I’m giddy as I am writing because this blog speaks straight to my very DNA. I’m messy. I like to sweat. I like to have my hands in the earth, and dark soil underneath my fingernails. Basically, I love getting dirty.
When I was growing up, life was a little bit different than today. For example, we didn’t have a computer in the house. Televisions were huge pieces of furniture that required a human to actually get up and change the channel. Phones were attached to the wall and an entire family had to share JUST one….can you even imagine?? But here’s what was great about the “olden days”: Kids knew how to play outside and they enjoyed getting dirty. Antibacterial soap didn’t exist, and if our snack dropped on the floor, we just picked it up and ate it….germs and all. The only “cooties” that I knew of resided on little boys! :-)
Our children are growing up in much different conditions. Have you ever heard of the “farm effect?” The theory states that in an over-sterilized environment, developing immune systems don’t encounter enough bugs to learn how to regulate properly. However, there is evidence that when soil microbes come into contact with those in our gut, our immune function is enhanced. (Translation: just get down and dirty.)
Getting into the dirt exposes us to many microbes, which get on our skin and into our lungs as we poke around in the soil. Yay for all the gardeners out there! To be very specific, there’s an ancient bacteria that thrives in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, and has been shown to reduce asthma symptoms and fight tuberculosis. It has also recently been found to lower stress and fight inflammation. The only thing one must do to acquire this bacteria is get in the dirt—touch it, or breath it in!
Back in the day, people were exposed to animals and plants and soil on a much more regular basis. But now, we are living in over-sterilized environments, and discouraging ourselves and our children from getting dirty. All of this sterilizing causes immune systems to become hyper-sensitized. This can lead to asthma and allergies.
To emphasize this point, let me share a funny, but revealing finding: Did you know that there was a study done on children whose parents licked a pacifier that had been dropped on the floor, and put it back into the child’s mouth. Guess what: those kids developed less allergies, less asthma, less eczema, and had stronger, more robust health than the children whose parents did not lick and return the pacifier to the mouth! I know….sounds unbelievable, but you can look that one up. (300,000 children were studied).
Getting dirty can also make us less stressed. This benefit stems from the gut, where helpful soil microbes help regulate neurotransmitters that affect our emotional state. It’s also believed that the good bacteria helps increase serotonin production. Just spending time in nature has repeatedly been shown to improve health and mood.
So, am I telling you to go roll around in the mud? Well, sure….I’m all for that, but simply changing our perspectives on dirt and “getting dirty” is a key point for good health. Here is my list of Do’s and Don’ts:
- Ditch the anti-bacterial soap
- Go outside more and get your feet and hands on or in the soil.
- Plant some veggies and create a small garden that will keep you in the earth more often.
- Tell your kids to come home clean
- Spray your yards or gardens with herbicides/pesticides
- Worry about the grass stains….they are signs of life!
- Scrub your ORGANICALLY GROWN veggies and fruits as much…a little healthy garden soil is great for your gut!
Cheers to your good health!