Why Aren’t Our Bodies Coping: Gene-Environment Mismatch


Let’s think for a second – what happens to wild animals if they get domesticated or are kept in unnatural environment (e.g. zoo)? Their lifespan shortens significantly, from natural 56 to only 17 years for African elephants. Similarly, it’s happened to us, humans. We have drastically changed our natural environment but our body’s coping mechanisms did not yet catch up genetically. We currently experience a massive gene-environment mismatch in terms of food, physical activity, and sleep, that’s why we need to learn about health and nutrition now more than ever.

Physical Activity

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Our bodies have originally been designed for high levels of physical activity. We had to walk long, run fast, climb trees, and pick up a lot of heavy stuff. We needed to find food, hunt it, and bring it home to feed the entire tribe. Our reward system (mainly hormones), has been created to keep searching for food till we find it, often covering long distances at this, to chase food when it runs away from us, and to often spend significant time between meals without any snacks (that would often be more than a day!). All this used to involve a lot of physical activity and body flexibility in terms of how much and how consistently we would eat and move around.

What happens now? We have modified our environment in a variety of ways. We can store food for days and even weeks, we drive to buy it. Even more than that, we have it cooked and brought straight to our homes! No wonder a lot of us find it difficult to stay in shape. We have not created coping mechanisms.

Food Processing and Snacking

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We used to eat whole and minimally processed food, that’s why our bodies didn’t know about modern diseases. Composition, taste and cooking methods of food have changed over centuries, affecting satiety-signalling systems (especially with hyperpalatable food). Now, our digestive systems are very far from matching what we’re making them process. Let alone that a lot of food is actually designed in a way that would make us eat more of it so that someone could sell more of it. We won’t touch extended fasting or fasting for health benefits in this article, but naturally we were meant to have gaps between meals without any snacks. This allows our bodies to digest what we’ve eaten last. Have we been overeating in the past? Most likely, because we couldn’t store left overs!

This would also mean that we would stay without food for a while afterwards. This is nothing like continuing to eat on the morning after Christmas Eve, and then the morning after that, and all the way till New Year’s Eve. Giving your body rest after a massive food intake is the most reasonable thing to do. It’s a coping mechanism!

Sleep

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Humans are the only species on planet Earth that willingly sacrifices their sleeping hours for other activities. Sleep is prioritized by EVERY other living being. Well, and human babies. Adult humans are often proud of their ability to reduce their sleeping hours so they could have more work done.

We all are meant to sleep based on our chronotypes, and we would be either early or late sleepers based on our function in a tribe. Someone had to stay up at night for protection reasons to be replaced by the next shift of early birds. The invention of a light bulb changed everything, bringing loads of technology and sleep hacking as a result. The opposite of coping. One fact remains true though – people who sleep less than 5 and more than 10 hours a night are at the same risk of developing a variety of health issues. Especially taking into account the connection between sleep deprivation and eating habits.

It is critical to know as much as possible about how our bodies operate. It never hurts to know which food is really nourishing for them. We are only given one body for this lifetime, let’s learn to not harm it together. Stay tuned for valuable information!

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Marina Dymchenko

Marina is a writer, a healthy living advocate, and an eternal life student. After years of working in research, academic writing, and early childhood education, she developed a special passion for human development and healthy living. She found that nutrition has an enormous effect on children's behavior and development, as well as on adults' physical and emotional well-being. She is convinced that access to one's full potential lies in questioning inherited beliefs, overcoming limitations, and understanding the connection between our brain and habits that often define who we are. With a perspective grounded in both science and spirituality, Marina aims at promoting the idea of unlimited human potential while becoming a holistic life coach, functional nutritionist, and a mind-body practitioner.

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