For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the shorter days and cooler weather can cause some doldrums. But recent research on a bacteria in the soil called mycobacterium vaccae found that this bacteria affected neurons in a way similar to Prozac because it stimulates seratonin. Seratonin makes you feel more relaxed and happier and lack of seratonin has been linked to depression and anxiety. So, the good news is dirt (or really healthy soil) can make you happy. Mycobacterium vaccae is also being investigated for improving cognitive function, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
The treatment happens as you work with the soil because you inhale the bacteria or have physical contact with it through touching the soil. While the effects of that contact can last up to 3 weeks, it doesn’t hurt to be more in contact with the soil more often. A clod a day keeps the doctor away.
Of course the connection between gut microbes and human health is becoming more well-known and more people are now understanding the importance of microbes in the soil for human health as well, as noted in an article on the Atlantic website. This article discusses the new understanding that human bodies are “superorganisms” made up of many different microbes that outnumber our human cells by 10 to 1. Other people suggest we should think of ourselves as a cruise ship for microbes. Ironically the total weight of all these organisms is the same weight as the average human brain–3 pounds.
While such conversations can be disconcerting for the fastidious, there is no doubt that human health is very much controlled by the microbes in the soil and in our bodies. As there is more focus on biological farming and ranching that focuses on creating biologically active soil, there is more awareness that food grown on that type of soil is more nutrient dense and better feeds the microbes in our guts or the grazing animals that are part of the food chain. This type of soil is much more resilient to weather challenges such as floods and droughts as well.
To learn more about how Holistic Management improves soil health, visit our Soil and Conservation page.
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