Earth Day, Soil & Health

Jennifer Hall, Weavers Way Health & Wellness Committee

Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily the Health & Wellness Committee, and are not a substitute to talking to your doctor.

Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. This holiday started in 1970 in the United States, bringing millions out in peaceful demonstrations for environmental reform, and is now observed internationally as a celebration of our planet. Everyone is encouraged to celebrate this day in their own way, while keeping in mind Earth’s complex ecosystem, where living organisms interact with each other and their environment to create the ideal conditions for life on this planet.

During the planting and harvesting season, I love to volunteer at the Henry Got Crops Farm at Saul High School in Roxborough. At first I was a bit shy about sitting in dirt and getting my nails, hands and feet dirty. But there was something calming about sitting there with other volunteers picking, digging and discarding problem weeds and coming back the next week and seeing the plants growing. It is definitely rewarding to know that the vegetables I eat come from a farm on which I volunteer. Being that close to the whole process of cultivation is special. But that isn’t the only benefit I get from this. Sitting, breathing and digging in the soil may be good for my overall health.

Alternative health proponents, including Dr. Joseph Mercola, maintain that health begins in the very soil. Good soil has its own microbiome which includes organisms (“soil-based” organisms or SBOs) that enrich the soil and help the plants that grow from it to be healthy and nutrient-dense.

Soil bacteria form symbiotic relationships with plant roots and consume the nutrients providing nitrogen, phosphorus and many other nutrients in a form that plant cells can utilize. These organisms also protect plants from pathogens and other threats. Some studies have shown that exposure to SBOs can help boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, help detoxify the body and aid in beneficial gene expression.

This is not to say that we should eat dirt or go out to purchase the latest supplement enriched with SBOs. Being outside and interacting with our environment may be sufficient.

A review article in the Journal of Environmental & Public Health states that “earthing,” or “grounding,” reconnecting to the Earth’s subtle electrical charge by walking, standing or sitting outside barefoot, has been found to reduce inflammation, pain and stress, and improve circulation.

So in celebration of Earth Day, we should revel in the beauty of our extraordinary Earth for the entire month. Get outside and reconnect to the Earth’s energy by going barefoot, doing some gardening or playing in the dirt and enjoying the benefits it provides.

Also, join the Health and Wellness Committee on April 22, 3:30 p.m. at the Healing Arts Studio in Chestnut Hill, as we educate the community and participate in an enlightening discussion about Mental Health.

Jennifer Hall is an integrative and functional nutritionist and health coach. She is the owner of Balanced Holistic Living, LLC.