ION* the Future of Biome
Dr. Zach Bush Explains Why Soil Is The Key To A Healthy Immune System And Planet
Recent studies discovered that over 100 million brain cells line our entire gut. These cells communicate information to the brain in seconds and underpin the relationship between our brain, gut and the microbiomes of our body. Dubbed our second brain and the gut-brain axis, this relationship influences our immune system responses and bodily functions.
What Is The Gut Microbiome?
A microbiome is a diverse ecosystem of “single cell organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and parasites” describes Dr. Zach Bush MD. Symptoms such as insomnia, digestive issues and autoimmune conditions are all linked to an imbalanced gut microbiome and poor gut health.
Bush believes nature is where we need to look to heal both our bodies and connection with the earth. As a globally renowned physician, specialising in internal medicine and endocrinology, Zach Bush has more recently evolved his practice to study soil health and research the link between chemical free farming, disease and climate change.
Whilst championing the benefits of chemical free farming, Bush’s pioneering work has helped to establish the chemicals and pesticides used in our food system directly disrupt our body’s defence systems, exposing the immune system to dysfunction and disease.
As an antidote, Bush created the natural dietary supplement ION* (Intelligence of Nature). Surprisingly this is formulated with ancient soil-derived molecules and claims to mimics the intelligence of a healthy soil microbiome. The benefits all point towards a healthy gut: restoring the foundations of our natural biome, boosting immunity, aiding digestion and enhancing mental clarity.
Bush is also the man behind non-profit Farmers Footprint, a platform which uplifts the voices of farmers and shares the importance of fostering soil health through regenerative agriculture to heal the microbiome of the planet. Poppy sat down with Dr. Zach Bush to learn why soil is the future of our collective health.
Why Is It Important To Look After Our Gut Health?
In the human body there are somewhere between 50 to 70 trillion cells, around 1.4 trillion bacteria and 14 quadrillion mitochondria inside of themselves.
We are dwarfed by this micro ecosystem of bacteria and fungi outside of ourselves and mitochondria within ourselves. It is in these diverse ecosystems that we find a thriving state.
We now understand that human health is rooted in having a vast microbiome, this is one of the biggest revolutions in science in the last 10 years. Previously we thought that the microbiome was just relegated to the gut, but we have come to realise that whilst the gut is the most dense part of the microbial ecosystem in the body, there is microbiome everywhere. We now know that breast tissue, lungs, brain and prostate etc. all have unique microbiomes thriving within those spaces in a healthy state. From these discoveries we have had to shift our understanding of health away from looking at the isolated human cell and instead towards the cell’s relationship to the vast ecosystems of bacteria, fungi and viruses that make up the microbiome.
Importantly there is a direct link between damage to the microbiome ecosystem and disease, this has been proven by our ability to track all of the diseases of previous epidemics of the last 30 years back to changes in the microbiome. Nonetheless, we have also been able to prove the opposite, that if you have a robust microbiome and diversity within your bodily ecosystems, you will be in a state of health and very resistant to disease. This is where we can begin to understand the role of preventive healthcare, rather than depend upon the symptom management, disease treatment and damage control approach widely used in Western medicine.
What Is ION* & Why Is It The Future Of Gut Health?
ION* is made from a natural mineral, Terrahydrite®, found within 60-million-year-old soil; it is totally sterile and contains no bacteria. We discovered that these molecules support the cellular communication of the mycelium and the bacteria in the soil and when you put them into the body, it also provides the same framework of communication for gut bacteria. Human cells start to communicate more efficiently, the effect eventually supports a more diverse community and cellular ecosystem within the body. This creates a stable environment where good gut bacteria can grow and thrive, helping to promote immune system function and optimal wellbeing. This also helps to protect the body from the toxic substances in non organic food and drink, whilst allowing the entry of beneficial nutrients.
In the 1970s we came to the realisation that there isn’t just bad bacteria, but there is also good bacteria and from this came probiotics. Whilst this was an important step in the psychology of understanding gut health, the reality is that there is no such thing as bad bacteria.
There also became a dogma that there's only a few good bacteria and all the rest are bad for you. We're having a very hard time believing that the microbiome is good for us, but the microbiome is always there to support life.
When allowed to be in a state of biodiversity health thrives. We need to move away from probiotics and instead begin to support the fostering of that microbiome diversity.
Every bacteria within the complex ecosystem of the biome plays an important role. If we view the human body as an ecosystem in balance, then no bacteria causes harm. It is when an ecosystem is damaged that biodiversity is destroyed and we start to see infections, sensitivities and bacterial overgrowth from this environment.
How Did Nature Inspire ION*?
By understanding that every organ and tissue in the human body has unique microbiomes which parallel that in nature, we can start to see ourselves as organic gardeners of life.
Our microbiome is the soil system from which all life is going to spring. In nature there is the soil microbiome that sustains life, feeding information and nutrients and there is a microbiome on all living beings on earth. When we look at diverse ecosystems in nature, from the coral reef to the Costa Rican jungle, you will also witness a diverse microbiome and ecosystem supporting all of life. Life is supported by diversity and life drives diversity, these are the two truths that we find in biology which track back 4 billion years of life on Earth. We find that life is always seeking adaptation, creating diversity of the single cell organisms and microbiome at large, supporting all life on Earth.
ION* works exactly the same as the communication network created by bacteria and fungi in the soil. To understand how this works in the human body, we can imagine this like a mobile phone network, each phone - like each human cell, is a world unto itself. With a very smart computer in it there is a network capacity and ability to update software, but if it's not close to a network tower it loses 99% of its function. With this loss of communication you start to see decay and an inability to update software and communicate with your family and network. And so, without that network tower of communication you begin to become isolated and isolation leads to dysfunction, the exact same thing happens at the cellular level. If we lose the cellular network of the microbiome, each human cell starts to become isolated, it no longer knows what it needs and who needs what and, deeper than that, it starts to lose its repair rate.
With this damage to the microbiome and the isolation of cells, chronic disease and cellular dysfunction occurs. Typically the first symptoms are poor sleep, fatigue, lack of muscle recovery and repair and an accumulation of fat within the liver and other organ systems. Eventually the body falls into metabolic disarray, prediabetes, we may see erectile and sexual dysfunction and infertility issues, as well as autoimmune diseases. Ultimately signs of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions will appear and finally cancer. Once you're disconnected from these cellular communications, this is the walk through life.
How Has Chemicals & Pesticides In Our Food & Farming Systems Affected Our Microbiome?
When humans started farming with chemicals the topsoil microbiome was decimated and began to rapidly lose the communication network and microbiome support to life.
Through this loss of microbial intelligence, we lost diversity and capacity for cellular communication. What was possible 100 years ago in biology is no longer possible today. Our bodies cannot repair in the same way our ancestors 100 years ago or even 50 years ago were able to. Disease is emerging more rapidly within our populations. From a recent study it is predicted that 54% of children in Germany, the US and other Western countries will have developed a chronic disorder or disease by the time they're 18. Compared to a few decades ago this was 2%. We are starting to accumulate disorder and disease at a very young stage and simultaneously we are struggling to rebuild soil health and diversity on the planet.
ION* is a big paradigm shift away from probiotics. It is important that every single organ system has to have microbial support. When we put ION* into a system, we see biodiversity returning, we see more bacteria coming back, we see more fungi and yeast and all the balance comes back in this complex ecosystem. We have to stop looking at our microbiome exclusively as our gut health and start seeing ION* as a system of organic gardening throughout the body.
The intelligence of nature, we're finding out, is the result of connectivity. Communication is the soul of intelligence at nature’s level, which should inform us beyond the human body and single human trying to heal. It should inform us about society today. Throughout the pandemic we've developed polarising narratives in society which are really isolating humanity. If we're looking for health, yes we need to look to the gut but also to the biome in general. We need connectivity, not isolation. We continue to spray all these insecticides and chemicals on our soil and food and we continue to believe that the sterilisation of the human body is our pathway to health. We were wrong, parametrically opposite of the truth even and humanity and the earth is suffering as a consequence.
Why Should We Care About Soil Health & Organic Farming?
Farmers around the world are really waking up to the reality that they're losing their farms, which are no longer profitable because their soil is so dead. It is an interesting opportunity for us to fundamentally change our relationship to soil in the food systems and in doing so we can begin the journey of healing the human population. I believe that the damage we've done can be reversed!
Even for those that are unaware of the damage within their body, caused by the farm and food industry, we can all still look around at the planet itself for evidence of this damage.
We are witness to mass biodiversity loss and rapid climate change. Devastating storms, worldwide famine and drought are all events that are linked to a failure of soil systems. Soil is literally the lungs of the planet and when we kill soil the planet can no longer breathe. Currently 97% of the world’s farming soils are considered severely depleted, we have to get back to a nurtured cooperative and co-creative state with our soil systems. If we want to see recovery of the vast ecosystems of the world we're going to have to begin to restore the soil microbiome and repair the lungs of the planet.
We believe that the speed at which this recovery can happen is astounding, if we simply stop spraying these chemicals into the environment and stop ploughing the soil for just one year to help foster the microbiome, we will see a massive recovery of fungi mycelial systems. If we just stop this damage all of that life will begin to return within a single season.
For a brief moment, just three to five years, if humanity would turn its attention to fostering soil health we would start to see a reverse of this pattern.
It is exciting to know that we can actually grow just as much food in soil systems that are not treated chemically and over ploughed as we did before. So, we're not going to starve, in fact we're going to find abundance, and we're going to find a future of food that's resilient and sustainable. But this is only possible when we stop screwing up nature systems, respiratory function within those soil systems. It is an extraordinarily important reality that we currently have only got 10 years to turn the boat around. This will be the sixth great extinction event.
We only have this decade to fundamentally change our relationship between soil, air and water systems. If we don't correct this, we will see a catastrophic loss of life in the decades to come. We have this crucial moment in time to do the right thing. I believe it is exciting that nature has made the path so obvious, she knows how to repair the system. We are so far from understanding the full beauty and complexity of nature, if we just leave her alone for a moment we can see massive recovery.
With Eating Organically, What Else Can We Do For The Health Of Our Microbiome?
Spend More Time Breathing, Touching And Simply Being In Nature
Whilst ION* is the beginning of a journey towards repair and regeneration, to really achieve the final goal of biodiverse and adaptive bodily microbiomes, you also have to get out and spend time in nature. We need to come into contact with as many natural environments as possible.
We really encourage people to immerse themselves in as many diverse environments as possible. Get touching and breathing in nature again, with this you will start to rebuild the ecosystem within yourself. So on the weekends, if that's all you can do, get to the beach, and then the following weekend get up into the mountains or a forest, walk on the soil, touch real plants, and literally hug a tree. By coming into contact with all of these natural and diverse ecosystems of microbiome you will start to rebuild the ecosystem within yourself.
You Are What You Touch And Breath
The exciting thing that we now know from microbiome genetics is that you become what you touch and breath.
When we studied the gut of hunter gatherer tribes in Africa, we found that they have a dominant species of bacteria in their gut microbiome which we’ve never seen in humans before. This bacteria primarily came from the hides of zebras and by carrying hunted zebras on their shoulders, the bacteria from the hides consequently adopt life on the skin of those individuals and ultimately make it into their bodily biome, including their gut. By directly touching their food source, their gut ecosystem becomes more adaptive and resilient, this becomes an important part of their immune system.
I'm concerned that the Western consumer has never touched their food source. They no longer grow their food. They've never touched the cow from which their beef or milk came, they've never touched the chicken from where their poultry comes, nor the vine from which the cucumber came. When we don't touch the life around food we don't have the informed microbiome to help our body know how to then digest those foods.
It's not just the organic food that we need, we need the organic material around the food. We need to retouch that life. Growing your own garden is a critical piece of the puzzle for a diverse microbiome. Connect with nature by growing plants and touching them, nurture them to understand the relationship between the sun, water and soil and understand what that unique plant’s harvest will provide you. Breathe deeply as the soil is disturbed when you pull those weeds and plants up at the end of the season. Touch and breathe this intelligence back in your body. ION* is really only the foundation from which to rebuild and support your ecosystem.