“… for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Many of us in Western Christian countries have heard this phrase from Genesis at least once in our lives. But for me, this phrase has always made me wonder, If the bible is true, and we were indeed originally created from the dust of the earth, why is there no proof of this?
Well, guess what? There IS proof that our bodies and the earth are not as separate as we might think! Enter the concept of the body’s microbiome. Now, I’m a bit of a word geek and I love definitions, so here is the definition of the human microbiome as defined by Merriam-Webster:
MICROBIOME: (noun) a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms living in or on the human body.(source)
As it turns out, the soil has a microbiome too and scientists are beginning to find that the microbiome of the earth is compatible with the human microbiome. Meaning, that research is finding that certain microbiota in the soil can aid in the human body’s health.
We have known for a couple of years now that living in a sterile environment is actually detrimental to your immune system as well as your mental health. The immune system is a rather complex combination of different defenses on both the inside as well as the outside of our bodies. The skin has a microbiota as well as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Without any care and cultivation of these beneficial bacteria, we begin to see a breakdown in our holistic health. Science has given this phenomena a name: the Hygiene Hypothesis.
The Hygiene Hypothesis basically states that without exposure to outside symbiotic microorganisms, infectious agents, parasites, and bacteria from a young age, the human body becomes more susceptible to allergies and disease due to the underdevelopment of the body’s natural immune system.
In other words, It’s good to play in and ingest nature… specifically dirt.
Microbes are found throughout the human body, mainly on the external and internal surfaces, including the gastrointestinal tract, skin, saliva, oral mucosa, and conjunctiva. (source)
As more and more scientific studies are being planned, carried out, and published, we are finding that bacteria isn’t necessarily the complete evil we once thought it was. In fact, we are finding that the various bacteria found in our soil can either make or break our overall health. Medical researcher Dr. Zach Bush stated “We’ve essentially undermined public health from the roots up. If you don’t have healthy soil, you can’t grow healthy foods because the necessary micronutrients aren’t there…. when a plant is lacking in nutrients it will be attacked by pests. The same phenomenon occurs in your body.” (source)
Since not all of us can become strictly organic farmers, live off-grid, and essentially return to a hunter/gatherer society, here are some easy ways to begin to support your beneficial bacteria.
What can we do to fix this?
- Use natural soaps without the alcohol, detergents, and surfactants. When you bathe, focus the soap on the hands, feet, and sweaty
pits and bits. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to keep clean, but lately, we may be overdoing it with the sanitation. From a young age, we are taught that to be socially appropriate, we need to bathe every day and use a good anti-bacterial soap in order to be “squeaky clean.” Except now, we are finding that most store-bought soaps contain detergents and surfactants that strip the skin of its beneficial bacteria as well as the protective layer of oil or sebum that our skin produces to keep our epidermis healthy and supple. Have you ever looked at your hands after using a bar of cheap soap? You will notice they look dry, cracked, and desert-like. Your hands are now a barren wasteland. What happens to moisture in a desert? It fails to soak into the soil before it evaporates into thin air. Same thing applies to our skin when we strip away all the goodness and leave our first defense unmanned. This is a prime time for bad bacteria and pathogens to sneak into our cracked and dead skin and begin to colonize the space for themselves.
- Apply Beneficial Botanicals to feed your skin like Calendula, Aloe vera, Lavender, and Chamomile. Infuse these botanicals into a
skin-loving serum using oils such as olive oil, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, and coconut oil. Apply the body oil or serum to your skin immediately after bathing for soft, supple, and nourished skin. These herbs have developed an affinity for healing and nourishing our skin. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is soothing whilst also being a powerful wound and tissue healer. It has long been known for its affinity for the skin- being often used for such things as burns, bites, sprains, bruises, rashes, sunburns, and abrasions. It useful as a preventative agent to reduce the occurrence of skin toxicity as well as fighting the evil yeast rash on baby’s bums. Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is famous for it’s effectiveness against burns and tissue damage. It has a ph of 4.3 making it slightly acidic and therefore very friendly for skin and hair care. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is fantastic as a skin soother and restorer. It is exceptional at treating minor burns and is often paired with Aloe vera for this purpose. Lavender essential oil is really high in antioxidants to also reduce skin damage from sunburn while it cools and soothes pain. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is amazing for burns and bruises due to it’s anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. It is mildly analgesic – meaning it has pain relieving properties – and is soothing to the digestive tract as well.
- Limit Preservatives and use fresh products as much as possible. Preservatives are added to products to inhibit unwanted bacterial growth and product breakdown. Preservatives can be important so that we aren’t apply harmful bacteria and other substances such as mold to our bodies. However, they can also inhibit and kill any and all bacteria on your skin too, depending on the preservative used. Always check the ingredients on your food or skin product and research any ingredients you don’t immediately recognize. Some preservatives are relatively innocuous and harmless, while others can cause just as much or more irritation than the elements that they work against. This brings us to our next point: ↓
- Wash your Face every Morning and Night to remove any makeup, sunscreens, pollution, chemicals, preservatives, and excess dirt. Use only a very mild and moisturizing face wash or, if you have exceptionally dry skin (like I do) a moistened Norwex Suede Face Cloth is definitely the way to go. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your face twice per day and after heavy sweating, then applying a high-quality moisturizer immediately after for healthier and younger-looking skin. (source) If you feel crafty, try making your own all-natural face cream like this one.
- Probiotics. Ingest them and apply them to your skin. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help keep your digestive and Integumentary system healthy by controlling growth of harmful bacteria. Foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, miso soup, soft cheeses, kimchi and kefir. Basically, if the food is fermented, it contains probiotics. Your beneficial bacteria inside and out will thank you for the boost in their troops! (Hint: a yogurt and honey face mask is a veritable banquet for your face!)
- Prebiotics. Ingest these babies every day because starving bacteria are weak bacteria! Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics. To help maintain healthy level of prebiotics, you can feed them with the foods you eat. Foods rich in prebiotics include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, and legumes. (source)
Now, honestly, I could probably write a book on all the similarites that our skin and the soil have, but for now, I will keep it to this nice, concise list to keep in mind and begin to incorporate into your daily life.
Until Next Time, May We Always Walk in Light and Health.
Further Reading and Sources: