To Live Longer, Here’s Why You Need to Get Dirty

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Dr. Zach Bush is a triple board-certified physician who wants to remind you to play in the dirt. In his recent Bulletproof Radio podcast, Bush noted that you have 1.4 quadrillion bacteria and fungi and 14 quadrillion mitochondria living within you – and these good guys thrive on good ole dirt. By the way, those good guys do everything from regulating your emotions, to keeping your skin clear, to fixing autoimmune issues. When balanced, gut bacteria help you perform at your best – out of balance, and you’re left feeling sluggish, inflamed, and out of whack.

In that way, Bush calls for a return to the natural world as a means to boost your body’s inherent ability to care for itself. By exposing yourself to a healthy biodynamic environment – not one riddled with toxins – you give your immune system the chance to regulate itself with good bacteria and fungi, etc. “Re-engaging in that environment is what will heal you best,” Bush offers.

Bush isn’t the only expert who advocates getting dirty for the sake of your health. Just last year, microbial scientist Jack Gilbert, PhD, published a book called, Dirt Is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System. In it, he argues that keeping dirt and other bacteria out of kids’ mouths leads to an overzealous, inflammatory immune system.

So how can you tap into the natural world for a happier and healthier system? Below are his top five tips:

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  1.     Breathe good “dirty” air. Bush’s research shows that you can improve the health of your gut by breathing in good “dirty” air – like the kind you find in national parks. He invites you to go explore as many national parks as you can in the next couple years because there is still some intact microbiome. Along those lines, seek out as many environments of the Earth as you can – like such waterfalls along the Appalachian Trail and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Go for it – broaden your nose’s horizons and re-engage with as many diverse environments around the globe that still offer intact microbial environments.

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  1.     Head to the desert. Some of the best air is in the desert due to low humidity. There is also pristine soil in the fossilized state, so any place with fossil layers, like Arizona, offers up a unique microbiome. Another boon for these areas — minimal development and no agricultural spraying like you find in rain-drenched areas.

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  1.     Play in the dirt. “Take your shoes off, step outside and, like your dog, run around in the grass for 5 or 10 minutes and then come back in.” This gets you up close and personal with the good bacteria that’ll keep your internal microbiome in check.

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  1.     Grow plants at home.  Bush states, We have separated ourselves from just fundamental easy, cheap, frankly free mechanism of microbiome exchange, which is to touch Mother Earth.” So, grow some plants at home then tend to them – water and touch them. This is especially important for all the urban dwellers out there.

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  1.     Eat your veggies off the vine. While Bush has a penchant for tomatoes, any freshly picked vegetable from your garden will suffice. Eat a tomato off the vine. It is a completely different experience than picking the tomato and eating it half an hour later on your salad. There’s going to be a layer of dust and this hairy quality to the tomato before it’s picked. It’s got this little fur on it that is capturing microbiome and other things on it. If you pluck it, there’ll be often a little spider web on it. There’s biology on the surface of that tomato that you’re missing otherwise.”

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