I Am A Sentinel Species

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A canary in a coal mine is the quintessential sentinel species. Canaries were used up until the 1980’s to detect toxic gases in the mines before they effected the humans working there.

The miners had mixed feelings about ceasing the tradition of using their sweet little “pets” and changing to electronic detectors.

Canaries had become a part of mining culture.

Scientists have designated several animals as sentinels to warn us of threats to human health.

To find sentinels they look to more susceptible species, those most sensitive to certain environmental contaminants and poisons.

These animals show early effects of being exposed to harms before illness shows up in the health of humans.

Bottlenose dolphins serve us as a sentinel species.

Researchers at UC San Diego have been studying the blubber of the bottlenose dolphins in Southern California, an area well known for its waste water being contaminated with many toxins. DDT, a once commonly used pesticide that has been banned for its cancer causing, is found in these waters.

Over 300 chemicals, including DDT, have been found in these dophins’ blubber. Scientists are particularly interested in how these chemicals have accumulated in their bodies over time transerring from the fish they ingest…the same fish we humans also eat.

Minks are used to detect hormone distruptors, cats are used to detect mercury poisoning, and otters are used to detect a deadly toxin called microcystin.

Sentinel species, by definition, stand as soldiers…on guard to keep watch and warn about health threats that endanger the human race.

I started learning about sentinel species after reading Dr. Steven Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox.  He is a Yale trained neurosurgeon who now specializes in healing autoimmune disorders and other tricky health problems through his “Plant Paradox” eating protocol.

Having struggled with chronic autoimmune disorders for years, (you can read about some of my journey with that here) I found myself pondering him calling those of us with these issues

“canaries in a coal mine.”

We are a susceptible group, the most sensitive to certain contaminants and toxins in our environment.

The essential message of his book is that lectins naturally found in our produce, as well as toxic ingredients included in packaged foods and conventionally grown meats and produce are making us chronically ill.

The “canaries in the coal mine” are showing the effects first, but everyone is at risk.

Lectins are part of a plant’s defense mechanism. Plants have lectins in them so that they won’t be eaten by animals or insects.  Essentially, lectins are poison.

Up until the last 50 or so years, these “poisonous” foods were harvested and prepared in traditional ways that neutralized their toxic nature. Fruits and vegetables were picked and eaten in season and only from locally grown plants.

Breads were naturally leavened. Grains and many vegetables were fermented before being eaten.

 Up until the 1950’s ninety percent of meals were eaten at home, the foods prepared with only the most basic, essential ingredients.

Now fruit (even organic) is picked while unripe and sprayed with ethylene gas to instantly induce the fruits’ green skin to turn a ripe, warm color.  While ethylene itself may not be toxic,

the super, speedy “ripened” fruit still is.

Lectins decrease as fruit ripens naturally while still growing on the branch. But they are no longer given that chance.

Over tens of thousands of years, humans have developed lectin fighting defense mechanisms…strong acids and microbes in our mouth, our stomach and intestines.

But these acids have rapidly been weakening due to depleted soil, resulting in vitamin and mineral poor produce. The healthy microbes and helpful bacteria in our gut are being killed off by medications, chemicals and food additives.

While our defense mechanisms’ effectiveness has been diminishing, the assaults on our inner bodily systems have been increasing.

The list of sentinel species is growing. The symptoms we display are increasing.

Like the poisoned otter dying on the shore from liver failure, the state of my weakened and damaged body is not my fault.

But as a sentinel, it is my responsibility to use my body as a warning.

Like a dolphin I have many toxic chemicals that have accumulated in my body…from the BPA lined bottle that fed me lecithin filled formula as an infant, to all the toxic ingredients in every packaged food I have ever eaten.

My body is not functioning properly as a result.

I am a sentinel species.

But I am not a canary in a cage.

Unlike other animals on this earth, I have a conscience.

I have the awareness to question “What is happening to me?”

I have fingers to research the cause.

I have a voice to loudly respond,

“No!  I refuse to live this way anymore!”

Unlike a dolphin,

I have a choice in what foods I eat.

I choose to live a different way.

I am a sentinel.

Please heed my warning!

Please retreat from this path that is leading us to destruction.

Together, let’s  gather at the round table

and find a road that leads us, our children, and our descendants

to a healthy place.


Let us all gather at the round table

to strategize finding a new path

that will lead us


to a healthy, joyous life.















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