Confession: I usually let my kids pick up and eat the food that they've dropped on the ground. But that's not all. Not only do I let them eat it, I actually believe it can be beneficial to their health (gasp!).
I can't tell you the number of times that well-meaning moms have tried to come to one of my kids rescue as they see him or her reaching down for food that he has dropped. They kindly stop my child saying something along the lines of, "Oh no, you don't want to eat that. It has germs on it now." I know they are trying to be helpful, thinking that I just haven't noticed that my child is about to put something dirty in his mouth (or perhaps they chalk it up to 5th child syndrome-you know, that by the 5th child, I'm just past the point of caring about germs--which actually could be applied to many other scenarios). So I just smile politely and say thank you...because I typically don't think that a play date at the park is the time to go into all the reasons why I actually want my kids "eating" dirt (nor do I necessarily want to be labeled as "that" crazy mom).
But now that you think I'm crazy anyway, I may as well also tell you that my two youngest children have a habit of literally eating handfuls of dirt in our backyard on a regular basis. And, although I admit that I find this slightly strange, I don't make any attempts to stop them. 😳🙊
So why in the world do I allow my kids to eat this "germ-infested" dirt? It's for the same reasons that I let them run around barefoot outside and for the same reasons that I don't wash the (organic) produce that I pick up each week at the local farmer's market.
Our Bodies Need Dirt
Our bodies NEED these microexposures to the bacteria in dirt, soil, plant oils, etc. In fact, science has actually caught on to the fact that dirt is, indeed, a superfood! Soil-based organisms (SBOs) are the king of probiotics, and our lack of exposure to them because of our oversanitized culture and obsession with disinfecting everything has done extreme damage to our guts, and in turn, extreme damage to our health.
According to Dr. Josh Axe in his book, Eat Dirt,
"When these tiny microorganisms enter our bodies, they support gut health and immune response, and help us live long, healthy lives. In the plant world, soil-based organisms protect vegetation from disease and help plants grow to their fullest potential. Without the protection of SBOs--plant life's first line of defense--healthy vegetation becomes susceptible to unfriendly bacteria like fungi, yeasts, molds, parasites, and other pathogens in the dirt.
Inside your gut, SBOs devote themselves to killing off the harmful bacteria that would otherwise make you sick. Every time you eat and send food to the digestive tract, they pull nutrients out of your food and make your entire digestive system work the way it should by breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and nutrients into smaller pieces so that they can be completely absorbed into the bloodstream and used by the body.
Since most people are living and working in dirt-free urban settings or suburbs, it's vital to make sure we actively seek out contact with SBOs. Unfortunately, most of our food supply does not contain dietary SBOs, with the exception of food from farmer's markets, where we can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables still coated with soil from the ground."
He also states,
"Just as plants grow best in healthy soil teeming with highly active microorganisms, you, too, need these organisms to live a long, healthy life. More than eight hundred studies exist in the scientific literature that reference soil-based organisms. Their common denominator is that they link SBOs to successfully treating a wide variety of health conditions, including:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- ulcerative colitis
- nutrient deficiency
- autoimmune disease
- inflammatory disease
- bacterial, viral, and fungal infections "
In an effort to sanitize everything in our modern culture, we have made the disease-promoting mistake of over sanitizing everything. We have created "superbugs" that are resistant to antibiotics and have disrupted the balance of microorganisms in our bodies essential to our health. We need to get dirty enough and, yes, actually consume enough dirt to allow microbes to do their work.
Since most of us won't be serving up mud pies for dinner anytime soon though, we need to seek out this beneficial bacteria in other ways.
Probiotics that include soil-based strains are very difficult to find. Unlike the bacterial strains found in most probiotic supplements, however, most of the beneficial bacterial strains found in soil thrive in our gut environment. They can survive stomach acid and heat, and research shows that soil-based probiotics can help to break down our food, assist with detoxification, regulate the immune system, and reduce inflammation.
The Silver Fern probiotic is the first probiotic to contain three separate CLASSES of probiotics, including strains that are soil-based. Their probiotic also has 100% guaranteed survivability, meaning they will actually reach your intestines alive (the vast majority of probiotic supplements do not), and it also contains priebiotcs to help activate the probiotic bacteria in the intestines.
Reduce Toxic Load
We also need to start thinking more about what we touch and come into contact with. In an attempt to disinfect our lives from "dirt", our homes have become filled with a slew of toxic chemicals in our cleaning and personal care products. Everything we come into contact with is absorbed through our pores and into our bloodstream, and toxin overload from all our bleach, disinfectants, cleaners, etc. is another one of the main causes of an unhealthy ("leaky") gut.
So, how do we solve this problem?
Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds extracted directly from various parts of plants and trees. They have amazing antibacterial and antifungal benefits that are thoroughly studied and well documented, but that do not create antibiotic resistant bugs or negative side effects. They can not only replace toxic cleaners and products, but can also boost the immune system, relieve stress, aid in digestion, help with insomnia and so much more. They have the ability to replace many harmful over-the-counter and prescription drugs that are also wreaking havoc on our guts and bodies.
And, in addition to taking a soil-based probiotic and reducing our toxic load, we need to remember that good bacteria abounds in nature. We have to make an effort to add this "dirt" into our lives regularly in order to boost our immune systems and populate our guts with good bacteria. Spend more time outdoors and get our hands dirty in our gardens, seek out local foods from our farmers markets, consume organic, high-quality medicinal mushrooms, and adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, and eat foods that are full of beneficial bacteria and have not been pasteurized and sterilized.
As Dr. Axe says,
"Simply put: We need to eat dirt. We can reverse many of our missteps, heal our gut, and recover from many of these diseases by making more basic and bacteria-rich choices in what we eat and how we live. And just by living that simpler way of life, with all of those daily microexposures to nature in all its dirty, microbial bounty, we will finally be able to repopulate the gut with those old friends that bring balance and help restore our radiant health."