Looking at old things, what is older than dirt? This partially ties in with the Hunter-Gatherer thing, but I’ve discovered a new term that I found completely fascinating. Today we will look at not only the benefits of playing in the dirt (and the demise of the squeaky clean), but on eating dirt? Let’s begin by discussing playing the dirt. You hear it all the time, I remember back when stories of playing and rolling around in the dirt out back. Well, now is the time of technology and sanitation wipes. Kids have to wash their hands after petting a cat or because of the tiniest speck of dirt. They spend their time in air-conditioned houses playing video games and such, vegging out in front of their tv and computer screens. They’re much too fragile to go outside and can’t be bothered by getting a little dirt on their clothes. Not only does this behavior seem detrimental to their waistlines, but is it also bad for their health and immune systems? Can you be too clean? It’s seeming like the answer to this could be yes. Exposure (especially early in life) to microbes in soil helps tots to develop strong, disease resistant immune system. They’re better able to build up defences against bacteria. A lack of exposure is actually, probably responsible for increased rates of asthma, eczema, and allergies (along with poor nutrition). I liked the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’, that claims are technological little monsters aren’t getting enough time outdoors, causing a link to disorders depression, and obesity. What happened to rambunctious happy little children running around outside. It turns out this ‘happy’ part isn’t just a coincidence. Mycobacterium Vaccae, found in dirt, actually causes the release of serotonin (you know that feel good neurotransmitter of the brain). Ever had a euphoric feeling after toiling in the garden for a bit. Isn’t it curious that children are drawn to dirt from a young age? I like the quote by Thoreau ‘I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.’ Meaning that we instinctual know what is right for our true selves before we are molded into traditional thinking (like mud is icky for example and we need to wash our hands and ‘don’t stick that in your mouth’). Kids who play outside tend to laugh more, which also has its own benefits like lowered blood pressure and lower stress levels. They have a chance to develop a sense of adventure and exploration. So why does dirt get such a bad wrap? Clearly dirt can make not only for healthy immune children, but HAPPY children as well. Let your kids outside and hell join them (play is a key component of wellness as well)!
Now the next portion of this post is a little odd, but like I said I found it enthralling. Geophagy has actually been a part of human existance for thousands of years, and is actually practiced by an array of mammals. The first written records of geophagy was 2000 years ago by Hippocrates. It has been seen on every continent in almost every country. I was surprised to find that the Southern US was actually one of the most popular locations for the practice. Of course this made sense once I learned that it is also common in Africa, where pregnant mothers often buy clay in open-air markets, store them in belt-like cloth around their waist and take them out to nibble when they please. Slaves from Africa brought the tradition over, hence the Southern custom of clay eating. I read countless accounts of people, who remember being raised on it and their parents and grandparents preferred cooking methods (like frying), eliciting childhood memories. So why eat dirt? The common belief is for protection, which is demonstrated by the prevalence of pregnant women indulging in clay and pre-adolescents, who are the most common consumers of dirt. With the kids we’ve already seen above that eating dirt can help by exposing them to millions of bacteria, viruses and worms that allow their immune system to develop. Pregnant women often consume it for nutritional needs. Different clays provide them with an assortment of minerals, essential during their baby carrying phase. Craving for varied nutritional intake (20% more nutrients while pregnant and 50% during lactation) are figured out by geophagy. It’s also been said to decrease nausea and aid digestion, which would again be practical for a pregnant woman. Like I’ve already pointed out, those that participate in geophagy can eat it fresh (after digging down and not eating the top layer, as today untouched land is rare and here in the US factories and farms are tarnished the land), but it can also be baked into nuggets for munching later. All-in-all I think it’s pretty interesting. Am I recommend we go in our back yard and dig up some dirt for lunch. No, but it is part of our ancestral and developmental past (but if you can find safe clay, I don’t think it could hurt). I do suggest both you and your children play in the dirt though. For more on our fat-burner weight-loss programs check out our website at bodychange.net.