It’s a huge pleasure to have with us Eirik Garnas, a brilliant nutritionist, writer, researcher, coach and actually a great person.
He runs one of the best blogs about nutrition and health that we really suggest to read:
Thank you very much Eirik Garnas.
ALESSIO: Can you give us a brief excursus of your career?
EIRIK: In my adolescence, I started getting more and more interested in health and nutrition. At that time, I was doing a lot of sports, and starting from the age of 15-16, I also began lifting weights multiple times per week. I developed a deep interest in the theoretical aspects of nutrition and fitness, an interest that largely arose because I wanted to optimize my workout results and build a fit body. Also, more importantly, I was looking for ways to improve my health, which had started to markedly deteriorate in my late teens (In retrospect I realise that this was largely because I was adhering to a species-inappropriate diet and exercise regime).
As I finished high school, I didn’t really have any clear plans. The only thing I really knew I wanted to do was to become a Personal Trainer (PT), so, I started studying at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and eventually began working as a PT. For a while I got completely obsessed with coaching, and I spent a lot of time thinking and reading about sports physiology, exercise programming, etc., in large part because I wanted to get truly good at what I was doing and do everything in my power to help my clients reach their goals. I also did courses in coaching/sales, kettlebell training, functional rehabilitation, and body analysis. I gradually built my knowledge base and developed various training strategies that I implemented in my work.
Besides working with clients, I also created a website dedicated to health, nutrition, and fitness and started writing for a well-established health-oriented site. This snowballed into a lot more, in the sense that I began writing for more and more websites and magazines. I also started studying nutrition. I first did a B.Sc. in Public Nutrition and then a M.Sc. in Clinical Nutrition.
At present, I still work as a coach/trainer and nutritional consultant, but these days I primarily work over the web. I also write science-based articles about medicine and nutrition for Paleo Magazine, the first and only print magazine dedicated to Paleo and ancestral health, Pete Evans’ website ThePaleoWay.com, and my own website, www.Darwinian-Medicine.com.
ALESSIO: How did you become interested in evolution-based nutrition and lifestyle concepts?
EIRIK: One of the things I discovered as I started reading up on nutrition and health is that our current medical system is royally messed up. There is no conceptual framework in place that guides clinicians and researchers in their work. Moreover, mainstream medicine overlooks and fails to address the major causes of chronic illness. The drug-centric, symptom-suppressing approaches that dominate our modern health care system emerged out of a faulty understanding of how the human body functions.
As I see it, the biggest issue by far is that conventional medicine/nutrition is largely devoid of evolutionary science. This is extremely worrying, seeing as it’s impossible to understand why organisms look, behave, and function as they do if one doesn’t possess knowledge about the evolutionary processes that shaped the world. Moreover, it’s impossible to understand why organisms are vulnerable to disease.
I can’t emphasize enough how important evolution is to medicine. It’s completely baffling to me that the nutritional/medical establishment doesn’t recognize that evolutionary theories and concepts are integral to medicine/nutrition. From the perspective of a Darwinist such as myself, who sees the world through evolutionary glasses, modern medicine looks very disfigured.
The only reason I discovered the world of evolutionary health is that I grabbed my travelling cloak and went out to look for ways to improve my own health. It wasn’t until I ventured into corners of PubMed that are far outside of the mainstream’s field of vision that I found what I was, perhaps unconsciously, looking for. I learned NOTHING about hunter-gatherers, Darwinian theories, or Paleolithic nutrition in school. Moreover, I learned very little about the human microbiome and the symbiotic relationships that exist between different organisms.
It’s long past time that these things are brought out into the open.
ALESSIO: What is the approach you mostly use with your clients? How do they respond?
EIRIK: It varies from client to client. When I start working with a new client, I always do a comprehensive assessment of the client’s medical history, goals, health status, posture, and flexibility/mobility. Based upon this assessment, I plan my work with the client and set up a program that he/she is to follow. A replace or change this program when I feel it’s needed. One of the good things about working over the web is that I can keep in close contact with my clients and follow them every step of the way.
Over the years I’ve worked with many different clients, and I’ve done a lot of reading and experimentation in order to become the best possible coach I can be. The strategies and approaches I use in my work today are based on the experience I’ve built up over time.
Mismatch resolution and evolutionary health approaches are an essential part of everything I do.
ALESSIO: Aside from evolution and biochemistry, you have great knowledge about microbiota and its interaction with the human host. Can you tell us about your perspective and something about your latest research?
EIRIK: 5 key points:
- A body that doesn’t harbor a species-appropriate microbiota is not a healthy body.
- A species-appropriate diet doesn’t produce health in the absence of a diverse, resilient microbiota.
- Disease and microbiome disruption go hand in hand.
- It’s good to bring new, potentially beneficial microbes into one’s gut; however, it’s unwise to constantly bombard one’s gut with “probiotics” in the form of fermented foods and supplements
- Microbiome restoration should be a routine part of medical care.
As for my research, I recently conducted a clinical trial in order to investigate the efficacy of lacto-fermented sauerkraut in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. We made some interesting findings, some of which I may talk about on my blog after we get all the fecal samples analyzed.
ALESSIO: Who are your favourite researchers in the evolutionary health field? Why?
EIRIK: Over the years I’ve discovered a lot of great researchers. I really like the work of Staffan Lindeberg, Tommy Jönsson, Graham Rook, William Parker, Joe C. Alcock, Loren Cordain, Leo Pruimbonm, Frits Muskiet, Tore Midtvedt, and Pedro Carrera Bastos, among others.
The thing that all of these researchers have in common is that they are evolutionary thinkers. They think outside the box and see the forest for the trees.
ALESSIO: Aside from diet and microbiome management, what are the other important variables to manage for maintaining good long term health?
EIRIK: Only by acknowledging that the human genome was shaped over billions of years in environments that differ markedly from the environments in which we – modern humans –live can we make some headway towards understanding what it takes to build a healthy, robust human. The evolutionary health model should, in my opinion, be the guide we choose when we set out to improve our health. Besides microbial exposure and nutrition, sleep, socialization, stress management, physical activity, and exposure to sun, nature, and chemicals/toxins are key things to consider in the context of human health promotion.
ALESSIO: In your opinion, where is the paleo movement headed? What is the trend for the near future?
EIRIK: It’s difficult to say. What I can say is that I would urge the evolutionary health movement to stay on a scientific path. We need to be vigilant and observant, so that we don’t drift of course. In my opinion, the evolutionary evidence is the guide we should put our faith in.
We should be open to new ideas and innovation. Moreover, it’s important to acknowledge that the scientific literature is not composed of a list of undeniable facts. Rather, it is open to interpretation. With that said, I would argue that we should be careful not to dilute or alter the basic evolutionary health principles that were established via science, unless we have strong evidence backing our actions. We need to be strong in our beliefs and be prepared to ride out any storm that hits us.
Thank you very much Eirik Garnas.