Good clean dirt

“Good clean dirt” that is how Willie the farmer whom I spent most of my summer’s working with described it.

I am not so sure I appreciated his philosophical outlook at the time, who as a young teenage boy was seeing a little too much dirt and not enough fun for my liking.
It seems though, these days that sticking your hands into a pile of soil is considered as sensible as keeping a pet tiger and this as it turns out couldn’t be further from the truth.
There has been a proven link between a bacterium found in soil and increased serotonin levels in our brain which are responsible for lifting our mood.

There is so much going on under our feet in this top few inches of earth that we never ever contemplate and yet all life and all our food is completely dependent on it. Heathy soil produces healthy food, and as soil is a living entity teeming with billions of bacteria and fungi it is profoundly and adversely affected by chemicals.

I often think it is remarkable how the diversity of nature is mirrored in our body, a healthy gut biome is no less alive than soil. A healthy gut is teeming with life and it is in part this biome that keeps disease at bay and helps us stay healthy.

No more than the microorganisms in the soil, those in our gut do not respond well to chemicals. When we eat food coated in chemicals or consume ultra-processed food, we hurt the good gut bacteria.

Our health is the most valuable commodity we possess, and most of us would trade anything to get back to good heath when serious illness threatens. How we treat our bodes now as a matter of routine will to a large extent determine our future health.
Is it possible to be fit and healthy in our 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond? Of course, it is the natural state of the body, but it cannot be taken for granted that we will live to enjoy health in our later years unless we work at it now and it seems that what we put into our gut has a large role to play in this.

The bacteria in our gut have a myriad of roles and amazingly there is now evidence that points to their part in staving off anxiety and depression. To a large extent the foods we eat determine the health of our gut biome, eating foods that are organic, are high in fibre, are fresh and low in sugar all contribute to a healthy gut.

A healthy vibrant and living soil requires organic matter, and a diverse array of nutrients. Conventional farming treats soil as a chemical equation to be balanced, this is short sighted, a more holistic approach which nurtures the living soil biome produces better food and ironically it turns out that this better food in turn nurtures our own internal biome.

So, it seems that Willie’s philosophy held true. It seems that ‘Good clean dirt’ has on many levels a large part to play in all our well-being.