‘Our dietary guidelines used to be simple: if you have to catch it, you can eat it. When we followed that guide, we had no chronic disease.’
So says Dr Zoe Harcomb PhD, a nutrition specialist Stewart Staudinger discovered when researching human physiology, ancestral diet and health. Staudinger is an applied scientist and Central Alberta rancher who’s been researching human and planet health for two decades, and his interest in ‘diseases of civilisation’ got personal when his wife fell ill in 2013.
“She’d suffered from gastrointestinal problems, intermittent depression, fatigue and several other symptoms, and in 2013 my wife hit a metaphorical health brick wall after our second daughter was born.”
Doctors guessed at diagnoses for years but could never find conclusive results. Medication helped moderate the symptoms, but nothing solved the problem.
“By the end of 2014 she was in so much pain each morning that, after giving the kids breakfast, she’d be curled up on the kitchen floor in agony. That fall I was in New Brunswick with the Canadian Forces, and powerless to help when things got really bad at home,” Staudinger says. “When I got back, we found a new doctor who, in a move of true medical humility, said he wasn’t sure how to explain any of it and decided to order every test he could think of. Long story short, a CT scan found inflammation in her small intestine, confirmed by biopsy and DNA analysis. Autoimmune disease in the form of Celiac Sprue.”
Ancestral health and modern agriculture
The diagnosis rekindled Staudinger’s interest in Paleolithic diets, which he’d studied years before. Now, armed with greater purpose and 15 years of additional scientific research he was able to confirm some suspicions.
“Modern dietary guidelines and practices exist in stark contrast to the actual scientific evidence,” he says. “In the 1800s we knew that carbohydrates were at the root of serious health problems and that meat was a health food. In 1900, we knew that ‘vegetable oils’ were industrial lubricants and toxic. Unfortunately, by 1980, we decided meat and fat were bad, polyunsaturated fats were good and whole grains were the cure to everything. Why? Because those who sold them fed us these ‘facts’ and lobbied public institutions to repeat the sales pitch.”
Metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases — already rising through the 20th century — became much more common. Staudinger says the human body simply cannot withstand chronic consumption of a calorie-rich, nutrient-poor diet. It also cannot withstand chronic exposure to the natural and synthetic toxins found in industrialised processed foods.
“My wife and others like her are just canaries in the coal mine,” Staudinger says. “Our whole family has benefitted from reducing grains, dairy and processed foods from our diets, and eating more quality meat.”
Healthy humans = healthy ecosystems
After two years gluten-free, Staudinger’s wife was able to live medication-free for the first time in a decade. Not all her symptoms disappeared however, so eventually a European specialist prescribed a stricter Paleolithic Ketogenic Diet (PKD) centred on healthy animal-based nutrition.
“Finally, we saw real progress. She had improved cognition, reduced inflammation and pain, and she lost weight. Healthy meat is healing her from the autoimmune disease that biologically inappropriate plant-based foods caused,” Staudinger says.
Staudinger is co-owner of The Ranch Gate Market in Sylvan Lake, which stocks meat, cheese and pantry items from a variety of healthy local producers. The Staudinger family ranch, MFL Bison Ranch, embraces regenerative farming practices which heal ecosystems damaged by industrialised food production.