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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Why We Need Exposure To Germs. Dirt is Good.

Updated: Jan 26

Forget bubble wrap and sterile playgrounds – our bodies crave a good dose of dirt! Sure, soil and its bacterial buddies might seem like enemies in the hygiene wars, but science begs to differ. Exposure to these earthy critters actually plays a crucial role in building a robust immune system and keeping us healthy, both physically and mentally.

Imagine your gut as a bustling metropolis, teeming with microbes. These tiny residents, both good and bad, constantly interact, influencing everything from digestion to mood. Now, think of soil as a training ground for your gut's army – a boot camp where diverse bacterial troops are recruited and drilled. By playing in the mud, gardening with bare hands, or even just breathing in forest air, we introduce a kaleidoscope of these beneficial "germs" to our internal ecosystem. These newcomers challenge our immune system, teaching it to recognize and respond to different threats, making us less susceptible to future infections. It's like a vaccine party hosted by Mother Nature!

But the benefits go beyond just fighting off the sniffles. Studies have shown that exposure to soil bacteria can reduce the risk of allergies, asthma, and even autoimmune diseases. These friendly microbes help regulate our immune system, preventing it from overreacting to harmless triggers. They can also act like tiny alchemists, producing essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies can't make on their own.

And it's not just our physical health that gets a boost from dirt. Spending time in nature, surrounded by soil and its bacterial buddies, has been shown to improve mental well-being. Studies have linked it to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, and even increased cognitive function. It seems these earthy friends have a knack for calming our minds and lifting our spirits!

So, the next time you're tempted to shield yourself from the "dangers" of nature, remember – a little dirt is good for the soul! Let your kids dig in the garden, take a barefoot stroll through the forest, or get your hands dirty while planting some herbs. Embrace the friendly bacteria, build a stronger immune system, and reap the mental and physical rewards of a healthy dose of Mother Earth. Your body (and mind) will thank you for it!

Yes, soil exposure can be good for kids. Exposure to dirt can help to improve their gut health, reduce stress, boost their immune system, and help them to connect with nature.

However, it is important to note that not all dirt is created equal. Some dirt may contain harmful bacteria or chemicals, so it is important to take precautions when gardening or playing in the dirt. It is also important to wash your hands thoroughly after being exposed to dirt.

Here are some tips for safe soil exposure for kids:

  • Choose a safe place to play in the dirt. Avoid playing in dirt that is near roads, parking lots, or other areas where there may be pollution.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after playing in the dirt.

  • Don't eat dirt or anything that has been in the dirt.

  • If you have any concerns about soil exposure, talk to your doctor.

  • Dirt. Who would have thought that dirt and soil have the potential to make us more resilient against anxiety and stress? Imagine all the wonderful ways kids can have fun in the mud. Parents can join in the fun with a family garden. Dirt is nature’s supply for dirty, healthy fun. Some parents are over-sterilizing their environment, keeping their kiddos from ever playing in dirt or garden soil. The Garden can be a 10-acre farm, or a small, container garden with 2 tomato plants, herbs, and a sprinkle of kale, it's all good. Choose what works best for you and your family.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that exposure to environmental microbes may be good for people. These microbes, which are found in soil, water, and the air, can help to train our immune system and protect us from infection. Additionally, they may play a role in the development of our gut microbiome, which is a community of bacteria that live in our intestines and play an important role in our overall health.

One study, published in the journal Nature, found that children who grew up on farms had a lower risk of developing allergies and asthma than children who did not grow up on farms. The researchers believe that this is because children who grow up on farms are exposed to a wider variety of environmental microbes, which helps to train their immune system and make them less likely to react to these microbes in the future.

Another study, published in the journal PNAS, found that mice that were exposed to environmental microbes had a lower risk of developing obesity and diabetes. The researchers believe that this is because the microbes help to regulate the body's metabolism.

Of course, it is important to note that not all exposure to environmental microbes is good for us. Some microbes can cause disease, so it is important to take precautions to avoid exposure to harmful microbes. However, the evidence suggests that that most exposure to environmental microbes is harmless and may even be beneficial.

There are a few reasons why exposure to dirt is good for us.

First, dirt contains beneficial bacteria that can help to improve our gut health. Our gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, and these bacteria play an important role in our overall health. They help to digest food, produce vitamins, and protect us from infection. When we are exposed to dirt, we are exposed to these beneficial bacteria, which can help to improve our gut health.

Second, dirt can help to reduce stress. When we spend time outdoors, we are exposed to natural sunlight and fresh air. These things can help to reduce stress and improve our mood. Additionally, the act of gardening can be a mindful activity, which can help us to focus on the present moment and to let go of negative thoughts and emotions.

Third, dirt can help to boost our immune system. When we are exposed to dirt, we are exposed to a variety of microbes. These microbes can help to train our immune system and to make us more resistant to infection. Additionally, the act of gardening can be a form of exercise, which can also help to boost our immune system.

Finally, dirt can help us to connect with nature. When we spend time outdoors, we are reminded of our place in the natural world. This can help us to feel more connected to something larger than ourselves and to find peace and tranquility.

Of course, it is important to note that not all dirt is created equal. Some dirt may contain harmful bacteria or chemicals, so it is important to take precautions when gardening or playing in the dirt. It is also important to wash your hands thoroughly after being exposed to dirt.

Kids like playing in dirt for many reasons.

  • It's a sensory experience. Dirt is a tactile experience that allows kids to use their senses of touch, sight, smell, and hearing. They can feel the dirt between their fingers, see the different colors and textures, smell the earthy scent, and hear the sound of the dirt moving around.

  • It's a creative outlet. Kids can use dirt to build things, make art, and explore their imagination. They can create mud pies, build forts, and make tracks in the mud.

  • It's a way to connect with nature. Dirt is a part of the natural world, and kids can learn about plants and animals by playing in the dirt. They can see how plants grow, find bugs and worms, and learn about the different types of dirt.

  • It's a way to get exercise. Playing in the dirt can be a great way for kids to get exercise. They can run, jump, and climb while they're playing.

  • It's fun! Kids just plain enjoy playing in the dirt. It's a messy and unstructured activity that allows them to be creative and explore their surroundings.

There are many reasons why it is good to teach kids where food comes from. Here are a few:

  • It helps them to appreciate food more. When kids know that food doesn't just magically appear in the grocery store, they are more likely to appreciate the hard work that goes into growing and harvesting it. They are also more likely to make healthy food choices, as they will understand the importance of eating fresh, whole foods.

  • It helps them to connect with nature. When kids learn about where their food comes from, they are also learning about the natural world. They learn about the plants and animals that are involved in food production, and they see how our food system is connected to the environment.

  • It helps them to develop a sense of responsibility. When kids are involved in growing or harvesting food, they learn about the responsibility of caring for living things. They also learn about the importance of making choices that are good for the environment.

  • It can be a fun and educational activity. There are many ways to teach kids about where food comes from, and it can be a fun and educational activity for the whole family. You can visit a farm, start a garden, or even just talk about where your food comes from at the grocery store.

Overall, there are many benefits to teaching kids where food comes from. It can help them to appreciate food more, connect with nature, develop a sense of responsibility, and have fun learning about the world around them.

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Rowan, Harvesting Potatoes

At the GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana, there is so much dirt. Dirt on our hands, between our toes, under our fingernails, and in the blood on my leg. "Dirt - or rather soil - is good for us.” says Jere Folgert. “There is a kind of bacteria found in soil (mycobacterium vaccae) that stimulates areas of the brain which produce the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Harvesting a carrot or raw garlic, and eating trace amounts of soil, seems to help us cope with stress in our lives. Getting dirty by gardening has been shown to have a positive impact on mood and brain chemistry. Gardening has also been shown to reduce depression and improve mood.

Recent work in humans and mice highlights how exposure to environmental microbes helps protect against allergies and other inflammatory diseases. People living along the border between Finland and Russia are yielding valuable data that could shed light on people’s relationship with nature—particularly when it comes to the link between environmental exposure and immune health. During the Second World War, Finland ceded a large swath of territory to the Soviet Union. In the second half of the 20th century, the Finnish side became modernized, while people on the Soviet side maintained a traditional lifestyle. And by the 21st century, according to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Helsinki, the prevalence of allergies on Finland’s side of the border region known as Karelia was significantly higher than that of people living on the Russian side. The group suspected that the differences in allergy incidence between the two sides of the Finnish-Russian border might have something to do with exposure to environmental microbes. The late ecologist Ilkka Hanski of the University of Helsinki along with Helsinki University Central Hospital researchers Tari Haahtela and Leena von Hertzen had recently formalized the biodiversity hypothesis, arguing that the total biodiversity—and correspondingly, microbial diversity—of people’s living environments influences human health via changes to the composition of the microbiome. Read more here.

Gardening – whether you’re growing garlic, or pulling weeds, appears to be helpful in calming the nervous system. Even if you live in a big city, you can create a beautiful and productive garden. Plant seeds and tiny seedlings, water them, prune them, harvest them, and transplant them as needed. It will change your life. Dirt is your friend. If you pay attention, you will learn from the plants you grow and each of them will whisper to you: "Hey, do you want to learn more about me?" Before long, you will be an expert in growing kale, potatoes, garlic, and peas, and you'll share recipes with your friends and family.

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Rowan and Seneca with their Potato Harvest

Is it possible that dirt could make you happier and smarter too? If you need yet another good reason to convince yourself or your kids to go outside and get your hands in the dirt, read this:

"The health benefits of “dirt” include a stronger immune system, fewer allergies, better digestion, less heart disease, better stress management and a natural anti-depressant agent. The fabulous microbes in dirt and direct contact with soil has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning”. - Dirt on Dirt

Science Daily reports that "exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior." The new research was presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

"Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breathe in when they spend time in nature," says Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, who conducted the research with her colleague Susan Jenks. Science Daily


Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

GroEat Garlic Farm

Fine Hardneck Garlic for Culinary and Seed

P.O. Box 6056

Bozeman, Mt 59771

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