Mudpies and Dirt Baths
You know the saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” well, the Northeast has showered a great deal, and it is still early in the month. As it has been cold and overcast before, during and after those rains it makes a person want to whinge. Our area suffered a drought last year, not to CA proportions, but a drought none-the-less. Each winter snowfall, even through March, and each April shower brings us back from that dryness. Some parts of the Northeast say that instead of spring they have mud season. I ask you, what is wrong with mud?
For those of us who like a clean house and fresh laundry but hate housework, mud is not so fun. When it dries, ugh! Children and those young-at-heart folks will disagree. Mud is fun. It is squishy, gushy and can act like modeling clay. Jumping in it gives a very satisfying squelch. Worms, bugs and animals leave prints to be discovered. Mud can be used as paint. Mud can act as glue to make little animal and fairy shelters. Mud is for play. Mud is also healthful.
Mud is simply reconstituted dirt. Elephants, pigs, and birds are amongst many creatures that bathe in either mud or dirt for sunscreen or bug removal. Animals often consume bits of dirt as they eat, especially four-legged animals. Not only are they consuming the nutrients that the plants provide but they are also consuming billions of soil bacteria that will benefit their guts. Humans can also benefit from these bacteria.
Three years ago, Dr. Charis Lindrooth, D.C. spoke at the Northeast Herbal Association retreat. Her talk was entitled “Bugged! A Little Dirt Doesn’t Hurt.” Dr. Lindrooth told us that we have three pounds of gut microbes within our bodies. She said that in order for us to have a healthy and well- functioning gut, we need to encourage “good” bacterial flora to thrive in our acidic guts and not “bad” bacterial flora in alkaline guts. How to do this? Eat organic vegetables and fruits from the earth such as root vegetables or strawberries. Eat right from the garden or gently rinse the food before eating. A little dirt really won’t hurt you. [As a reminder, root vegetables and fruits soak up water and nutrients from the ground they rest in or on. If poisons are used, they soak those up too and we end up consuming the poisons.]
The helpful microbes in our guts provide our bodies with genomes that our body borrows to aid in a variety of functions, such as breaking down and assimilating nutrients from plant matter. When our guts are healthy, our body digests better, we are sick less often, and our brains function more fully. How does our gut microbiota get out of balance? Poor eating habits (high in sugar and low in vegetables), antibiotics (these do not discriminate between helpful and unhelpful microbiota), stress, and more. We can improve our bodies by eating more fruits and vegetables and small portions of meat and fish. Save sugar for a special occasion.
There will be occasions when antibiotics are very necessary. Improve your guts’ ability to handle them by making pre-and probiotics, fermented foods, and dark leafy greens a part of your daily life before, during, and after you need those medicines.
Stress is a difficult one. How we handle situations and the stress that comes with them is an individual thing. Some read with a soothing cup of herbal tea, others work out or do yoga, some seek counsel, and others (like me) take a walk outside. There are people who pay over $100 for a mud wrap. You can create your own for free and have fun doing it. However you choose to de-stress, it is important that you don’t ignore it.
We have had plenty of rain, but today is sunny. I am headed outside to greet the newly emerging plants and to put my hands in the dirt. I will smile at the mud under my nails. I will breathe in the scent of the fertile earth. I will pick and eat some chickweed straight from the garden. And I will be happy knowing that May flowers are on their way and that I am caring for my body. I hope you will go out and play too.
For further study please see the following:
“Honor Thy Symbionts” by Jeffrey Gordon and Jian Xu
Bloom: Reconnecting With Your Primal Gut in a Modern World by Jeff Leach