We Need to Eat More Dirt

I gagged when I first tried out this Blog title. But, before you stop reading, let’s satisfy all our curiosities.

In 1916, in Finland, some scientists decided to advance the science behind the hypothesis in this statement. Here’s what they did.

They arranged for 3 groups of daycare children, selected so there were uniform profiles across all the groups, across various possible influencing factors such as diet, family pets and time spent outdoors. One group had concrete playground access, another had an ‘imported’ forest floor, and the third was already located ‘in the woods.’

After 4 weeks, the children’s arms were tested along with their blood samples. They found that children playing in the newly forested spaces had more diverse communities of friendly bacteria living on their skin. The children also had a higher ratio of inflammatory-dampening molecules to pro-inflammatory ones. Skin and blood samples from children in the imported forest playground looked much more like the positive control group, who played at daycares in the woods.

So, what is the critical question to ask?

Is it possible to improve children’s immune systems to a well-balanced state by greening up the environment around them?

As with any study, it is never reality, for reality is very hard and expensive to study, for by just studying it, we can become part of a new reality.

Let’s call this study a good start. As an aside, The Finnish towns where this research took place have allocated funding to get forest floors and other natural elements like vegetable gardens into places where kids will regularly use them.

Please give this a bit of a think. I remember my Mom telling me that everyone needs to eat a pound of dirt before they die. That is too extreme, even for me, but the broad point might have some truth for a long and healthy life. To confound my own bit of a think, my Mom lived to be 99 years old.

Do we live in too sterile an environment? How many sanitizing wipes are too much? Should we encourage our society to have more access to gardens? Should some healthcare funding be used to pilot a longitudinal study?

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.

Photo by K F on Unsplash

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And my thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association: 780-459-0433 for making this Blog possible.

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