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Posts Tagged ‘microbes’

My late lamented mother was fond of saying, “Everyone has to eat a peck of dirt in their life.” As I grew up, that was the refrain each time I dropped a slice of peanut-buttered bread, upside down on the floor. Five second rule? Fegeddaboutit. Straight in the mouth, having first removed the most obvious chunks of gravel and wisps of dog hair. When her beloved grandson, my boy, put his first worm between his teeth she was nearly apoplectic…with joy. “He’ll grow up fine and strong,” she forecast — the Irish soothsayer in her coming out. Guess what. She wasn’t wrong, (DG).

So imagine my delight, and my own touch of smug Irish granny showing, when I read in today’s New York Times how microbes are good for us! Told you so. And that sanitized and steam-cleaned children are more prone to allergies and immune weaknesses.

As a gardener I know how good microbes are for the soil: they make compost from kitchen waste, improve soil texture, and generally keep plants healthy. Lose them, lose the garden’s sustainability. So it stands to reason, if we lose ’em in our gut, we lose a margin of our own sustainability.

Worms, too, are especially important to soil viability; in my sticky yellow clay garden I rejoice at the sight of a worm; their numbers are growing, but still I’ve been seen scaring off robins as they tug those little rubbery guys from the soil. According to several doctors consulted by the NYT’s reporter, it turns out worms are good for us, too. Pig whipworm, which is not long-lasting in the human body, has beneficial effects treating Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and some other inflammatory bowel diseases. Children raised around farm animals and so exposed to a variety of worms, not to mention good old dirt, are less likely to develop allergies. In her book, Why Germs are Good, author Mary Ruebush explains why dirt is important, or at least not something to be afraid of. Our bodies are full of microbes and we should keep it that way to stay healthy. Put away the antibacterial handwipes and pick up a bar of soap. Don’t freak when Jr shines a dirt-begrimed smile at you. It part of the peck. But I think I’ll leave the worms in the garden.

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