Digestive Health 102: The Healthy Soil/Gut Bacteria Connection

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Throughout history, we’ve seen civilizations rise and fall based on how they treated dirt.” ~Jamie Lee Curtis, narrator of Dirt! The Movie

Does the farmer who produces your food treat the soil like dirt, or like the living, breathing “skin” that our planet will depend upon for future generations? That’s how the soil was described in the eye opening documentary.

When I was a child, I played in the dirt constantly. It was just a part of growing up. I had no idea, though, that healthy, organic soil contains many different kinds of beneficial bacteria that our digestive systems need to fight off the “bad” bacteria that can make us sick.  It wasn’t just fun to play in the dirt, it was healthy too!

The photo above was taken at the beginning of planting season last year.  My daughter and I were planting parsley in the herb section of the organic farm we volunteer at. We have both spent a significant amount of time getting downright dirty at this farm.  It’s been the cleanest experience I’ve ever had getting dirty! No pesticides, chemicals, or man-made fertilizers are used here. Chickens are rotated around the crops instead, eating the weeds, bugs, and soil, and fertilizing it the way nature intended. Compost is used as well.  I wrote a bit about the chickens in my banana pancake recipe post.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s an amazing sight to see the insects and earthworms doing their work. Even the bees aren’t intimidating here, because they are busy transferring pollen from one plant to the next. Nature is alive and well here, as this farmer treats the living, breathing, microorganism rich soil with the respect it deserves.

To the left is a photo of a couple of volunteers weeding an area before planting. By mid summer, the peppers and tomatoes were ready to be harvested. Here’s a picture of the same area, but from a different angle:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Every year, different crops are planted in different areas, since rotation is better for the soil. Unfortunately, on many large, conventional farms, single crops are planted repeatedly over the same area, creating the need for increased use of pesticides to control crop specific pests.  Such monoculture based farming methods deplete and destroy the soil, and treat it like dirt. It’s a lose-lose situation for our people and our planet.

Have you seen the documentary, Dirt! The Movie? One of the many things  I learned from it is that over the last 100 years, we’ve lost 1/3 of the world’s topsoil. That’s a lot. Large scale, conventional farming methods are destroying the living, breathing soil that needs to be preserved for future generations.

Jamie Lee Curtis also points out that:

“Without healthy dirt, it’s difficult to survive extreme climate events like hurricanes, floods, wind storms and droughts.”

We all know how devastating storms have been during the past few years. They are not only occurring more frequently, but they are more intense as well. Many people still don’t believe that global warming is affecting the weather patterns, and even fewer know how crucial our preservation of the soil is in slowing it down.

The good news is that there are organic farmers out there, like the one in my local area, who go to great lengths to nourish the soil, rather than destroy it. Are you lucky enough to have one near you too? If not, the next best option is to seek out 100% organic products at your supermarket. Not all organic farming methods are exactly the same, but it’s an alternative to eating the high levels of chemicals that conventionally grown produce contains.

In Digestive Health 101: The Army Within, I started to explain the importance of eating pure, unprocessed food to feed the “good” gut bacteria that can keep the “bad” pathogens from making you sick. The healthier the soil your food is grown in, the healthier it is for your body and our planet. The following quote just about sums up the close relationship between soil and digestive health, and how conventional farming methods are putting our people and our planet at risk:

“Just as we unwittingly destroyed vital microbes in the human gut through overuse of antibiotics and highly processed foods, we have recklessly devastated soil microbiota essential to plant health though overuse of common fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, failure to add sufficient organic matter (upon which they feed), and heavy tillage. These soil microorganisms — particularly bacteria and fungi — cycle nutrients and water to plants, to our crops, the source of our food, and ultimately our health.”

~Mike Amaranthus & Bruce Allyn, authors of  the article entitled  “Healthy Soil Microbes, Healthy People,”  featured in The Atlantic,  found via @ChrisKresser

The article goes on to explain how researchers are exploring ways to repair the significant amount of damage conventional farming methods have done to soil, by reintroducing the right bacteria and fungi. Sounds like a step in the right direction, although few would argue that not depleting the soil in the first place would be the best bet.

All the more reason to get to know your farmer, and to choose 100% organic products and grass fed meat whenever you have the opportunity (no one can be perfect all the time).  They may cost more, but the way I look at it, I’d rather pay a hard working, environmentally conscious farmer than a prescription minded medical doctor!

Healthy Soil =  Nutrient Rich, Unprocessed Food = More “Good” Gut Bacteria = Better Digestive Health and Overall Wellness

Could it really be that simple?

While nutrition is an essential piece of any complicated health puzzle, it’s certainly not the only piece. If you really want to heal, you have to connect your own, unique set of diet and lifestyle dots, one bite and one step at a time. It all starts with taking a close look at the food on your plate.

Do you know a farmer who works hard to keep the soil healthy and pure? Or, do you have your own organic garden? If so, we’d love to hear all about it!

Please note that this post has been shared with the Party Wave Wednesday,  Real Food Wednesday, and Natural Living Monday blog hops, and the Thank your Body Thursday healthy living link-up.


About Dawn

As a Certified Health Coach, I provide motivated individuals with the resources, tools, support and encouragement they need to make the gradual changes in food and lifestyle that could completely transform their lives. Contact me.

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