In This Article
Extinction Event #1: Lack of Microbial Diversity
Humans, like all other creatures, have a co-dependent relationship with the invisible world of microbes that live inside of us. Without these billions of little critters, we would cease to survive. The microbes that include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and others depend on us as healthy hosts for their survival.
Studies have found that when the variety of bacteria in our guts declines, we are at a greater risk for health concerns like inflammatory bowel (IBS), obesity, blood sugar issues, allergies, and asthma which are on the rise in westernized societies. Due to the overuse of chemicals, sterile/processed foods, and a shrinking supply of food variety, the number and diversity of the bugs in our gut have become dangerously low.
In an amazing study from Stanford University, researchers analyzed fecal matter from museums in Utah and New Mexico that were over 1,000 years old They designed a way to accurately measure the diversity of the bugs from these “time-capsuled” poo samples gathered from archeological digs about 100 years ago. They DNA-tested the samples for bacteria and diversity counts and then compared them to the gut bacteria of modern humans.
They found that dozens of bacterial species that were common in every ancient sample were completely missing in modern humans. The samples also had significantly more microbial diversity than the waste of modern humans, suggesting that our ancestors would have been less vulnerable to modern degenerative ailments. Researchers are calling this modern-day lack of diverse gut bacteria an extinction event!
Restoring Microbial Diversity
The primary source of a healthy and diverse microbiome is the food we eat. Like us, plants depend on their microbiome for immunity, survival, and much more. If the plants you eat have been sprayed with pesticides, the beneficial bacteria are killed along with the mites, aphids, and beetles–essentially sterilizing these foods. Growing your own food, choosing organic, and eating seasonally is the best way to grow a more diverse microbiome.
Probiotics are also a great tool, but most of those on the market are transient. This means that while they offer benefits, they travel through you instead of sticking around. Thus, to keep the benefits, you need to keep taking them continuously. At LifeSpa, I have sourced a line of probiotics that are colonizing in nature. This means they have been studied to adhere to the intestinal lining and support the proliferation of a new colony of diverse bacteria.
In my practice, I find that a combination of colonizing probiotics alongside a tea made of soluble fiber is required to fully restore a healthy microbiome. I start with a prebiotic soluble fiber tea called Slippery Elm Prebiotic, which is a mixture of coarsely chopped slippery elm, marshmallow root, and licorice root. This mixture is boiled down to make a viscous tea. While drinking this throughout the day for a month, I add a colonizing probiotic called Gut Revival at a twice-per-day dose. Gut Revival combines the colonizer bacteria with other microbes and herbs that are antagonistic to the opportunistic bugs that have negatively altered the gut microbiome.
Extinction Event #2: A Toxic World
In 2019, The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) declared air pollution as the world’s greatest health threat, currently responsible for 7 million deaths globally every year. The World Health Organization reported that an astonishing 99% of the global population is breathing air that exceeds the safe limit of air quality set by the WHO. Specifically in the United States, about 67 million tons of pollution were emitted into the atmosphere in 2021 according to the EPA.
The Ayurvedic Answer to Air Pollution
Over 2500 years ago, the Ayurvedic texts described the importance of clean air. They predicted that water, land, and air pollution would cause severe seasonal irregularities, like floods, fires, and droughts, and eventually lead to severe disease, compromised immune systems, and epidemics.
A few years ago, the government of India planted over 80,000 tulsi plants around the Taj Mahal to help absorb pollution and purify the air. A plant-based organic diet that is rich in antioxidants is the first step you can take to fight air pollution. There are a handful of Ayurvedic herbs that have been shown to combat air pollution’s impact when ingested, including turmeric, amalaki, and tulsi. At LifeSpa, I designed a formula called Mucus Destroyer to protect healthy lung tissue from becoming excessively dry or irritated from air particulates.
Ayurveda also recommends seasonal detoxification through a method called lipophilic-mediated detoxification. Using ghee (or an alternative oil), healthy fats are used to attach to and pull out fat-soluble toxins stored in the body’s deep tissues. In one study, 48 volunteers underwent ghee and kitchari cleanse. After this ghee detox, participants showed a whopping 48% decrease in PCBs (carcinogens) and a 58% decrease in beta-hexachloride-cyclohexane (insecticides) compared to the control group.
At LifeSpa, our cleanses are more than just a detox; they aim to address the question of what allowed us to become toxic in the first place. Typically, this leads to evaluating our body’s natural detox abilities, specifically regarding the lymphatic and digestive systems. According to Ayurveda, the body’s digestive system is a robust detoxifying system. So, a true Ayurvedic cleanse would first aim to reboot the strength of digestion and natural detoxification pathways before the actual detox begins.
Extinction Event #3: Food Shortages
In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission of Food, Planet, and Health gathered thirty prominent scientists to determine how many people the planet could feed during the course of a year. After three years of deliberation, they published their findings in one of the world’s most prestigious journals: The Lancet. The report concluded that the current food supply as it exists today is not able to adequately feed the 7.5 billion people currently living on Earth. They determined that 820 million people are not currently getting enough food. By 2050, estimates suggest that there will be an additional 2.5 billion people on the planet and there is no current plan in place to feed a growing population.
In response to this data, the commission’s ‘Planetary Health Diet’ recommended a predominantly plant-based diet. They emphasized the importance of reducing red meat consumption to 3.5 oz. per week and just one serving of dairy, eggs, fish, or poultry per day. The best longevity science takes this diet one step further: it suggests that the best diet for optimal health is 90% plant-based with 10% animal protein.
Reducing Food Waste
Food waste is a major concern in the face of worldwide food shortages. Here in the United States, 30% of the edible food we produce is thrown away or wasted, and a decent amount of this waste actually comes from the consumer. On average, US consumers are throwing away or wasting 1 pound of food per day. Much of this is preventable by avoiding over-shopping at the grocery store and over-ordering at restaurants. When shopping, you can also choose imperfect foods that may end up in a landfill otherwise; instead of picking the straightest carrots or prettiest apple, look for the products with imperfections to save them from the landfill. You can also have imperfect food delivered to your home. In 2020, Imperfect Foods saved over 50,000,000 pounds of food from being thrown away. Small changes can make a big impact on food waste.
In the face of global food shortages, plant-based diets offer another benefit: less agricultural land and water usage. Because more land and water is necessary for raising animals, we could feed more people if we switched to cultivating more plants. If the world adopted a plant-based diet, we would reduce the amount of land used for agriculture by up to 76%. Studies show that plant-based diets provide health benefits while also offering the opportunity to feed more people on less land.
Extinction Event #4: Fertility
While the population is growing in certain parts of the world, it is shrinking in many of the developed countries. Even though the global population is predicted to keep growing, cases of infertility have been on the rise for the past 70 years. In Europe, many countries like France and Spain pay families to have children. China has reversed its one-baby policy and now is trying to encourage childbirth.
According to a groundbreaking book, Count Down by Dr. Shanna Swan, worldwide fertility dropped by 50% between 1960 and 2015. In the United States during those same years, that number is just over 50%. While women choosing a career instead of a child or couples choosing to remain childless is a factor, science tells us a different and more concerning story.
According to Count Down, the first alarm bell went off in 1997, when a study showed that 27% of African American girls and 7% of Caucasian girls were showing signs of breast and pubic hair development at age 7. This is way before puberty should normally occur. This is happening all over the world. In Japan, the onset of menstruation shifted from 13.8 years old (for girls born in the 1930s) to 12.2 years old (for girls born in the 1970s and 1980s). While these number shifts seem small, they are the canary in the coal mine.
Dr. Swan writes that infertility rates affect 15% of the global population, and the issue is not just for women! Recent studies have documented a dramatic reduction in sperm counts. They have linked 20-70% of infertility cases to lowered sperm count in men. Will the declining rates of fertility put us at risk of extinction event? Research suggests it may have a lot to do with the growing rate of pollution and stress we endure.
The science is in! Air pollution feeds toxic endocrine disruptors into the soil, water, and foods we consume. These endocrine disruptors are directly linked to higher rates of infertility. As mentioned earlier, organic food, regular Ayurvedic Cleansing, and supporting a healthy microbiome are the tools we have to fight back.
Stress is also a factor that cannot be ignored. Chronic stress lowers sperm count in men and increases infertility in women. Increased levels of stress hormones send fight-or-flight alarm bells into the physiology of both men and women. In nature, becoming pregnant while your body perceives danger and exists in fight-or-flights much less likely. The Ayurvedic rules of fertility involve a kind of nesting where the parents prepare for the baby by surrounding themselves with beautiful, natural things and intentionally replacing stress with uplifting thoughts. In Ayurveda, there is an old saying: what we think and see, our babies will become.