As without, so within

As above, so below… Ancient wisdom has never been more correct than today. Rather than looking at it from a spiritual perspective, this article will look at it from a physical and environmental perspective.

Since the industrial revolution began, mankind have had an enormous impact on the environment, more than ever before. As we increasingly hurt the environment, we are increasingly hurting ourselves.

Over the last few decades, as use of pesticides and herbicides increased on earth the enormously important soil biota (life of the soil) has drastically changed. This is no longer a local problem, it has happened all over the world. The make up of soil has changed, making previously beautiful fertile land into dust bowls and deserts. Even if we can still grow food in the soil of some areas, if we do not focus on building that soil, we will be destroying it.

Top soil loss is an enormous problem worldwide. On average the world only has around 3 feet of topsoil (I believe this to be optimistic, as more and more land is now prone to desertification). As we deforested and used the land for large crops and un-managed animal grazing, we stopped the soil creating process in its tracks. Soil is created by fallen trees, plants and other natural debris (humus). To put it simply, the soil biota start eating the fallen organic matter and reproducing, thereby making new soil (from their poop and their dead bodies once they die) and more soil bacteria and funghi (their offspring). This then becomes a rich and fertile soil full of life.

A handful of healthy soil should have billions of good bacteria in it! However, by getting rid of all the diverse plant life in order to grow crops, taking these crops away so no fallen plants are left to form humus and then spraying the land with herbicides, fungicides and pesticides, we are killing all life in the soil. No new soil is formed, the old soil is dead and becomes dust. This dust is then easily washed away by rain or blown away by wind.

Breakfast at PRI Sunshine Coast
Breakfast at PRI Sunshine Coast

In the past 20 or so years we have seen an enormous increase in new diseases, especially gut disease. Leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, IBS and others are all disease hardly heard of decades ago. These diseases all seem to have one thing in common and that is compromised gut biota. In other words, rather than having billions of good bacteria in you gut, all the good bacteria you gut needs in order to digest your food properly and help your body function at optimal levels is depleted, overgrown with bad bacteria, no longer able to do their job or otherwise compromised. Sound familiar?

We have more people now than ever before taking medication for gut related ailments. We have also more people now than ever with undiagnosed gut problems, with symptoms like alternating diarrhea and constipation, heartburn, gluten intolerance issues, food related allergies or sensitivities and much more. We are losing our gut bacteria as we are losing our soil bacteria.

What can we do? In order to restore our bacterial activity, we have to start with the soil. Build the soil, create more soil than you deplete every time you grow a plant. Compost, compost, compost, build a forest on a fallen forest, ensure there is humus once more. Foster those bacteria in the soil, they are doing an amazing job and cause vitamins and minerals to be mobilised in the soil for uptake by plants. Healthy food can only be grown in healthy soil.

Steaming hot from the pot!!
Steaming hot from the pot!!

Once you have this healthy food but your gut has already been compromised, be careful how you eat this food. You may want to slow cook this over low temperatures until it is soft, to avoid further damaging your insides with harsh foods that your gut bacteria is unable to digest. If you can deal with fermented foods, try and have some with each meal. Some very compromised guts may have trouble with pro-biotics and ferments, in that case just stick with slow cooked whole foods and add bone broth. Bone broth is very healing and gentle for the gut, and is great as a fast breaker first thing in the morning. I think it is good for everyone, compromised gut or not! As with any healing process, this is very personal and should always be assessed on an individual level.


What we all need to do is to start caring for our soil and our planet. Once we encourage the growth of healthy good bacteria in our soil again, I believe that we will see a decrease in the instances of gut issues. Healthy soil means a healthy gut, a healthy gut means a happy and healthy you!

Tom Kendall

Tom Kendall is a permaculture farmer with a lifelong broad acre agricultural background. He is co-founder of the PRI Sunshine Coast Inc and PRI Luganville, Vanuatu and runs PDC and Practical Life Skills training courses on his Permaculture Demonstration Site “Maungaraeeda”. He is part of the Permaculture Sustainable Consulting team and does regular personal consultations. He has extensive experience in tropical, sub tropical and dry land climates and has the ability to read large scale as well as smaller scale landscapes. With his farming background, Tom is a very hands on and practical man and is solution focused. He has extensive travel experience, integrates easily with local cultures and people and enjoys studying landscapes, buildings and the effects of climate on structures, flora and fauna.

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