The Not-So-Dirty Truth About Dirt
“Stop! You’re getting grass stains all over your pants!”
“Dear, please get that mud off your hands!”
“What are you doing?! No, you can’t eat mud pies!”
How many children have heard these words? From an early age, we are trained to be clean, learning to destroy dirt and microbes with an arsenal of various chemical soaps, wipes, and anti-bacterial sanitizers to make our living conditions as sterile as possible. We try to banish signs of dirt at all costs in westernized culture, making that dirt caked underneath your fingernails after gardening taboo. Have we really become that detached from the ground beneath our feet; the life-giving earth that sustains our very existence? Theoretically, by keeping clean, a person was once able to give the appearance of a being of a higher social standing (think lords vs. peasants during medieval times). Ironically, in our modern age of science, we have realized that dirt harbors many benefits, so our normally pristine well-off pay hundreds of dollars to lay on a sterile, white table and have their body smothered in only the finest exotic mud. Yep, plain ol’ microbial mud. Luckily, you don’t have to pay hundreds to smear mud all over your body.
Are you curious as to why anyone would smother themselves in mud? Here are some of mud’s not-so-dirty secrets…
Strengthen the immune system. Playing in dirt and being exposed to the millions of tiny microbes that thrive in it can actually boost the immune system – especially a child’s. Humans that live in a sterile environment are less able to combat harmful bacteria when they come across it, due to seclusion from any bacteria. Why? Well, our gut is filled with pounds of microbes that carry intrinsic value in helping our bodies function smoothly. If you are unfamiliar with the workings of your little gut hitchhikers, this article provides good context in relation to weight loss. Your health relies on the presence of microbes more than you would think. Immune-wise, being exposed to these microbes actually allows the body to build up anti-bodies to the harmful ones, while reaping countless benefits from the good ones. Children, and even adults, who are too clean are actually at a greater risk for developing allergies, asthma, and other auto-immune diseases.
Boost happiness. Mycobacterium vaccae, a soil-dwelling bacteria, was shown to increase the brain’s production of serotonin, as much as exercise and anti-depressants, according to a study by Bristol University. Plus, it’s just plain fun to play in the dirt, young or old!
Detox the body. Certain clays, when ingested, can actually pull toxins out from the body. Many animals practice geophagy after eating highly toxic plants, which is the act of eating clay or soil as self-medication. These healing clays, being negatively-charged, magnetically draw in the toxins, which are almost always positively-charged. The clay is then excreted, with all of the toxins bound up in its swelled, sponge-like interior. Need a real-world example? Here are some of the benefits of clay. Also, check out this study involving Peruvian parrots, their toxic diets, and geophagy. Clay is also great for the skin, minimizing the size of and drawing impurities from pores. Try a mask of equal parts calcium bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar for 15-20 minutes to cleanse and soothe the skin.
Some dirty activities include hiking, gardening, yard work, camping, or whatever else you can think of. Mankind has been rolling in and eating dirt for thousands of years. There are many healthy cultures that benefit from a close connection to dirt to this day. So what are you waiting for? Get outside and go get dirty!