Recently my wife, Rose, and I went to see the new Australian documentary 2040. Without spoiling it for you, it is an inspiring story of a dad who is concerned about the future of the planet for his young daughter. Coming from an optimistic viewpoint, he looks at how the current trajectory of our earth could be changed in the areas of energy, transport, agriculture, pollution and global warming, by simply utilizing the best current technologies and strategies. It is both entertaining and profound and I encourage you to seek it out.
One message I would like to expand on from the film is biodiversity – the power that comes from the variety and variability of life. This is where Nature’s wisdom, when given the freedom to work, tends to resolve complex problems.
The film 2040 showed how improving biodiversity in agriculture lead to superior soil quality, enhanced crop quality and yield, better livestock health and yield and a greatly increased population of different plant, animal, insect and microbial species.
It showed that by changing the current approach, of quickly recharging paddocks with man-made fertilizers and putting them back to work, to planting diverse crops and allowing livestock to graze on them, an enormous improvement could be made. The new approach created broad spectrum nutrition for the animals, nutrient rich manure for the soil and increased microorganisms in the local environment. Theses renewed paddocks were then used to grow amazing crops for one season before the cycle was repeated over again.
This strategy of letting nature look after things can be seen in all areas of life. It is well documented in human health and is one of the key principles behind the Naturopathic profession that I am so passionate about.
Take Stanford University Professors Justin and Erica Sonnenberg, two of the world’s leading Microbiome researchers who decided to prove the power of nature in their own lives. They moved their family from urban Palo Alto California to a rural setting. Here they established a large organic vegetable garden, increased the ratio of plants in their diet, (vastly increasing their fibre intake), reduced their household use of antimicrobial cleaning agents and, although maintaining hand washing, they generally disregarded it after patting their pets, gardening and playing outside. They also adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach with their GP when it came to the potential prescription of antibiotics, which saw a huge reduction in the need for antibiotic use within their family.
The resultant effect of these strategies saw a massive increase in their microbial diversity and a significant improvement in all of their health markers. It was clear embracing nature and letting more bugs into their lives had a powerful and positive effect!
It seems that when we work with nature and particularly respect biodiversity, we get better outcomes. As mentioned, one of the most important effects that we can gain is increased microbial diversity. That’s right, the more species of bugs that live in and on us, the healthier we will tend to be! So keeping with the theme of 2040, here are 5 simple strategies that you can implement, right now, to improve your microbial diversity and in turn your health potential.
- Connect with nature at every opportunity.
- Get your hands dirty, especially when it comes to your veggie patch.
- Play with animals.
- Increase your dietary fibre* via local and seasonal fruit and veggies. (*fibre = bug food).
- Enjoy fermented foods regularly. (eg. miso, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, apple cider vinegar etc.)
Good luck and remember, “Happiness and bacteria have one thing in common; they multiply by dividing!”