When we were little, my brother and I spent many summer days outdoors from right after breakfast until dinner time. For the most part, we were left to our own devices and we spent much of that time playing in the dirt. With dirt we made mud. Mud was body paint. It was dough for pies, clay for forts and snow for snowballs. What we didn’t realize then, was that we were reaping so many benefits by playing in it. Although, looking back, maybe that’s why we did; maybe we innately knew!
First and foremost, dirt supports the immune system. Dirt contains soil-based organisms. These are good bacteria that are beneficial for our gut. In fact, anyone can actually purchase soil based probiotics to take internally. These organisms “help regulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, break down our food for us, assist us with detoxification, and even bring out the best in us by influencing our genetic expression”(Mommypotamus). Interestingly, “Research shows that children who grow up on farms are less likely to have problems like allergies and asthma, not because there is more bacteria on farms but because the biodiversity of the bacteria in the soil they’re exposed to is tremendous” (Steafel).
Dirt is grounding and balancing. Some of the best therapy happens when bare hands and/or feet are in direct contact with the earth, be it gardening, walking barefoot, playing, etc. For starters, the interaction with nature provides a calming multi-sensory experience. In fact, doctors in the UK have actually prescribed time in dirt as therapy for depression. “A 2010 study done by Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, found that a bacterium naturally found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, can accelerate learning and brighten moods by stimulating neuron growth and raising serotonin levels. Said Dorothy Matthews, who headed the research, to Mother Nature Network: "We found that mice that were fed live M. vaccae navigated the maze twice as fast and with less demonstrated anxiety behaviors as control mice”(Lee). There’s much more to dirt and mud than we ever stop to think about. The earth has it’s own natural charge and the relationship between our bodies and the earth’s electrons provides many health benefits right along with the soil-based organisms. “Your immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by barefoot contact with the Earth”(Mercola). According to Dr. Isaac Eliaz, “Walking barefoot, also known as "earthing," has gone from being a kooky counter-culture trend, to a scientifically-researched practice with a number of remarkable health advantages, such as increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and improving sleep”(Eliaz).
Dirt is great for the skin. The most obvious use for dirt when it comes to the skin is through mud masks or mud baths. People have been benefiting from these practices for thousands of years and much money has been made selling mud for these purposes. This is due to the many beneficial minerals found in mud. Of course, these minerals vary depending on the origin of the mud. In general, mud is used on the skin to detoxify as it draws out impurities and to tighten the skin. There are actually may how to articles for making your own mud masks online.
So… Get to it! Now that it’s the middle of summer, it’s the perfect time to add some water to a pile of dirt in the yard in efforts to show the kids how to make mud pies… health benefits and fun in one!