Maasai

Health secrets from a centenarian

Three years ago, on my birthday in mid-August, I found myself in a remote Maasai village, about three hours from Nairobi. There was no need for cake or ice cream or balloons. I received the most FANTASTIC present, first thing. I was given the opportunity to sit at the feet of a 100+ year old man and hear about his life. Dickson, my Maasai host, introduced me to Sankau Ole Sirote. He seemed weathered, but well. Sankau gave me permission to interview him, recording our exchange on my phone. I could hardly wait! What had his eyes seen, over the course of those many decades? And what secrets might I learn (and pass on to my readers and friends) about how to live a healthy, long life?

Sankau, resting, outside his friend's home

Sankau, resting, outside his friend's home

I was also eager to see for myself if the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) principles would hold water. Did a diet of traditional, unprocessed foods sustain this man to 100 years of age and beyond?

Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

  • what he did as a child and youth

“When I was young, there was no school by that time. So my life was just to go and handle the cattle. That was my daily activity. Getting the cows, and going hunting."

  • on hunting

“When we were morans [young warriors in training], we would really hunt lion, and rhino, elephant, buffalos. We would hunt for fun, not really to eat the meat of the lion or the elephant or the rhino. We would just hunt for fun.

One time we also went hunting, and...[a] companion of mine was attacked by a lion and killed. So I...came back to help the family, to raise the children of my departed friend."

Rhino mama and her baby
Rhino mama and her baby
  • what he would eat as a child

“When we were children...our diets were milk, fat, meat, and also sometimes honey. There was a lot of rain. Wild fruits were available and the milk was plenty. And the cows also were healthy. So everything, when we were young, everything was just healthy."

  • regarding his health today

"I'm getting old because of my eyes and in the morning sometimes I have joint aches. It's just age."

  • regarding his health across the years

No surgeries? "No." No medicine? "No." Any shots? "Recently, because of this hand. It is swelling, so I got an injection. Because of the swelling."

  • regarding the community's health in the past

“There was no one who was sick. We were all very healthy.”

  • regarding the community's health today

“There are so many changes. People are getting sick. There are diseases which…there are many, many diseases, which I cannot even describe. There are a lot of diseases coming, but before, as I said, there were no diseases.

During my days, there were no injections but right now every time, they just say the people need to be vaccinated because a disease is coming, people need to be injected. But when I was a young man I never had an injection.”

  • what people are eating today

“Even food they have changed. Because you have to buy food. Everything you have to buy from the shop so… And during my time you would depend on what is coming from the livestock. But now you have to go and buy."

  • how his diet has changed

"I started having tea in 1916."

  • what he recommends eating for good health

"If you start with milk exclusive, or cream made from milk, just that. That is it. Up to 7 years [of age]. Children were breastfed up to 5 years. Everything [we ate] was from the cow: milk, blood."

  • about his family

"I have more than 17 children. And 5 grandchildren. They are good, good health. I have three brothers. They are still alive. I have one sister. She is still alive."

  • about wealth, cattle and goats

"My sons have taken them."

Goats (but these are not the ones taken from Sankau!)
Goats (but these are not the ones taken from Sankau!)
  • final thoughts

"I am also thankful to God that I have had that opportunity to do good while I have been in this world. I am alive because of God. God formed me in the womb."

There you have it! To me, it's crystal clear that Sankau's traditional diet has contributed to his good health and longevity. And as I see it, the secrets to a healthy life from this centenarian include eating plenty of raw milk (and cream), taking opportunities to do good, and giving thanks to God. What do you see?

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Hilda Labrada Gore is a podcast professional who helps holistic health practitioners launch their own shows! She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is an integrative nutrition health coach, a fitness professional, and the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.

A Maasai promise: a u-turn toward traditional foods

"I know and I promise that there will be a very huge U-turn for my community. We will be turning to where we came from."  Dickson Gisa, a leader in his Maasai village, spoke these words to me in a conversation in his home just a few days ago. Dickson is the one who took the initiative to contact the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) a year or two ago. He had come across the WAPF wise traditions principles and they resonated with him to such a degree that he asked WAPF to send someone to his community because "we are all getting sick."  So WAPF honored his request and sent me and Mary Gerke, a nurse and WAPF leader from the midwest, to his remote village in Matapato, Kenya, not far from the Tanzania border. This May, I returned to Dickson's community to follow up. What a joy it was to reconnect! I had the privilege of speaking once again about the importance traditional diets, while immersed in the gracious, welcoming Maasai culture. Along the way, I even got to enjoy some of the very traditional foods they have always embraced! But, best of all, I was able to see the changes the community had already implemented, as a result of last year's visit.

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Nowhere was this more evident than in Dickson's own home. His wife, Joseline, gave up her job as a preschool teacher last year to develop a garden on their land. She grows traditional greens, kale, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, bananas, cassava, and more! Her harvest is so abundant that she has enough for her own family and then some. Members of her community come buy food to sell at market. Dickson told me that Joseline made this choice very deliberately so that their family could avoid purchasing food from the shops/grocery stores.

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At every turn, their were positive signs. The youth group, comprised of 18-30 year olds, affirmed that they wanted to continue the traditional foods "campaign." And after my presentation to the community members, the pastor stood up and suggested that all women present begin cooking traditional foods again "starting now." (Dickson told me later that when they learn of something that is good, they try to apply it to their lives right away.) On Sunday morning, the pastor spoke of incorporating wise tradition principles into their church programs, and a church elder testified, "Just like we need to change our attitude toward God, we need to change our attitude toward feeding and health."

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Apparently, Dickson is not the only one who is convinced that the wise traditions that have been handed down for generations are a God-given gift that offer life and health and promise for the future.

I can't wait for you to hear my conversation with Dickson, which I recorded with my podcast gear. I hope to publish it sometime this summer on the Wise Traditions podcast. You can listen to all episodes by simply going to the westonaprice.org website and clicking on the podcast link on the right-hand side bar. Or, better, yet,  subscribe to the Wise Traditions podcast via iTunes, Stitcher (if you have an android phone) or the RSS feed (also on the westonaprice.org site's podcast page). You will certainly be encouraged, as I have been, and you will learn a thing or two about health and wise traditions around the world!

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Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). She is also the host of the WAPF-sponsored Wise Traditions podcast. She is traveling in Zimbabwe and Kenya as part of the WAPF international project initiative.

 

 

"People are getting sick because they are ignoring their God-given traditional ways..."

These were the words of an 86 year-old Maasai woman I met this summer. When I went on my Weston A. Price-funded trip to Kenya this past August, my objective was to teach the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) principles everywhere I went. But before I even landed in Nairobi, my Maasai friend, Dickson told me by phone,"You teach...and you learn." And so it came to be. Meyanik and I bonded so that she even gave me the necklace I am wearing here.

One of the people I learned from was Meyanik Ene Ringaq, the 86 year-old above. On a Sunday morning, she dropped by the home of our Maasai host, Dickson. Dickson served as our interpreter as we conversed. I've highlighted key bits of the conversation. Here are Meyanik's unvarnished thoughts:

  • on what she ate as a child

When we were young, we just fed on the milk from the cow.

  • on pneumonia

Right now, if it rains, every woman just gets to put on her children, heavy clothes, rain clothes, and sweater to try to prevent pneumonia. They say if they are exposed to the cold, they will get pneumonia, but before there was no pneumonia. There was nothing like pneumonia. If it rained the kids would just go outside and play with the rain water and not get sick. And if they have rain on them, they just get the milk from the cow, when it is warm, they just take it and they don’t get sick.

  • on pregnancy and infants

Expectant mothers, pregnant women, they didn’t go to the hospital. When they delivered, the first thing they were given is the blood, because they figured the blood they lost during delivery can be replaced from the blood from the cow.

So the child, small baby, is raised by milk and the cream. That is the only food; that and breastfeeding.

  • a personal story: her daughter's pregnancy and labor

I have a daughter who is married and just had a baby about a month ago. I went there to stay with [them] before she delivered. But when my daughter and her husband went to the hospital for a check up, they were told that she needed to deliver in the hospital because her hemoglobin was low, so there was danger if she delivered at home. But when they came home, I advised my daughter that there is no need to go to the hospital, that she should deliver at home. There are traditional medicines (herbs and roots) that are used for pregnant women. So I just went to the forest and gave her herbs and bark from the tree, and every time I gave the herbs boiled and mixed with blood...to my pregnant daughter. When the delivery time had come, she just delivered at home. There was no problem.

It’s better to stay with the traditional ways, than just getting all the shots, all the medicine because it’s just like we are taking poison in our bodies.

  • on the differences between the old and new generation

When we were children, when we were youth, we just used simple traditional diets, we wouldn’t have to go to shop and buy things. Compare C. (Dickson's youngest child, a 7 year-old) with the children from before. She’s a bit fat and having a big body. But the older child, the traditional, who used to eat traditional food, they are more stronger than these children. Because they got the fat from the milk.

People are getting sick because they are ignoring their God-given traditional ways which are very, very, very important.

  • on why traditional diets are losing ground

The culture of traditional diets is changing because of education. Before, we did not have any thoughts from the outside. But now...there is a lot of interaction.

If we get people...to help us direct our community back to the old traditional ways, like having seminars for them, we can help them talk and try to get our children back to the old ways. So at least, so that they can have education, but education doesn’t change their cultural or their traditional diets. Let the education change their mind, like knowledge, but not change their diets, their traditional diets, which I believe is like an everlasting life for the community.

I’m very grateful that you have this idea of coming to tell people to go back to their old ways, their original culture, because that is where we come from.

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