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2012/04/15

The Ambush of Humpty Dumpty

Like any reactor meltdown, a series of factors came together, gathered momentum and blew the lid off something such that Humpty Dumpty will never be the same. Fingers are being pointed, some ostrich tactics are being employed, and the smug I-told-you-sos are flying thick. I'm amused because it's all so expected and unnecessary.

Paleo has always been a flexible, evidence-based (or trying to be), questioning paradigm. It's what makes the community so attractive (I find the fundamental principle - evolution determines biological appropriateness and compliance with that is a prerequisite to optimal health - so blindingly self-evident that I can't imagine ever losing that lense of enquiry) and yet also what makes it inherently instable. Versions become cliques become cults. Experts simplify exploratory science into explanatory models and lay people turn them into laws spread laterally. Searching for scientific justifications leads down ever-narrower technical rabbitholes divided one from the next into particulate nonsense useless for integrated human life. So it was hardly a surprise when voices small and large began to say that they'd taken a step back and found that biology, anthropology, history and medicine of many stripes could be housed and heard under the broader umbrella of ancestral health. The name of Weston Price, and the writings of the modern eponymous foundation, found a new public. Cate and Luke Shannahan wrote a book that used none of the titles and included all of the content, and PaleoDiet recommended it. THE paleo infographic noted the centrality of gut flora to global health. Mentions of bone broths, little-known nutrients, and the importance of ferments started cropping up on Paleohacks. From there, the leap to Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride's GAPS protocol for gut healing was not a great one. Carb terror began to lose its grip. One by one, bloggers and gurus alike backed off of "strict paleo" (with notable exceptions) and focussed on food quality and lifestyle factors as on par with diet in their importance to health.

Since my road to paleo came via Real Food, WAPF and GAPS, and I'd held on to the aspects of those schools of thought that were not superseded by paleo, this was a relief; not only did the pieces fit into a larger and more cohesive whole, but it seemed that the taboo of straying outside of your chosen nutritional religion was fading. (Sadly, some of the WAPF bloggers have not been as gracious in this regard as their paleo counterparts, but continue to provide valuable content to their acolytes.)

Righto. So I'm cruising along in a happy place, any thought of guilt at my heresy assuaged as I stitched together solutions to early pregnancy dilemmas. I felt among friends when Melissa MacEwan wrote about a month ago, "The question becomes whether or not you can figure out which foods you are intolerant of and then whether or not you can become more tolerant. Your malfunctioning gut bacteria probably don't care about whether or not a food is "paleo" or not." I was surprised but not astounded when Kurt Harris joined the comment board with an admission that his definition of NADs was shifting.

Apparently that was a minority position.

Paleohacks went nuts. The MDA forum tossed it around; sometimes I agreed with what was said (comments 9 and 14), and sometimes not. Some made an effort to envision where this would take paleo, and some worried that the paradigm can't expand enough to include this "new" aspect. Many simply said they'd never been as "pure paleo" as they seemed, and saw the issue as one almost entirely aside from diet.

The intricacies of human biochemistry continue to baffle us and will do so probably forever. That forever will more than likely last a lot longer than it needs to if we cannot move away from the idea that the health of the human body relies on biochemistry alone, without regard to personal, intestinal, familial and genetic milieu. Note that in this report, the powers of the mystical root that cures crack addiction is attributed in part to the hallucinations it causes that force the patient to confront personal demons, yet the only way to develop it for market it to refine it down to remove that effect.

The world is wild. Life is wonderous. Why are we shooting ourselves in the foot and calling it an ambush?

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