Getting dirty has never been seen as a good thing. Think about it for a minute… In everyday language we hear parents call after their kids as they run outside, “don’t get dirty,” during election season politicians are said to “throw mud” verbally and on an annual basis (at minimum) we fear dirty hands and germs at school and work. So, how can getting dirty be a good thing? In this post I’m going to share how it’s time to embrace dirt. I’m going to discuss how a dose of dirt can benefit health instead of destroy it. First let’s check in on where our fear of dirt and germs began, how awareness is increasing and how to embrace the idea that some dirt, don’t hurt!
It all started with the germ theory in the 19th century. Two French scientists had opposing theories. Louis Pasteur, a chemist and microbiologist proposed that it was infectious microbes that impair the functioning of different organs in the body. His stance: ‘Kill the bugs!’ that is what make us sick. This theory was the basis for such inventions as antibiotics, which we now know have their draw backs but certainly made great strides regarding infectious disease. At the same time Pasteur’s colleague, physiologist Claude Bernard, proposed that the it’s not the germ or ‘seed’ that makes the body sick, rather it’s the ‘soil’ of the body and when this internal balance is disturbed that brings about illness. He was the first to put forth the idea that the body has an internal terrain that needs to be balanced.
Was one scientist “right” and the other “wrong?” I don’t believe so. I believe both had valid points. But the human brain likes to simplify things so we ended up vilifying all germs and bugs and putting them into the category we called “bad.” And as history unfolded we became a germ-killing, bug-busting, antibiotic-feasting, dirt-fearing society. And that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t harming us. You see, we over did it folks. Because as it turns out we have a ratio of 1.3:1 bacteria to human cells in our bodies. We are more than half bacteria and those “good” bugs are critical to hanging on to our health!
By 2018, terms like “leaky gut” and the “gut microbiome” are becoming commonplace. Now there is much more awareness around the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut (a.k.a small intestine) that need to be tended to just like a garden. Many of us now realize that a diet high in starchy carbohydrates, processed foods and sugar itself is a recipe for an imbalanced gut and therefore a state of dis-ease as some point in life. This is a good start but it’s only the beginning. For instance, have you heard about the mouth microbiome? What about the skin microbiome? Yes, the mouth and the skin are windows into our health. Beneficial bacteria (or the absence of such bacteria) in these areas directly correlate to our overall health. I’ll say it again, bacteria can be a very good thing!
Some Dirt Don’t Hurt
Researchers and physicians are now shining a light on the fact that we actually need dirt to be healthy. One such doctor who suffered through her own child’s chronic illness not only has her personal story to tell in her 2016 book, The Dirt Cure: Healthy Food, Healthy Gut, Happy Child, but she also shares from her clinical experience as a medical doctor. Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein writes, “To maintain health, both plants and children need to be in contact with — not protected from — the full array of living elements: sunshine, truly fresh food, soil, all sorts of microbes, even critters. Both need to be actively nourished with living food, minimal toxins, rich in dirt. Their health depends on it.”
In her well-researched book with many referenced scientific studies, Dr. Shetreat-Klein also shares the “hygiene hypothesis.” It states that due to over sanitizing with the help of bleach and hand sanitizers the rate of allergies in kids is increasing. She further explains that studies reveal children raised on farms with plenty of dirt and livestock have fewer allergies and stronger immune systems.
How to Help
While the awareness is rising and the market is now taking notice with products like soil based probiotics and the like, dirt is gaining a few more fans. But we need to spread the word about the importance of bacteria, the body’s terrain and of course the dirt on our earth needed to grow nutrient dense foods. But changing a culture’s engrained values after over a century of germ busting and dirt hating won’t be easy. That’s why I’m asking you to help! Help me spread the word to get the message out to the masses that dirt can be good, healthy and in fact, essential to maintaining our health. Why is this so important? Because rebuilding the terrain of the body can be critical to those with an illness. As Dr. Josh Axe shares about his mother’s story in his book, Eat Dirt, and her recovery from leaky gut and breast cancer for example. And the many cases that Dr. Shetreat-Klein shares about how real food and rebuilding the body’s terrain is helping children with autism, ear infections and behavioral disorders (just to name a few).
Not to mention the quality of our food is suffering! We must raise awareness about where our food comes from and the importance of it’s connection to the soil and what the soil contains (minerals for one). The condition of our earth’s soil directly relates to the condition of our health. The film Symphony of the Soil describes dirt as “the living skin of the earth.” And in the documentary Dirt! The movie, they lay it out plainly, “If we don’t take care of the soil, which is just the first 5cm of the earth, our future is totally condemned.” Our dirt plays a critical role in our survival and ability to thrive!
So are you ready to take the challenge to get your hands a little dirty and help increase some dirt fans? Here are a few ways to get started…
1. Read one of the books listed below.
2. Start a container garden like the one locally we have in Delray Beach with #WiseTribe and the #GetDirtyInDelray movement! WiseTribe is an amazing organization in which I am proud to be a part of — we are striving to teach kids and the community at large how important it is to plant and eat healthy foods.
3. Read an article from the list below, or find a new one that emphasizes the important role of dirt on the earth, bacteria in the human body or how exposure to dirt can actually enhance health by contributing to bio-diversity.
4. Watch a video/film listen below and share it with a friend.
5. Research a new “dirt” product listed below.
To Sum Up
Remember our goal shouldn’t be to kill off all the germs, bugs or dirt in our environment but rather be able to recognize the difference between good and bad bacteria for the body, discover the needs of our soil and take advantage of the healthy benefits of getting a little dirty once in awhile.
Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It
Dr. Josh Axe, https://amzn.to/2JzH07U
Dirt Is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System.
by Jack Gilbert (Author), Rob Knight (Author) https://amzn.to/2JBbWoj
Kids need dirt. https://wellnessmama.com/12908/kids-need-dirt
The skin microbiome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535073/
How Many Bacteria vs Human cells are in the body? http://www.microbiomeinstitute.org/blog/2016/1/20/how-many-bacterial-vs-human-cells-are-in-the-body
The Causes of Disease: The Great Debate. https://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/public/937.cfm
A chiropractic look at the germ theory. http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/Wellness-Lifestyle/a-chiropractic-look-at-the-germ-theory.html
Is Your Mouth micro biome more important then your gut? https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/is-your-mouth-microbiome-more-important-than-your-gut
https://shop.restore4life.com RESTORE is a soil-derived, scientifically-backed mineral supplement that has been shown in lab studies to strengthen tight junctions in the gut wall, our firewall against toxins entering the body.
https://motherdirt.com Good bacteria for great skin.
Microbiome test: https://www.viome.com
Dirt! The movie. 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8_dN5YWnyc
Symphony of the Soil. 2013. http://www.symphonyofthesoil.com
Ted Talk: Meet Your Microbes
Ted Talk: How our Microbes make us who we are