Dirt is rich in HSO’s! Some people in the Paleo movement are suggesting you consume your homegrown dirt covered fruits and vegetables without fully washing them.

Ancient man did not wash his produce thoroughly, why should we?

The Paleo blogosphere links the lack of the ingestion of soil in our diet to modern digestive issues and even disease. 1 2 3

It is true that an increase of overall exaggerated hygiene and overuse of antibiotics has led to an explosion of health complications. But is eating dirt the safest answer to these problems?

Was Humanity the Originator of Hygiene? 4

The idea of hygiene did not begin with humans. Single-celled bacterium developed ways to evict invaders and protect themselves by using endospores and biofilms. Multicellular organisms later developed ways to eject toxins and invaders from body cavities using emesis. Birds and mammals learned to groom themselves to remove pathogens, keep their nests free of fecal matter, and even disposed of their waste in areas they do not graze.

Even from the very beginning animals, knew that microorganisms were the cause of disease and hygiene. Detoxification and proper sanitation were important to avoid becoming ill. Is it possible that this knowledge comes from prior bacterial evolution?

So you might be asking yourself, what do animals having standards of hygiene have anything to do with washing fruits and vegetables? Some animals wash their food before consuming. Raccoons and some monkeys wash their food before eating. It has been theorized that raccoons wash their food because they lack saliva glands. 5 But the accepted theory for monkeys washing their produce is to both reduce pathogens and make the food more appealing. Different monkeys are known to wash potatoes before ingestion, which are coated with soil when pulled from the ground. 6 If a monkey can understand that soil is not the most healthy addition to one’s diet, why can’t we?

Did Our Ancestors Wash Their Food? 7

Humans have not always known that microorganisms were the true cause of disease. Our ancestry did, however, learn from our humble beginnings that eating certain foods would make us ill. Human beings developed hygiene practices since the dawn of time; we began by defecating away from where we lived (mainly because it smelled horrible.) Neanderthals groomed themselves and even produced soap after fire was invented. We even eventually buried our dead as both a spiritual and hygienic practice to protect us from disease.

But did our ancestors clean / cook their plant matter before consuming? Research has shown that even Neanderthals prepped starchy foods like tubers and roasted them over a fire before consuming. Why might you ask? Because cooked starch tastes a lot better consumed than cold starch, even our ancestors knew that. Neanderthals were excellent hunters and carnivores, but they did not have a sophisticated, varied diet compared to Homo sapiens. 8 9 10

Homo sapiens further prepped their starches, fruit, and veggies within season and consumed them cleaned and cooked. Homo sapiens consumption of seafood combined with quick energy from seasonal starches caused them to become the dominant human specie and eventually lead to the development of modern man.

Even If Our Ancestors Consumed Soil Rich in HSO’s, Modern Day Soil Is In No Way Similar

The consumption of soil would have been easier on our ancestors bodies compared to modern humans. Our ancestor’s would have mainly had to contend with ingested parasites, foreign bodies, natural radiation, fewer heavy metals, and HSO’s. It might be possible that ingestion of some of these items would have activated and bolstered our immune system over time. However, ingestion of soil in the modern world would include:

  • Parasites (increased exposure to non-native flora may or may not be a bad thing depending on the state of one’s health and what we are exposed to, exposure to certain microbes might have a positive effect on our microbiome by activating our immune system) 11
  • Non-native flora HSO’s (increased exposure to non-native flora may or may not be a bad thing depending on the state of one’s health and what we are exposed to, exposure to certain microbes might have a positive effect on our microbiome by activating our immune system) 12
  • Increased pollutants 13
  • Increased toxins 14
  • Radioactive materials (natural and man-made) 15
  • Foreign substances
  • Increased heavy metals 16

Granted, if anyone was going to consume soil from not washing their produce, they would want to do it in the most sanitary way (defeats the purpose right?) But for argument sake, possibly ingesting soil from an enclosed greenhouse with the cleanest soil imaginable would be safer. The ingestion of soil from clean self-grown produce would be safer, but you would still come into contact of non-native flora HSO’s, natural radiation, and foreign substances which can either provide benefit or harm. So if you want the benefits of “ingesting” dirt, a quick wash under chlorine free water of self-grown produce would supply new microbes to the microbiome.

Remember, most HSO’s that are found on produce are encased in endospores or are hardy biofilm producers for needed extra protection due to increased exposure. Endospore or biofilm producing HSO’s are more difficult to eliminate if they become opportunistic. You do not know what bacteria exactly you are ingesting from soil consumption compared to taking an HSO supplement like Thorne Research Bacillus coagulans. 17

What about the consumption of other supplements that come from the Earth including zeolite, bentonite, shilajit, or soil acids? These products are refined and are rigorously tested for their safety if they are food grade. Bacteria typically do not colonize in large amounts on these products, compared to bacterial rich topsoil, which we grow our produce. 18

  1. http://chriskresser.com/dirt-a-paleo-superfood
  2. http://www.mommypotamus.com/dirt-the-superfood-that-makes-you-happier-smarter-healthier/
  3. http://freetheanimal.com/2014/05/resistant-problems-ignorance.html
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2542893/
  5. http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/why-raccoons-wash-their-food-before-eating
  6. http://alfre.dk/monkeys-washing-potatoes/
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2542893/
  8. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/dec/27/neanderthals-cooked-diet-us-research
  9. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/neanderthals-noshed-on-plantsand-cooked-28390214/?no-ist
  10. http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/flour-human-ancestors-neanderthals.htm
  11. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/sth/
  12. http://freetheanimal.com/2014/05/resistant-problems-ignorance.html
  13. http://www.epa.gov/superfund/students/wastsite/soilspil.htm
  14. http://www.epa.gov/superfund/students/wastsite/soilspil.htm
  15. http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm
  16. http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/su10toxicmetals
  17. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCcQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ift.org%2F~%2Fmedia%2FKnowledge%2520Center%2FScience%2520Reports%2FScientific%2520Status%2520Summaries%2FEditorial%2Feditorial_0209_feat_biofilms.pdf&ei=buugVK7QHIb_ggSOyoKADw&usg=AFQjCNEPH4ORfqp-sZ4ESeVN2UOfwz2G1g&sig2=BL0OJWU0BD8c4S-BCC7xWA&bvm=bv.82001339,d.eXY
  18. http://archives.microbeworld.org/microbes/bacteria/where.aspx
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