What does deforestation have to do with human health? Here’s what I think.
When I went through psychosis back in 2001, I met brick walls when trying to get help from doctors. I was terrified for my life, severely depressed, having heart palpitations, losing sleep, experiencing dizzy spells and tingling in my eyelids and lips, suffering from terrible digestion, being attacked by intrusive thoughts, and feeling like I could hyperventilate at any moment.
The first doctor’s solution — drink more green tea (harmless — but REALLY!?)
The second doctor’s solution — I needed to get on birth control (harmful — and, no, I never did)
After being thrown bread crumbs by the medical establishment — I decided to pursue alternatives… I changed my diet — that was step one. And, then I made lifestyle changes — I started exploring permaculture and Deep Ecology. Then, I started taking plant medicine (after meeting with an herbalist)…
My dreams steadily shifted from nightmares to healing dreams as my health improved (thank goodness).
I started healing huge, gaping wounds in my ancestral lineage that had been handed down to me…unhealed things and unspoken things travel down the family line… Some of what I had to work on was revealed in dreams…while other information was revealed to me in synchronicities and repeating patterns in my everyday life.
Then there was yoga and meditation…………….
When describing my experience to others, I would commonly explain that I felt I was working with an unseen realm…an unseen realm that was very much a part of my body. I would also say that I felt there was an energetic hole right were my lower abdomen was; and that it was vulnerable to negative forces.
I thought these things well before I know anything about the gut microbiome.
As I’ve been reading literature on the gut microbiome over the years, I’m convinced that much of what precipitated my psychosis was a gut microbiome “deforestation.” This deforestation was partly due to the microbes passed down to me in my family lineage…and partly due to other assaults on my microbiome (my gut forest).
This resulted in systemic inflammation and immune system dysretulation…among other things…
Much of my adult life has been healing gut tissue, repopulating my gut with a diversity of microbes, and sustaining healthy successions of microbe blooms with the proper diet.
Herbs have played a huge role in this as well because they are selective in what pathogens they take out…while encouraging the wellness of beneficial microbes. Certain herbs are also deep healers when it comes to damaged gut tissue.
All you have to do understand plant medicine is to look at a plant — they can’t run away — they have to bloom where they are planted…and that means, they need an assortment of phytochemicals to protect them while encouraging life.
…and the work continues in my life…but I would barely recognize that frightened, anxious, and depressed young Lindsay I was at 24 years old…carrying her body full of pain…and limbs made of lead.
My heart goes out to her…but I’m grateful she had the courage to keep going and not give up.
…all of this to say is that this article is great but researchers are still just scratching the surface. Our gut health is intimately linked to the health of the human heart-mind, as well as our soils (biomass), and our ecosystems in general.
However, there are some good gems in this one…dig in…
“It’s not yet clear how the microbiome alters the brain. Most researchers agree that microbes probably influence the brain via multiple mechanisms. Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds). Certain organisms also affect how people metabolize these compounds, effectively regulating the amount that circulates in the blood and brain. Gut bacteria may also generate other neuroactive chemicals, including one called butyrate, that have been linked to reduced anxiety and depression. Cryan and others have also shown that some microbes can activate the vagus nerve, the main line of communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system, which itself influences mood and behavior.”
Ecosystem Restoration – The UN has declared the next DECADE, the decade of ecosystem restoration and they pledge to restore a total amount of land that would equal the size of South America. Let’s hope that it’s true and let’s hope restoration continues beyond that decade…this is going to take several generations to get us back on the right track again.
For about 7 years I have been teaching workshops on gut health. I have often shared this practice with workshop participants. The practice is to encourage a diversity of gut microbes:
…go out to your favorite, healthy ecosystem…the healthier it is, the better…old growth forests are my favorite… Brush the leaves aside and dig down an inch or so with your fingers… Then, take a small pinch of soil and swish it around your mouth and swallow…
Is this proven scientifically to better gut health? No. I’m going on my intuition and my own experience.
But, maybe there is something to it. This scientist in Ireland has proven that the microbes in their local soil can combat 4 of the 6 big superbugs.
SIDE NOTE: You can buy some probiotic pills (and there are some nice ones out there) with SBOs in them (soil based organisms); hard to believe we need to buy dirt in pills, though!
I also suspect that the gut microbiome deeply effects one’s ability to access certain states of consciousness. For example, many indigenous and aboriginal peoples have full access to the imaginal mind or mythic consciousness… What I mean by this, is that their minds still have access to communicating with various forms of life…as well as access to the dreamtime.
There are so many people in modern culture that can’t remember their dreams or only dream at night. What First Peoples teach us is that the dreamtime is always accessible. What if the shift in our gut microbiome and its effect on our mind, has deeply shifted our consciousness and our ability to connect with all of life?
I bring this up because BEFORE I went through psychosis, I can’t really tell you about a dream I had. However, AFTER psychosis and my resulting healing after years of work…dreams started flooding my psyche… At first…nightmares…but as I got healthier…I had more and more healing dreams.
As well, I began to feel that I was communicating with nature…especially plants. …it was like a door flew open and I stepped through into a new world…except not much had changed…I had changed…the world was the same. My perception…my awareness…my dreams…they all changed. My life began to inhabit a STORY. I began to explore and integrate this story…this myth…into the fabric of my life…
This time period was a huge shift for me. And, I sense that microbes may have played a part in how I reoriented myself in life…