Getting your hands and feet dirty is good for you. Studies have shown that having direct contact with the soil has a positive effect on our body and mind. We are connected to the soil through the nutrients transferred to the food we eat and the support of plants that create the oxygen we breathe. This essential connection should not be surprising, we were told in Gen 2:7 that we were formed from the dust of the ground. Let’s discuss some ways we are connected, affected, and benefited from getting down and dirty with the soil.
Positive Affect from Head to Toe
A recent study showed that microbes in the soil can act as an anti-depressant. A specific soil bacterium promotes higher cytokine levels, which increases serotonin in our bodies, and can ultimately reduce stress – making people feel happier.(1)
Another study completed at an Australian University, investigated the physiological and psychological benefits of nearby green spaces in cities. The green spaces were categorized as open grass areas with and without tree canopy. The results showed that green spaces with at least 30% tree canopy significantly reduced local residents’ stress levels and blood pressure and improved mental sharpness.(2)
Grounding (or ”Earthing”) is a theory that proposes having direct contact with the earth equalizes the positive and negative charges in our bodies. Specifically, our bodies build up positive charges (including free radicals) and when we come into contact with the soil, the negative charges flow into our bodies and return it to a neutral state.(3) Research has found some of the benefits from grounding are reduced inflammation, improved sleep, lowered stress, and boosted energy levels.
A Dirty Imperative
The attitude of today’s culture is against “getting your hands and feet dirty.” For instance, the hand sanitizer global market is expected to reach over $5 billion by 2024 and television advertisements constantly endorse 99% germ free environments. Our children are growing up in a world that is mostly played indoors and have received over-prescribed antibiotics.
We are sterilizing ourselves into an immune system handicap. We evolved as a species living “in a complex microbial world and our immune systems evolved to cope with it.”(4) Jack Gilbert, director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago, suggests that parents allow their children to play outside regularly; to educate and develop their immune systems.
We are a World of Microbes
Healthy soils contain microbes (bacteria, yeasts, algae, protozoa, fungi, etc.). In fact, there are more microbes in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the earth! www.nrcs.usda.gov
Interestingly, a healthy digestive tract hosts over 1000 different kinds of microorganisms (gut flora). Our gut flora affects our digestion, immunity, and hormone balance. Antibiotics can disrupt the gut flora because it kills both good and bad bacteria, and leaves the person “open to possible sickness.”
Healthy populations of soil microbes can be disrupted too. That’s why we emphasize applying our VITAL Blend soil amendment to the soil; to help support and improve soil microbiology. When soils have thriving populations of microbes, the results are that plants and people benefit.
- ”Antidepressant Microbes in Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy,” Gardening Know How, B.L. Grant, 2019, gardeningknowhow.com
- “Urban trees found to improve mental and general health,” Phys.org, Ben Long, July 2019
- “Could walking barefoot on grass improve your health? Some research suggests it can,” The Washington Post, Carrie Dennett, 6/10/18
- “The dirty truth? Keeping children too clean could prevent them from developing immunities,” The i newsletter, Susie Mesure, 5/25/18