Today, the majority of us have access to a highly sanitized food supply and, relatively speaking, very clean homes. And while this certainly has its benefits, unbeknownst to most people, our strong fear of germs is actually making us sicker than ever in some ways. In generations past, people were much more exposed to dirt—backyard vegetable gardening was the norm, many worked farm-based jobs with regular exposure to animals and the outdoors, and children played outside more. Today, our lives paint a different picture.
Why would we want to make eating dirt a priority? When I refer to dirt, what I'm really talking about are "soil-based organisms" (SBOs for short). These include bacteria, yeast, fungi, and other microbes that interact with our bodies in many ways. These interactions especially impact the immune system, which is mostly housed inside the gut where billions of bacteria live.
Consuming more SBOs from organic, natural foods helps reduce dozens of different symptoms and health conditions, including: inflammation, allergies, leaky gut syndrome, deficiencies, autoimmune disorders, and much more. According to an article published in Scientific American, soil-based organisms help break down nutrients in the digestive system, allow us to synthesize or produce vitamins and turn up immunity by combatting harmful pathogens.
Don't worry—you don't have to actually eat dirt by the spoonful to get more healthy microbes into your body. You can increase your intake of beneficial soil-based organisms by making the following changes:
1. Head To The Farmer’s Market
If you aren't growing any of your own food at home in a garden, the next best thing is to eat food grown locally and organically in your area. Eating fresh foods that are as close to nature as possible, especially if they were grown nearby, is probably the best and easiest way to obtain more SBOs.
Root veggies like carrots, potatoes, rutabaga and turnips grow underground and are loaded with healthy microbes.
2. Wash Your Produce — Lightly
Once you get your fresh fruits and veggies home, avoid the temptation to scrub them silly or use produce wash solutions. These foods contain tons of valuable microbes that you wouldn't want to wash down the drain.
Give your produce a quick rinse under water and leave the peels or skin on, which is enough to give you a little dose of dirt. That's how your great-grandma likely enjoyed her veggies!
3. Eat More Sour Foods
Probiotics are gaining a good reputation as a way to boost just about every aspect of health—and with good reason. These fermented foods (or supplements if you choose to go that route) increase the amount of “good bacteria” living in your gut. This promotes stronger immunity, digestion, and even cognitive health.
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association even showed that certain probiotic foods help alleviate certain food allergies. Kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and real fermented sauerkraut are available in many grocery and health food stores. If you’re willing, you can even try making these yourself at home.
4. Look For Local, Raw Honey
According to a report published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, raw honey is one of the oldest medicinal supplements on earth, dating back thousands of years to the "origins of mankind." Do you suffer from seasonal allergies during the spring or fall? Then include local raw honey and bee pollen in your diet and see what an improvement these two can make.
Honey and bee pollen contain a multitude of enzymes, probiotics, and nutrients possessing strong antibacterial, anti-allergenic, and anti-inflammatory effects—so much so that studies show the majority of people who use these products tend to experience far less allergy symptoms.
5. Consider Getting a Pet
Pets are good for more than cuddling—they also tend to bring microbes into the home via bits of dirt from the outdoors. This is actually a good thing, because it increases exposure to bacteria and fungi, allowing the immune system adapt and strengthen.
Certain studies even found that children living in households with pets go on to experience fewer allergies later in life due to having more sensitized immune systems.
6. Play Outdoors!
Spending time in nature brings many science-backed health benefits to the table. These include increased longevity, stronger immunity, fewer seasonal allergies, and a lower risk for depression. Today, we spend more of our time working indoors, watching TV, surfing online, and exercising inside gyms—but this comes with a high price.
Spend more time outside to start exposing yourself to more microbes you need. Swimming in nearby lakes or oceans, soaking up healthy sunshine, and coming into direct contact with the earth's surface—called 'earthing'—are all exercises for our immune systems. Make it a point to head outdoors every day, even if just for a few minutes to take a walk. Ideally, allow more of your skin to be directly exposed to the elements—the sun, grass, water, and dirt—for the best results.