Top 10 things I learned at the Ancestral Health Symposium 2017

I was blessed this year to be able to attend and present at my fifth Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS). The AHS is a small (around 300) gathering of researchers, clinicians, and leading voices in the Ancestral Health movement.

More than just Paleo, Ancestral Health draws on many facets of our past from our ancient human and animal forebears, to the traditional wisdom of other cultures and more recent times. Ancestral Health views health and disease through an evolutionary lens.

Here are 10 things I learned at this years AHS:

# 10.
When trying to help someone who feels chronically ill and can’t be diagnosed with anything, consider impairments in their energy metabolism as possibilities for the cause of their issues. If someone does “bad” on a higher protein diet, they may have these impairments.

Most mutations that medicine is aware of in these pathways are the severe life-threatening ones that are very obvious. The mild-moderate ones that don’t threaten someone’s life, but mess with their quality of life, are, right now, undiagnosable. (Chris Masterjohn, PhD)

# 9.
Lost seasonality, that is not eating according to what would be available in the season where you are living, and instead eating large amounts of the same things over and over, and over long uninterrupted periods of time, puts us at greater risk of nutrient and toxic excesses and deficiencies. (Sally Norton)

# 8.
The “rich” subsidize “technologies” (goods and services) by paying premium prices allowing those things to be developed, refined, and brought to market. Over time market forces make those things cheaper and allow more people to have access to them. An example is the microwave which when it first came out was very expensive, and today is so cheap it’s virtually free (Robb Wolf)

The Ancestral Health movement / Paleo movement is still far too middle & upper class, and white. We need to make active efforts to reach out and include other races, cultures, and traditions, invite them into the movement and learn from them (Darryl Edwards)

# 7.
The 6 major nutrient deficiencies in cancer and chronic disease are Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K2 (Nasha Winters, ND)

IBS is linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer, liver & biliary tract, pancreas, and kidney cancer. The risk of breast cancer is associated with constipation (Grace Liu, PharmD)

# 6.
It’s easy to lie with statistics! Don’t get sucked in by RELATIVE risk, always look at ABSOLUTE risk (Richard Feinman, PhD)

# 5.
Why do we sleep? Sleep is necessary for memory & learning, and is a molecular purge that clears all the of the energy byproducts and immune signals out of the brain so it can continue to function.

Studies of Hunter-Gatherers suggest they sleep about 5-7 hours per night. But before you use that to justify you only getting 5-7 hours of sleep, they live very different lives – working about 20 hours a week, being physically active about 2 hours a day – and have much more stable circadian rhythms than we do. Does modern life as we live it require more sleep than an ancestral pattern? Maybe. (Dan Pardi, PhD)

# 4.
Not all dental plaque is bad. Healthy plaque helps protect teeth and re-mineralize them. Unhealthy plaque hurts teeth and gums. The difference is what type of bacteria predominate in the plaque. Diet is the single biggest factor between healthy and unhealthy plaque (Al Danenberg, DDS)

# 3.
Your health was partly set by your grandmother – your mom’s eggs (which became part of you) were formed when she was a fetus in your grandmother’s womb. Our choices, especially around pregnancy, may be some of our most critical and have long-term effects. (Lucia Aronica, PhD)

# 2.
MIND-BLOWING INSIGHT FOR ME! Our immune systems are not hunter-gatherer immune systems. So replicating a hunter-gatherer gut, or a hunter-gatherer lifestyle may be a mismatch and cause health problems. Even Ancestral Health principles need to be placed in context!

Outcome trumps mechanism. For example, we know hunter-gatherers are healthy and have a more diverse gut micro biome than “modern” humans. We know many ways these good bacteria seem to promote health, so by making our gut bacteria look more like hunter-gatherers we should become healthier. Sounds good, but at the end of the day, what is the outcome? When we do this to people, do they actually become healthier? As doctors, our mission is to make people healthier and improve their quality of life, and that is our ultimate metric. (Michael Ruscio, DC)

# 1.
Community is a MAJOR and often ignored factor in health and disease. Traditional, ancestral patterns featured close-knit and almost constant contact with other people. Today we see epidemics of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection. We need to find our tribes. Having been to the Ancestral Health Symposium five times, I’ve made connections with many people in this community and it’s easy to bond over these shared experiences, and shared beliefs. We all leave AHS feeling happy and cared for. Wherever your tribe is, FIND THEM!


If you haven’t been to AHS, I strongly recommend it, it’s at the very top of my ‘must attend’ conferences, for it’s blend of connection, education, and fun. Click HERE to visit their website and learn more about next years conference.

We’ll be posting my talk on mitochondria as soon as it becomes available.

If you’re interested in working with a doctor who uses Ancestral Health principles, call us at 425-202-7849 or email us at

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