Over the last few weeks, I’ve been happy to have a spirited discussion with one of my colleagues, Keith Bell, who is with Sanitation Circle, which is devoted to the promotion of dry compost toilet technology. I’ve asked him to write about his passion here and invite you to not only read but also share your views.
In sanitation issues, we have a powerful intersection of health and environment overlooked by medical experts and nations. Yet have you ever considered poor sanitation as cause of the diabetes epidemic in Canada and the world? Evidence is steadily mounting that diabetes is a matter of microbial imbalance. In Canada, diabetes rates have doubled over the past decade. One in three Canadians are projected to have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020. In sanitation-challenged India, people still believes its rampant diabetes epidemic a matter of diet and exercise.
Yet there may be an alternate perspective. Consider how gastric bypass surgery rapidly halts diabetes via removal of infected duodenum, the first section of small intestine after the stomach. How could this be the case? What is really going on?
To get a better idea, let’s take a ride into uncharted territory: the inner space of our small intestine. It’s the center of all health, directly between our liver and pancreas. The lining of the small intestine is called the most important quarter-inch of the body. It’s here where our nutrients are absorbed…or malabsorbed. Most people believe starvation a matter of malnutrition, but it’s more accurately malabsorption syndrome, meaning it’s not necessarily what we eat, but what we can absorb based on intestinal health. Evidence over the past decade is strongly mounting toward the understanding that intestinal health is reliant on balanced flora. This microbial balance, or homeostasis, is the driver for all health, physical and mental.
To put it another way, have you heard of the gut-brain connection? The major gut diseases such as Celiac, ulcerative colitis, IBD and Crohn’s are all associated with mental illness. We’re learning that this is directly related to our gut and that relates to the microbes to which we are exposed. If that microbial population is antagonistic to our heath as evidenced by poor sanitation, then we all lose out.
To put it another way: sanitation is sanity.
The problem is most people still believe our water-based sanitation systems, flushing toilets, are an improvement. Modern sanitation has been voted the most important medical advance in the history of science. But it’s now obsolete, guided by obsolete law. We purposely multiply the wrong kinds of microbes in the name of sanitation and this is affecting us.
It’s time to end mixing our waste with water.
Now let’s look at another aspect of sanitation once believed to be a hallmark of our modern society: activated sludge. Once the toilet has been flushed, it heads to a centralized facility – for the most part – where it is thought to be made safe by dewatering the sewage and then treated the solid section, sludge, until there are no signs of infectious microbes.
The technology was born in Manchester, UK, 1913 and it was great in its first 50 years, lowering deaths by acute illness. But we’ve traded that for something far more ominous: chronic, long-term non-communicable diseases, NCDs which are now the global health focus. We now know poor sanitation may be the driving force behind global non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, autism, heart and lung disease. But this has been completely overlooked by the United Nations. The UN General Assembly held its first meeting on health in a decade in 2011. The last such meeting was 2001 about AIDS. In 2011, the focus was NCDs, yet sanitation was not on the agenda, a lost opportunity. The World Bank still builds wastewater treatment plants while UNICEF builds groundwater-polluting pit latrines.
What’s really needed is to promote dry compost toilet technology.
This is not new information. The world’s first physician, Hippocrates, stated “death begins in the colon.” Yet we disregard intestinal health at every turn, polluting water and soil, abusing antibiotics and fueling microbial overgrowth on a diet of refined carbohydrates. We’re now born predisposed to obesity, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s, cancer, anorexia and rickets. All NCDs can be explained by flora imbalance beginning in the gut.
Studies show gut dysbiosis (imbalanced flora) using new microbial DNA detection technology called microarray. Yet modern science still holds belief the fetal gastrointestinal tract is sterile without evidence. But truth is being revealed as what was once thought sterile is actually teeming with life. This includes the brain, amniotic fluid, urine, eyeballs, meconium and breast milk all not sterile and were never meant to be sterile. That’s right, even the brain relies on balanced flora, just like the gut.
We have polluted the world’s microbiome, shifting the balance. We need to retain and repair what we have to prevent these environmental health problems. And this starts with our water. Our oceans are merely a thin film stretched across Earth’s surface and we need to protect them from ourselves.
A rallying call for change.
So, while dry compost toilet technology may be the answer, we should look to reducing diabetes as a rallying call for improved sanitation. Based on studies out of China, which leads the world in diabetes, we know the causes are not poor diet or being sedentary, but due to rampant pollution in soil, water and air pollution. We are learning every day that this disease is not only about diet and exercise; it’s also about our waste. We need to end mixing waste with water if not only to improve our lives but also of those for generations to come.