On August 5th and 6th I attended the first annual Ancestral Health Symposium, which is run by the Ancestral Health Society, a non-profit dedicated to developing solutions to our current health challenges from an evolutionary perspective. They ask questions such as, “How does health today compare with the health of our ancestors?” and “What makes up for any perceived differences in our health from our ancestors?”
My main goal was to interview Robb Wolf, Dr. Loren Cordain and Mat LaLonde for my documentary. These men have studied ancestral and current diets and the health of our ancestors compared to our health today.
They have a wealth of information that can help people understand the vital role the right kinds of food can play in our overall health, including healing from digestive conditions.
I had a great time overall, but by the third night of my trip, I had diarrhea return after dinner at Fogo De Chao. I believe a combination of lack of sleep, stress, too many walnuts, potentially “illegal” food and lack of fermented dairy (probiotics) caused my Crohn’s disease symptoms to return. I’m thankful it happened after the events ended and not during. By the next day, I was fine.
The symposium, for its first year was extremely well done and I was really impressed with the quality of speakers, conference production and the attendees. Here are my impressions of my experience there.
During the first day for lunch I decided to get food at the local food store. It was surprising but comforting to see how many attendees from the conference did the exact same thing instead of going out to a restaurant.
I wasn’t able to see all of the talks, but I would have liked more discussion on why the Paleo diet(s) work to treat disease and return people to health. There were little bits of info here and there, but I’d love to see a talk focused on this.
I’d like to see next year’s conference rate all the talks as Casual, Intermediate and Advanced. Some of the talks were technically too advanced while others were much easier to understand. Without knowing who the speakers were, there was no way for me to know what to expect until 5 – 10 minutes into a talk.
I would also like to see different tracks of talks in different categories, such as “Scientific”, “Lifestyle” and “Future” for example. A talk that discusses technical details and research is “Scientific”. Another about how to help your family transition to the Paleolithic way of eating is “Lifestyle”. One that discusses ways to spread and share the concepts of Paleolithic life with others is “Future”.
While many of the talks were great, I enjoyed the hallway and dinner conversations the most because the attendees were just so darn awesome. Changing one’s lifestyle to a more natural one forces one to wake up and ask heavy, potentially life changing questions about themselves and the world they live in. Anyone who dares to shake up the status quo and asks those questions is already extremely intelligent and caring.
Oy! What a wickedly fit crowd, mentally and physically. I think I proposed to three women while there. Sorry.
I was struck by how many attendees had powerful and inspiring stories of healing from chronic health conditions through the Paleo diet. This is not unlike the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet communities. Except, they don’t have kick ass conferences… yet!
Speaking of other diets, many people knew of SCD, GAPS (less so), Nourishing Traditions and Maker’s diet (less so). I felt so at home when on the way to dinner everyone was talking about almond flour crust pizza and zucchini fries. We started having a very macho verbal battle about whose banana nut bread was more badass!
I was relieved there weren’t any vendors (i.e. supplement companies) trying to sell there. The focus was on the community and information exchange. I hope this continues!
At the end of the second and final day, there was a fun exercise of people standing in a circle trying to bat a beach ball back and forth to each other without the ball hitting the ground. Sounds like fun, except it was three beach balls going at the same time! I hope this will return and happens at the end of each day of the conference. It will help counter the tedium of sitting all day soaking up information.
One of my favorite talks was presented by Mat LaLonde titled “An Organic Chemist’s Perspective on Paleo”. Mat is highly respected in the Paleo community for his critical analysis of the arguments coming from the Paleo community and saying, “That doesn’t make sense scientifically and you need to do better.”
He explained that the current theory that humans have evolved to thrive off of Paleolithic foods and not Neolithic and industrial foods is very difficult to prove scientifically and that a new theory ought to be worked on. His new theory is that humans have not had sufficient time in our evolutionary history to evolve to thrive off of Neolithic and industrial foods.
This makes a ton of sense to me, yet I fully admit I know next to nothing when it comes to most science disciplines.
I haven’t seen many other AHS attendees talk about Robb Wolf’s ginormous email problem. When I was stalking Robb to get an interview out of him (sorry dude, I know I was annoying, :/) I heard him say on at least two occasions to other people that his email inbox is full of nearly 40,000 emails from people asking for his help with their chronic health conditions.
I saw one AHS wrap up blog post say Robb mentioned all the emails he had during Denise Minger’s “How to win an argument with a vegetarian” talk by saying, “Let’s not waste our time fighting them, I’ve got 40K emails from people asking for help.” So that makes it three times he said this, at least.
Robb is a celebrity within the Paleo community and rightfully so. He’s written a New York Time’s Bestseller called “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet” and has a popular blog, The Paleo Solution that he said gets 2 to 4 million unique hits per month.
Point is, he gets a lot of people asking him for help and he’s only one person. What can the Paleo community can do to help those people who are looking for it? The SCD and GAPS community have people who call themselves “coaches”.
Some have nutrition training, some do not. Some make a career out of it, like Jordan and Steve at SCD Lifestyle while others like me volunteer their time once in a while. Does the Paleo community have “Paleo Coaches”?
There are many wicked smart people within the community who could help others implement the Paleo diet and lifestyle to achieve greater health.
Despite my diarrhea at the end, it was wonderful meeting everyone and making new friends. The inflammatory bowel community needs conferences like this desperately. So many with IBD can only connect with others like them online, but connecting in person and learning how to overcome their digestive condition is needed badly.
Every day I learn about someone having surgery to remove portions of their intestines. Every few weeks I learn someone has died from complications of Crohn’s disease, but it doesn’t have to happen!
I went to AHS to try and get some information from the experts that can help save lives, but wasn’t able to. I just wish I could have returned home with a camera full of awesome interviews to make it worth all the shit I had to deal with.
Having symptoms return on these trips is exhausting and made me wonder if it was worth it. But when I hear Robb is drowning in 40K emails from people asking for help, I know my film can have a big impact and whatever problems I have along the way will be worth it in the end.
Stay colonized my friends,
AHS presentation videos can be found here: http://vimeo.com/ancestralhealthsymposium
AHS presentation slides can be found here: http://www.slideshare.net/ancestralhealth
Both will be updated with more content in the days and weeks ahead.