Sunday, July 06, 2014

New Zealand Ancestral Health Symposium - Part 3

Hello! this is the third, and last, installment of my NZ Ancestral Health Symposium recap.

For Part 1: Click Here
For Part 2: Click Here

Kate Callaghan - Nutritionist
Kate's blog:  Against the Grain Nutrition Kate's twitter: @ATGnutrition
The Ancestral Woman in a Modern World: Strong, Sexy and Fertile

Kate is rather gorgeous, inside and out.  She walked on stage looking the picture of health, promised that her talk would feature boobs, and then offered to hug anyone, anytime. Also..that dress!! I want it

Starting with herself as a case study, Kate described the situation in which many of us (myself included) have found ourselves when striving for the perfect bod.  A few years ago, Kate was a fitness instructor, exercising many hours a week and dieting. She looked fit, with chinky abs and modelesque thighs, but underneath, all was not well: she had symptoms of hormonal disruption - missing periods, low energy, sleep disturbances and premature greys.  

Kate's talk was very female focused. She approached the concept of 'Ancestral Health' holistically, as a lifestyle which can keep women healthy, sexy and fertile and restore these things if modern life has robbed us of them.  Kate identified the following concepts as cornerstones of female health:

* Hormones: she got sciency, talking about the HPA axis and the pregnenalone steal - a system whereby the body will divert pregnenalone toward cortisol, rather than estrogen/testosterone production when under stress.

* Nutrient dense foods: organ meats, eggs, blood/bones/connective tissue, seaweed. Eat enough! Many women restrict their calories below that needed for health.

* Intelligent movement: think hunter/gatherer days - lots of wandering / slow movement interspersed with occasional predator-evading sprints and lifting heavy things. One thing ancestral man probably didn't do is hours of cardio. Chronic cardio is the best type of exercise if you want chronically elevated cortisol (hint: you really don't).

* Female bonding: I loved this.  Hanging with girlfriends, and doing stuff together, sharing resources is not just good for our mental health, but can actually help hormonal regulation. Kate spoke about how dysfunctional female relationships have become: we compete with, rather than support each other. Let's not do that, hey?  

Julianne Taylor - Nutritionist
Julianne's website and blog: Paleozone Nutrition Julianne's twitter: @juliannetaylor
Ancestral Principles in Managing Autoimmune Disease

Julianne is not only a fellow Massey postgraduate nutrition student with scary intelligence, but was also my houseguest for the weekend.  It was great to have her visiting and we did talk rather a lot about all things nutritional (so good for the soul). My cats loved her, and that's a sign of someone exceptional.

Julianne's talk was about something close to my heart: autoimmunity. For those at the back, I have an autoimmune condition (ITP) and am slowly nailing down which aspects of diet and lifestyle affect it, one way or the other.  

This talk was packed with information, from the etiology of autoimmunity and leaky gut, to issues with gluten, to the specifics of an immune-balancing lifestyle.  Julianne also introduced epigenetics and the complicated interactions of factors that must be present for an autoimmune condition to flourish.  An example that stuck in my memory (I think Julianne was referencing a case study from her nutrition practice) is that of the HLA-B27 gene, which is linked with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). For a start, although there is a correlation, you can have symptoms of the disease without having the gene, and you can have the gene without developing AS. Along with the gene, there are two other factors which affect AS symptomology: dietary starches, and the presence of kleibsiella bacteria. Kleibsiella metabolises starch, so it could be that the problem is actually the bacteria, and that starving it is what creates the AS improvement, rather than it being an issue with starches per se.  Interesting, yes?

Julianne talked about zonulin, and presented the work of Jean Seignalet as compulsory reading for anyone interested in autoimmunity.  He is quite possibly the only physician to have tested a paleo diet on his autoimmune patients and recorded the results. Click here for Julianne's blog about Dr. Seignalet.

Julianne's lifestyle tips for autoimmunity:

* Gut healing diet: paleo, remember to eat your gelatin/collagen and organ meats. Avoid gut irritants.

* Sleep and circadian rhythms: Get your 7-9 hours and try to respect natural light/dark cycles.

* Sunlight:  Sunlight seems to have an immune balancing effect, and it's not just to do with vitamin D.

* De-stress.

* Movement: slow movement with bursts of speed.

* Community.

Dr. Anastasia Boulais - Medical Practitioner
Anastasia's blog: News at the AHS site Anastasia's twitter: @primalmeded
Sunlight: Friend or Foe? Skin Cancer Controversies

Anastasia had the difficult 'last speaker of the day' slot but managed to hold my attention for the entirety of her 30 minutes.  As I have the attention span of a kitten, that means she nailed it.

Anastasia talked about sunlight, which we in NZ (and Aussie) are warned to avoid at all costs. It causes fatal melanoma, we are told.  While acknowledging that skin cancer is indeed an issue, Anastasia clarified things somewhat. For example, the majority of skin cancers are not melanoma, and if caught early are quite easily treated. Not only that, but melanoma, when it does occur, is more common in indoor workers and on skin that is not often exposed to sunlight.  How about that?

Delving quite deeply into the differences between UVA and UVB rays, Anastasia explained that common methods of sun avoidance such as being indoors and using sunscreen primarily reduce exposure to the shorter wave UVB rays. UVB's are the ones that stimulate vitamin D production, and protective skin adaptation (skin thickening, synthesis of melanin). UVB has been targeted because it is the one that causes burning and direct DNA damage.  UVA, which is barely affected by sunscreen, and can pass through glass, is also damaging, but by more indirect methods (primarily oxidation). Interestingly, UVA can actually break down vitamin D.  UVA is the one you'll get from a sunbed, and sunbed use is positively correlated with melanoma.  Don't tan in a sunbed.  

There was a lot more to Anastasia's talk than I've summarised here - which is just one of the many reasons why you should try and get yourself to the next AHS, which will be in Wanaka, 25th October this year. However, the take home message seemed to be that sunlight is good for humans, you just have to be smart about it.  Sitting for hours with a reflector pointed at your face is just asking for trouble (and wrinkles, nobody wants those!).


That's it!  

What impressed me most about the whole symposium is that it had a truly holistic feel to it, and everything presented was down-to-earth and doable.  There wasn't a hint of woo-woo, weirdo paleo dogma. Nobody was wearing sandals, sporting an unruly beard or trying to lead a 'grains are evil!' chant.   

In addition, no presenter bashed the audience with macronutrient ratio's, encouraged use of diet-tracking software, or approached the paleo diet as a method of attaining the 'thin ideal'.  The emphasis was on vigorous health, good food and a sense of community. It was a superb effort for a first conference and I hope to attend the next one, although I return from Europe the preceding day.  I'm not sure paleolithic man had to contend with jetlag....


  1. Anonymous8:33 am

    What a fantastic account of the conference! I am not sure how you managed to take photos and write (clearly) so many notes on each presentation! We really value your feedback and the feedback of everybody who attended. And if you think you have a presentation in you please let us know. We are in the process of preparing a program for Wanaka :)

    1. Thanks for your nice words, it was a really fun and informative day. Amazing how much you can pack into a Sunday! I'll let you know about possible presentations, should have a lot to say about cholesterol sooner or later.

    2. I'll be looking forward to that, Sara. Just ground my way through Peter Attia's 10 part series on the straight dope on cholesterol. Very informative.


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