If you think that the epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and more, have been hard for those of us whose ancestors have been agriculturalists for thousands of years, imagine what is happening to those whose ancestors were hunter-gatherers only yesterday, in evolutionary terms. When the nomadic tribes of Native Americans left the plains and forests to live on the reservations they also left the diet they had been following for thousands of years. For tribes, like the Lakota Sioux who hunted buffalo and elk, foraged for wild turnips and berries, the Standard American Diet (SAD) has been a major failure. The carbohydrate based foods such as grains, legumes and sugars have not only led to diabetes and heart disease, but kidney stones, liver failure and gallstones and much more. These conditions have destroyed the health of Native Americans. But some tribe members are taking back their health by returning to the Native Paleo diet.
A moving story about David Bender and his family was posted on the Indian Country Today website. David, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, decided that he had to recover not only his health, but that of his family. When his wife, Karen, was diagnosed with several debilitating diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, borderline diabetes and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) which resembles alcoholic liver disease, he knew that something had to change. The deterioration of their health had to stop. Besides Karen’s ailments, his children were suffering:
On top of Karen’s ailments, Shauntae was missing school due to bacterial infections and daily problems with irritable bowel syndrome. She had always been resistant to eating vegetables. Later on, I noticed that she was on her way to either being bulimic or anorexic. Her whole diet—she ate very little—consisted primarily of grain and sweets, with hardly any fruits or vegetables. I intervened, and while she struggled with readjusting her diet, she understood the importance of what she was doing. She experienced a tough period of withdrawals, as did the rest of us…….
Coby had problems with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and weight gain. Jonathan seemed to have problems with anxiety, weight gain and lethargy.
I had an even longer list of problems stemming from my food addiction: obesity, bad gas, bloating, constipation, low confidence, acne, dandruff, anxiety disorders, erectile dysfunction, tooth decay and general weakness. …… We ate what we thought were healthy meals: cereal for breakfast, soup and a sandwich for lunch, and a seemingly well-rounded dinner of some kind of lean meat and vegetables with a couple slices of bread, or perhaps some rice or noodles on the side. (Boy, did we love our Italian food!) We even made the futile commitment of just eating whole-grain bread and pasta. I had no idea that whole grains contain gluten, a product of mill-produced grain that causes acne, leaky gut syndrome, malnourishment, inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis and clogged arteries. ……
Karen was a good example for her children. She didn’t smoke tobacco or marijuana or drink excessively. But she did have a problem with carbs…..
Karen was doing everything a good mother should do for her children, and that is to teach them to be good people. Karen never smoked tobacco or pesh (Sioux slang for marijuana) and never drank excessive amounts of alcohol. In fact, she rarely if ever finished a single alcoholic drink. She was very aware (or so she thought) of addiction and alcoholism and did her best to avoid the common pitfalls. The only problem with Karen was her blind addiction to sugar and empty carbs—in other words, junk food: processed bread, chips, salty snacks, soda pop, pizza, pasta, etc. These food cravings led to excessive weight gain and some obsessive-compulsive behavior.
We were poisoning ourselves without even knowing it, growing increasingly weak and lethargic, not to mention deeply depressed and experiencing horrible mood swings. I was in denial; we all were.
If you are reading this article the odds are pretty good that you have been or still are addicted to carbohydrates. I also fight the same battle. Every time I stray just a little from the Paleo diet path, the craving rears it’s ugly head. In the case of the Benders, the addiction and cravings led to extreme health problems.
It wasn’t until Karen had to have her gall bladder removed that reality hit me: I could possibly lose my beloved Karen. At first, I blamed everything and everyone: the rich, the poor, myself, Karen, the health-care system and the doctors who maintain it.
Looking back, I was right to blame an ignorant or malicious health-care system that in my opinion does more to hurt our people than help them. They believe in the food pyramid and that means heavy on grains and plenty of sugar. (I would later learn that sugar is actually definable as an addictive drug.
Not only that, most modern-day medications do more to help symptoms of addiction than the addiction itself, which makes for a fine business model. Further research led me to the conclusion that this Neolithic diet does nothing for our people but manifest poor physical and mental health.
To survive they Benders took the only option that would create good health in their lives. They returned to their native Paleo diet.
In order to survive, we took matters of health into our own hands and did research on all of Karen’s ailments. We discovered that the main culprit was a poor diet driven by sugar addiction, mixed with too many gluten products (bread, rice, pasta, flour, cheese, pizza, cereal and numerous others) that bred inactivity. This diet caused our bodies to suffer from inflammation and immune deficiency. That led to more illness, confusion and a long ride on the merry-go-round of self-destruction……
….. I finally realized that our main problem—Karen and I—was that we are people who are meant to be hunter-gatherers, but living in a modern world. In order to cure Karen, I had to change our diets—hers, mine and that of our kids. Then we had to become active.
We switched to a Paleolithic diet, centered on commonly available modern foods. The contemporary Paleolithic diet consists mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils. The idea is to mimic the diet of our ancestors.
The removal of neolithic and modern foods was not easy. Their children felt the bite of the cravings, but understood that for their health to improve they had to follow this new path.
A week into our new diet, we were attending Coby’s baseball game. Between innings, I would check on my other two children, who still prefer the playground to sports. That’s when I found Shauntae in front of the concession stand with tears in her eyes and a dollar bill crumbled up in her hands. Right away I knew she was struggling with a craving for junk food. I hugged her and told her it’s going to be okay and that I understood her pain. I cried a little bit too. But instead of giving in I explained to her, “See, this is why we choose not to eat this. You’re having a craving aren’t you?” She nodded. Then I said, “Look at these kids, they have no idea what they are doing to themselves. They don’t know how bad it is. That’s drugs.”
Returning to the native Paleo diet caused huge improvements in their lives:
Interestingly, my senses of smell, sight, sound and intuition greatly improved on this diet. Phobias and anxieties that I was ashamed of and had kept hidden evaporated. My kid’s grades improved. Our energy improved as well. We now go outside and walk and play catch with the kids rather than stay inside and watch movies or television. Karen has even begun to play a tough game of basketball. We both walk every morning around 6:30 a.m., and it is fabulous. She still has to take it easy, but she is improving dramatically. She still has a touch of light-headedness but that is improving. Her blood pressure is even back to what it was in her teenage years. The most important thing is that her newfound zest for life is helping her recover faster and better than anything those foolish doctors could prescribe.
All she really needed was to have one doctor tell her that her diet was killing her. But no, all her doctors would rather protect this ignorant notion that a Neolithic diet is best, when in reality, we are born hunter-gatherers! Born to be wild and proud of it!
From our experience, I can only assume that there are countless others out there battling these diet-related diseases. I believe that most if not all American Indians are intolerant to gluten and easily addicted to sugar. Our ancestors were lean and as athletic as any modern elite athlete. We are our ancestors, warriors. We should eat and exercise as warriors in a good way to achieve the gifts that the Creator has for each of us.
This is an amazing story which really brings home the idea that we can take control of our health and our lives. There are dangers when you let others (the government and it’s “experts”) do your thinking for you. For many years I followed the same bad advice the Benders had, which resulted in my poor health. This story also clarifies the problem that most people have today, the over consumption of carbohydrates which leads to the carbohydrate addiction and disease. David Bender’s solution was poetic and right: a return to the native Paleo diet. It was the only solution that could work. In doing so he has saved the life of his wife, created a better life experience for his children and is an example for everyone that is struggling with carbohydrates and poor health. I’m going to let David have the final word here:
It is my hope that you put this information to good use and save somebody’s life—including yours. Going caveman has made me happier and healthier than ever before.
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