through mild adversity that strengthens the body overall.

So rather than arguing about which version of vegan diet is better for every individual, I can say with all certainty that there are other principles that are more important than a list of approved foods that exclude things like cooked legumes, sweet potatoes, and cruciferous veggies. Clearly, some plant-based/whole food is better at cleansing the body than others, but there does come a point where a complex living system can become too hygienic and the needle of health starts pointing in a negative direction. A Natural Hygiene diet is the best for cleansing, but not good for overall longevity and to suggest that it can be a permanent lifestyle is overreaching. A bridge too far.

Adversity and variation are what build a strong and robust body that will make it further down the road while avoiding any states of disease.

Stress. Are you getting enough?

Stress. Our life depends on it. The quality of life and the amount of years we will live on Earth is a direct result of the quality and kind of stress we apply to the systems of the human body. We are like a tree. Apply too much stress at one fine point and it will fall over and die. Add just the right amount, applied at random intervals and the tree will grow strong, both above and below the ground.

I imagine most people would not see stress as something beneficial to their life. But it is. Quite beneficial in fact. In reality, most of us living in the Western World have become quite soft if you will simply because we have come to a place in history where we have plenty. We don’t have the right kinds of stress that would provide our bodies with the right kind of stress that would lead to an overall improvement in the human condition.

Yes, we can age more gracefully with the right amount and kind of stress in our life.

We are very rich compared to our great-grandparents that were born just a little over 100 years ago. We not only have plenty, but we also have a variety that they couldn’t have imagined. But along with the variety of nutrient sources we have today, most sources are foods that are processed and lacking in the actual things our bodies need to help us achieve our fullest potential.

And then there are the right kinds of foods that our body needs much more of. Plant-based/whole-foods. In some places, like Los Angeles for example, we have plenty of access to these natural food sources, but the sad reality is that most don’t have access to the variety that mother nature has created for us. And as such we just keep eating the same few things over and over again. Of bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, strawberries, and a handful of leafy greens we have plenty, but we tend to lack diversity. And because of international trade and refrigerated shipping containers, it is dirt cheap to get a narrow selection of produce in plenty all year round. So we are missing out on the benefits of seasonal variety that would be beneficial for our body.

More than 100 years ago there was a lack of not only quantity, but also a variety that led to disorders like scurvy, beriberi, kwashiorkor, pellagra, and goiter. The wrong kind of stress. Today we no longer have the problems like these that were a result of deficiency of nutrients. Today we have too much but not enough diversity of the right stuff and now we suffer from metabolic disease from overconsumption and lack of variety. And then the icing on that cake is that even if we are getting a sufficient amount of calories from the right kind of foods, the lack of variety is oftentimes resulting in food allergies and behavioral disorders related to food and dietary fads. Again, the wrong kind of stress

Our American(Western) lifestyles would benefit greatly from a little adversity and high-quality stress that would produce beneficial results leading to a better overall picture of health and wellness.

Hormesis, Health, Homeostasis, and Aging.

You’ve heard it said, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” A phrase coined by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). This is a principle called hormesis. It is what happens when we go to the gym and work out. We stress our body and it responds positively. But that is not the only kind of hormesis. Toxins, or poisons, can also result in a hormetic effect that offers protection and extended longevity of lifespan.

For thousands of years, it has been observed and practiced that low doses of poison could be beneficial to health in the long run. Studies have shown that small amounts of alcohol can double the lifespan of worms(nematodes) as well as enhance the memory of mice. However, high amounts of alcohol in humans result in cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, and neurological disorders. However, there is an overall reduction in mortality, especially of the kinds resulting from coronary heart disease and stroke in those that have small amounts of alcohol.

And apparently, there is a similarly protective effect from cigarette smoking on Parkinson’s disease and may have similar effects on Alzheimer’s dementia. I imagine this has more to do with nicotine which is used as a pesticide in agricultural settings. Remember, low doses of poison can be beneficial. But alas, modern man tends to not practice temperance when it comes to smoking and drinking, which ultimately then makes them both toxic at the levels most will enjoy.

Unfortunately, these two specific hormetics tend to be well overused. But that is another topic for another essay. Nonetheless, hormesis can benefit overall homeostasis resulting in a better quality of aging.

Aging is the condition or process of deteriorating with age and death is the final manifestation of the body’s inability to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the result of the body’s efforts to maintain a stable environment to the benefit of the overall creature(us). A state of ease in contrast to a state of dis-ease. Well, versus unwell. And this is all maintained through a number of different mechanisms, or physiological processes that for the most part go unnoticed as we make our way throughout the day. For the most part, it is an automatic process that takes place, which I imagine is a good thing for us. Especially since our body still needs us to keep breathing, whether we are awake and aware, or not. A feature I definitely appreciate being automated. Some other processes our body automates and regulates are pH, glucose, blood pressure, toxins, and temperature.

What most of us call aging is a shrinking back of the hemodynamic space that is often taken for granted when we are young. We take it for granted in our younger years because our body simply feels and works better. But eventually, sometime around our twenty-fifth year, we begin to feel aches and pains that we didn’t experience in our youth. One might even say it’s all downhill from there. Some make it into their thirties or forty’s before feeling this way, but not without some effort on their part through sober-minded thinking and decision-making processes or by pushing back a little at the gym. This pushing back is called hormesis.

As we get older we start to notice things changing, usually because of what we see in the mirror. An increase in skin blemishes. A thinning out of our hair. Maybe a few gray hairs start showing up. Fingernails and toenails not looking as healthy as they may have at a younger age. And these things are actually good visual indicators of our overall health. They can speak volumes without ever having to use a word as they allow for someone that studies aging to see not only the current state of the body but also what could have led us to that point in our life.

Good health is the result of a body’s ability to maintain homeostasis, but it comes at a cost. A cost that is factored into our current lifespan of 120 years which we are sorely lacking the ability to attain here in the twenty-first century. Likely from a lack of adversity. Maybe it’s time we start being a little harder on ourselves.

We’ve really gotta get this figured out. We are missing out on so much good life. We are literally throwing away the greatest asset of all. Time. And the time we do have really tends to be hindered in the way we age in our latter years.

This is a sad reality that I am going to fix. I’m done aging badly.