Did you know that our bodies are made up of more bacterial cells than human cells? (10 times more!) Our bodies rely on a good balance of healthy bacteria (not just in our guts, but on our skin too) to be able to function at their best.
Exposure to soil based microorganisms, especially for children, ensures that our immune systems are challenged appropriately and learn then how to respond to more serious threats, without overreacting to harmless organisms.
Writing in the New York Times, Jeff Leach discusses the possibility of a link between the increase in allergies and auto immune diseases and the increase in over-sanitising our homes and bodies.
In the past, people were exposed to far more beneficial soil organisms than they are today.
Before the advent of refrigerators, food was often preserved by burying it in the ground. This is because the cool temperature and the presence of soil microbes kept more pathogenic bacteria, fungus and mould at bay.
In addition, many other foods were preserved through fermenting. And when vegetables were eaten fresh, they were dug up, wiped or washed in water and then eaten. They were not scrubbed to death or washed in chlorine to remove all evidence of where they have come from!
Today on most supermarket shelves we see pristine clean vegetables, which all look very beautiful, but are devoid of much of the essential goodness that comes from their muddy friends found in vegetable patches and at farmers markets.
How do you ensure a healthy balance of bacteria?
Buy veggies covered in soil or grow your own
We are lucky enough to have an allotment where we grow many of our own vegetables, but this is supplemented with a veggie box delivered weekly from Riverford. Riverford farms are 100% organic, with fruit and veg being grown the traditional way, to provide top quality produce. They also supply a range of meats, dairy produce and other deli items at very reasonable prices. If you are interested in trying their produce, check out their website here. If you decide to purchase a regular order (weekly or fortnightly), then when you register, please use code Nudi-gift in the section where it asks about relevant offers or promotions and you will be sent a free Riverford Cookbook.
When you are preparing your soil covered veg, give it a wash under the tap and a bit of a scrub to remove most of the soil debris and then either eat it like that, or cook it, but leave the skin on. Soil microbes are pretty hardy and should reach your gut intact.
Ferment your own foods
Fermented foods are incredibly healing, and can proliferate your gut flora with healthy bacteria that can crowd out pathogens.
This is a really cheap and easy was to get access to amazing bacteria and there are so many options, you are bound to find something you like!
One of my favourite recipes is fermented beetroot with fennel and dill. I got this from my good friend Vanessa – check out her website for some great recipes.
We also love kefir, kombucha and raw sauerkraut in our house.
If you are unable to grow your own veg and don’t fancy fermenting your own foods, then it is also possible to get good bacteria from high quality probiotics. We use these.
Ditch the antibac soap
Aside from the fact that antibacterial soap kills off good bacteria, it can also be extremely harmful. This is because many brands contain chemicals that over time can cause immunotoxicity and allergies.
Instead, use something kind and simple. My soap recipe here is easy to make.
Not got the time or inclination to make your own? Buy beautiful handmade solid soap from UglyApples. (If you buy, make sure you enter the reference Nudi-gift in the comment box at checkout and get yourself some free products!)
or you can buy gorgeous liquid soap from NealsYard.
Stop using antibacterial cleaners
Old fashioned cleaning products work just as well without harmful chemicals. See my recipe here for an all purpose cleaner
I also LOVE Libby Chan cleaner, which is a fermented soya cleaning product. Add it to water in a spray bottle and it is brilliant for cleaning your worktops, floors and bathrooms. Check it out here
Get a pet!
A study published in the medical journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy, found that children who grew up with cats and dogs on average were 50% less likely to suffer from allergies.
The thought behind this is that animals are in more contact with soil and then bring it back into the home.
Anecdotally I also know this to be true from personal experience. When I was 17, I was very fortunate to go on an expedition to the Indian Himalaya with a group of 26 from my school. Of the group, unsurprisingly 24 got some sort of stomach bug whilst they were away, but 2 of us did not. The common link between the 2 of us? We both grew up with dogs and horses – we regularly handled horse muck, wiped our hands on our trousers and ate our lunch 😉
A note on affiliates;
Some of the links on my website are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, the price is the same for you and I receive a small commission that helps to keep Nudi Organics up and running.