Canary In A Coal Mine

I’m taking part in WEGO Health’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge

Day 8 #HAWMC – If your health condition (or the health condition of a loved one!) was an animal, what would it be? Is it a real animal or make believe?

If either Sjogren’s or depression were an animal, I think they would be a canary in a coal mine. Throughout much of the 20th century, canaries were used in coal mines to warn miners of an overload of toxic gases like carbon monoxide and methane. The canaries were more sensitive to the presence of these gases and when the birds showed distress, the miners knew it was time to get out!

I think a lot of invisible illnesses like Sjogren’s and other autoimmune diseases, and also depression and anxiety are like the canary. Those who have these illnesses are sensitive to the increased overload of the toxins in our environment: in our food, water, air, and in the stress that permeates most aspects of our lives.

The prevalence of autoimmune diseases is increasing according to the U.S. National Institute of Health. This should be a cause for concern for all of us. If people are getting ill with Sjogren’s or any of the other dozens of autoimmune diseases in increasing numbers, it might be time to look at the unsustainable nature of our life on Earth.

Like the canary in the coal mine, perhaps the people with autoimmune diseases are just the most sensitive among us: the first to detect the toxic overload. Perhaps we’re the early warning sign that things need to change for all of us.


Did this post resonate with you or help you in some way? Let me know in the comments below! If you’d like to support my work, you can buy me some writing time! This helps to support my work and keep it accessible and ad-free!

Jane Waterman

Hi, I’m Jane! I create blogs, fiction, art, and adaptive yoga as I seek peace and healing in this strange and sometimes beautiful world. I’ve been chronically ill and probably crazy for 30 years, but I try not to let it stop me!

Please visit the about page to learn more about me and my hopes for this community! If you’d like to support my work, please visit my tip jar at or my ongoing creative projects at



4 Responses

  1. What a perfect way of describing what the reality is of these conditions, an early warning system that what is happening in our world is not healthy for anyone. Love the painting of the canary and you really nailed this making a powerful statement! Here's to hoping the world takes notice and does something so the canary lives and flies freely in good health.

    1. As Annette mentioned below, business and government seem to care very very little about the environment, or the state of the average worker, if the recent RBC scandal is to be believed (and I do believe it). This is why unions were formed in the first place, and basically tells us that they are still needed as we can't trust corporations to regulate themselves.

  2. That is not the happiest canary ever. It seems to be showing concern about what is going on. But it seems that current culture and governments and business are determined to push the environment to its outer limits. It is very discouraging

    1. LOL – it was a very quick painting, Annette, as I didn't have a picture of a dirty canary on hand. Ultimately, he probably ended up looking bedraggled enough for my purposes. Alas, I have to agree with you about the current corporate and government attitude to the environment, and consequently, our health.

      I have begun researching stats on increasing rates of AI diseases, and it seems that apart from some general statements, many of the specific results are not forthcoming. I will keep digging.

      I do not quite have the resources of 60 Minutes, but we must do our best! Thanks for commenting!

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