Practically all animals in nature eat soil, ground, mud or clay. Also, our ancestors ate a lot of soil. One reason is, that in harsh times they had to use poisonous plants as nutrition and clay can bind with toxins and then make an exit via the colon and the kidneys. Clay forms a kind of a net where toxins accumulate. Another reason is, that eating dirt gave our ancestors an access to benefial soil based microbes.
One average human consists about 39 trillion bacteria and other microbes and 30 trillion human cells. The number of bacteria varies greatly among individuals and can be as high as 50 trillion. From birth, our microbes become as personal as a fingerprint. Necessary microbes are living on our skin and on mucosa. Despite their enormous number, it’s been estimated that our microbes weight only 1,5 kilograms.
Person’s own microbes are fighting against disease-causing bacteria and our normal fluorine regulates many body functions. The imbalances in your own normal fluorine is associated with, for example, obesity, risk of diabetes and cancer.
You know, they are so vivid in my mind, those lazy summer days from childhood. We collected bugs to our amazing bug show (all were released before bed time), cycled with butterflies and foraged for wild berries. We were continually rooted with the earth, tasting and testing everything. Eating different flowers, digging up worms, eating apples with our “wormy” hands and trying to get a glimpse of rabbit or squirrel. We didn’t even know what were socks or shoes.
Kids of today close curtains and fight virtual monsters in our clean, disinfected and sterilized homes. At the side, they eat processed sugary foods, that destroy their teeth and cause obesity. What do we teach them as parents? Do we let them get dirty, roll down the grassy hill or kiss frogs in the hope of a prince?
Excessive Hygiene Destroys Health
Thanks to our modern hygiene, we now see lower rates of many diseases and health problems. But this is a double-edged sword and too much of a good thing can cause problems. It means that our cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing could do more harm than good.
There are so many products for disinfecting and sterilizing, that it makes me dizzy. We have antibacterial soap, antibacterial cleaning wipes, antibacterial spray and a wide variety of disinfecting cleaning products. We have rising rates of autoimmune problems, gut related disorders and allergies despite the fact, that our kids grow up in clean, disinfected and sterile homes.
Studies have shown, that our avoidance of dirt and widespread use of disinfecting products is preventing the proper formation of healthy gut bacteria. There is even scientific evidence, that using cleaning sprays 4 times a week or air freshening sprays cause and increase asthma. That is quite severe, don’t you think!
Of course, we need to take care of proper hand hygiene if there is cold virus storming around, but otherwise it would be beneficial to lose those antiseptic wipes and sterilizing liquids and get dirty.
Normal Immune Function and Microbes
Today, we live indoors and sterilize our living environments very thoroughly. It makes our immune systems hyper-sensitized. We have these little soldier cells in our bodies and they can’t stand spending too long time without nothing to do. When they finally see something that’s foreign, like a piece of pollen, they become explosively inflammatory. They go totally nuts. Asthma, allergies and eczema are often triggered that way.
Soil based organisms (SBOs), microorganisms found in soil, are stimulating our immune system. When we get in touch with microbes in soil, we allow our immune system to explore our environment. This way our bodies can practice immune responses, which are vital for our protection. This is especially crucial for kids. When the immune system is allowed to meet microbes it learns to tolerate them and our immune system becomes stronger.
Kids putting everything in their mouth serves as an important immune developing practice. But if we aren’t exposing our kids to microbes, their bodies don’t learn to handle the benign microbes or attack the dangerous ones. So, too much hygiene and cleanliness is destroying our kids’ health and immune systems. Maybe from now on, I can be gentler with myself for “forgetting” to clean. I’m also grateful, that we are a dog household. Studies have found that kids who grew up on farms or with a dog in the house have fewer allergies. So, thank you Peppi-dog!
When talking about the health of our stomach and guts, we cannot forget fermented foods and probiotic supplements. They are very beneficial, but unfortunately some of them do not survive through the digestive system. On the other hand, soil based organisms have stronger strains of beneficial bacteria that can survive through the digestive system and provide the most benefit.
Allergies – the Modern-Day Plight
It was found in one survey, done in United States, that more than half of the participants had allergic sensitization to at least one thing. Similarly, in England, the number of people going to hospital with an allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock has been raising alarmingly. It’s estimated that around half of all children have an allergy.
Some doctors verify what we already know: allergies flare up, when we meet unknown but harmless microbes and our immune system doesn’t have anything to do. Important notion is, that childhood exposure to soil based organisms may reduce the future risk of developing allergic disease. Funny fact is, that there has been a study in New Zealand, which claims children who suck their thumb or bite their finger nails are less likely to develop allergies.
I am relentless nail biter, lazy cleaner and dog owner without allergies or autoimmune diseases. So are my two girls. Maybe we have been protected by the concept of “the farm-effect”, which is well-known among allergy research. It means, that farm populations across North America and Europe have a 50% reduction in allergic occurrence. I can assure you, my home sure does feel like farm every now and then!
Worms are Good for You
What I am about to tell you, may be a bit of disgusting, but bear with me. Several studies indicate, that intestinal worms, in other words parasites, are major players to do with healthy immune system development. Worms seem to influence the immune system in the same way, that bacterial and viral infections. Researchers conclude, that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter body along with dirt, spur the development of a healthy immune system.
The effect of these worms is so powerful, that it could even redirect an immune system that has gone awry and resulted in autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma. This is huge finding, because immune system disorders like multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, allergies and asthma have risen significantly in the United States and other developed countries.
According one study conducted with people suffering from Crohn’s disease, subjects were given worm eggs every three weeks and 75% of them saw symptoms to disappear. Tell me, would you try Worm Therapy?
Babies and Soil Based Microbes
Babies have an additional need for interaction with dirt. Many pathogens, such as E. Coli, needs iron to flourish, so it’s reasonable, that breast milk has only little iron. This low iron level protects newborns from these pathogens. Baby is happy with this for 6 months, but after that age baby’s need for iron and other nutrients increases.
Baby should consume between 4 and 13 liters of breast milk to get sufficient amount of iron from it. Iron deficiency during infancy has been associated with increased risk of cognitive, motor and behavioral deficits.
So, baby’s need for iron increases, but breast milk stays the same. Is there something wrong with breast milk? At this age, babies spend more time on the ground. With our ancestors, this meant spending more time interacting with dirt, which is a thorough source of iron and other minerals. That way breast milk forces us to interact with dirt. And this happens with other mammals too.
Finland – Daycare Study about Soil Based Microbes
Around hundred million EU citizen have immune system disorder such as allergy, asthma or type 1 diabetes. Another fact is, that huge part of our toddler aged kids spend most of their waking hours in daycare. This makes the environment in daycare relevant to their well-being and health. Right? One more fact is, that this time before school is also the most important for the development of immune system.
There is one interesting study going on in Finland. They have transported some forest land, grassland, planting boxes and peat blocks to the yards of urban daycares. Children have been in wide contact with these green materials both in free-time and when following environmental educator’s tips.
It is assumed in the study, that children of green daycare receive a versatile yet safe microbial exposure through their skin and body and that exposure improves the functioning of the immune system. Earlier Finnish research has shown that children in nature daycare have a different skin microbial than those in urban daycare.
The study also examines, the effects of this green yard on kids’ nature connection, well-being and versatility of their movement. For now, it’s safe to say, that kids have been excited about the new yard! It has diversified moving: there is a lot of rolling over, crawling, rooting and making cart wheels. Green yards offer bodily and multisensory approach to experience nature.
Microbes are Your New Best Friends
The most important thing is to encounter dirt and to have our babies and children to meet it too. We shouldn’t ditch all attempts at hygiene, but just lighten up a bit. You can go barefoot, touch insects and plants, cuddle your dog or cat properly or do some gardening. If you have been in contact with “clean dirt”, eating outside without washing your hands will transfer some of these friendly soil based soldiers to your body. Start treating microbes as your friends. In turn microbes will help you in the battle to keep you and your family healthy.
The next one isn’t for everyone, but I love to sleep in the same bed with our dog Peppi. As we live in Finland, we have extremely cold and loooong winter and I love the way she warms the whole bed with her body. This guarantees, that all the soil based bacteria she has picked up on her forest walk gets on my skin. You may have heard the saying, that you shouldn’t put anything on your skin, that you wouldn’t eat. That’s because the skin is our largest organ and it is also extremely porous. This gives me my daily dirt doze!
Our neighbor country Sweden did a study about pacifier-sucking parents and their babies. Study found, that infants whose parents sucked on fallen dirty pacifiers had fewer allergies than infants of binky rinsers or boilers. Also, less chance of developing eczema was found. I wonder if parents were also getting healthier due to soil based microbes they were sucking from pacifiers
Soil has these important little organisms, that improve our health. If you are interested about the substances, that trees secregate to air for us to breath, you can find the article HERE.
And Finally We Get to the Gardeners!
According numerous studies, gardeners live longer than non-gardeners. There is varying numeric data about it, but most of it states that gardeners have 14 years longer life span than other people. As we already know, dirt is most definitely one of the factors in that equation. Others might be getting enough vitamin D and exercise, stress relieve through grounding and awe-inspiring nature and higher consumption of the fruits of their work!
Thank you so much for reading and please share this on social media if you find it useful. Help me to spread the good word of our wonderful world! And subscribe to our newsletter so you can get our latest forest therapy MP3 directly to your phone. Sunshine to your day!
Warm and loving thoughts,