health

Eating Dirt: 6 Weird Health Benefits Of Soil You Never Knew About

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Editor of Original Content at LittleThings. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for sites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Unwritten. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law and Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

As a kid, I remember spending hours at a time playing outside with my friends — whether we were playing make believe or just running around playing tag, we spent a lot of time outside in our backyards.

By the time we were done playing, we were covered in grass stains and dirt, but we loved it.

And if I remember correctly, there were definitely times I got dirt in my mouth — but since I was a kid, I didn’t care all that much.

Well, it turns out that dirt is actually good for more than just making adorable herb gardens; it’s actually good for our health!

That’s right, consuming dirt (in small quantities) can actually have a positive impact on your health. It seems like kids who accidentally eat dirt had it right all along!

Read below to find out more about what dirt is and why it is actually good for you.

Thumbnail Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What Is Dirt?

what is dirt
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What exactly makes up the contents of dirt? Basically, dirt (also called soil or earth) contains a combination of rocks, clay, sand, and other organic matter.

Dirt is usually packed with different minerals and microorganisms.

Depending on your location, the quantities of these substances will vary, as will the types of materials that make up your dirt.

What Does Dirt Do For The Earth?

dirt earth
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Dirt is essential for the health of our planet — healthy soil provides plant with access to nutrients, air, and water.

Dirt also supports diversity in animals. Both domesticated and wild animals depend on dirt for plants, nutrients, and more.

Without soil, our world would be a barren place, and wouldn’t be hospitable for human life, or for animals and plants.

What Does Dirt Do For Humans?

dirt health humans
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Dirt affects human life in more ways than you might expect.

For one, dirt provides the basis for buildings, roads, and infrastructure. Eroding soil can reshape our whole landscape, causing sinkholes or redirecting water sources.

Additionally, dirt holds the secrets of our past — it holds onto materials (like fossils and ancient pottery) that let us understand history better.

And finally, dirt plays a huge role in human health.

Dirt Benefit #1: Boosts Immune System

dirt immune system
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One of the primary benefits of dirt is that it actually supports a healthy immune system.

The New York Times reported on the “hygiene hypothesis,” which explains that dirt contains millions of bacteria and viruses that actually help the development of a healthy immune system.

Dirt Benefit #2: Detoxifies The Body

dirt detoxifies body
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Dirt may actually detoxify the body — people use clay and charcoal to detoxify their skin, but those same properties in dirt may also serve as a detoxifying agent for the inside of your body as well.

Scientific American reports, “Researchers are taking another look at dirt eating and discovering that the behavior often provides people and animals with vital minerals and inactivates toxins from food and the environment.”

Dirt Benefit #3: May Benefit Pregnant Women

dirt pregnancy
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People have eaten dirt and clay for centuries — often, the people who find themselves craving dirt are pregnant women.

ABC News reports that “While most people would recoil at the thought of eating mud or clay, some medical experts say it may be beneficial, especially for pregnant women.”

Dirt, especially in clay-rich regions, contains a lot of essential minerals like magnesium, copper, calcium, and iron, which explains why pregnant women crave it — their bodies need more minerals than normal because they’re creating another human life.

In preindustrial times, eating a handful of dirt may have served the same function as a prenatal vitamin.

Dirt Benefit #4: Helps Prevent Allergies

dirt allergies
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With allergies, we come back to the hygiene hypothesis.

ABC News explains that research found that children raised in rural environments, especially on farms, had far fewer allergies and autoimmune disorders than kids born and raised in cities. “Some researchers believe exposure to soil and other environmental impurities is the reason,” they explain.

Dirt Benefit #5: May Settle The Stomach

dirt settles stomach
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

If you’ve ever had an upset stomach, you may have taken an over-the-counter medication that tasted “chalky,” like an antacid.

That’s because it was probably made with kaolin, the primary substance in white clays.

Kaolin clays provide antacid properties, which can relieve nausea, heartburn, and indigestion.

Dirt Benefit #6: Helps Smooth Digestion

dirt digestion
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

You may have heard of your “gut microbiome,” the tiny ecosystem of good bacteria that lives in your digestive tract and helps move your digestion along smoothly.

Exposure to dirt can make your microbiome flourish by encouraging new healthy bacteria to develop and grow, according to Quartz.

Additionally, clay has binding properties that can help when you’re experiencing loose bowel movements.

That said, it can also make you constipated if you consume too much.

Should You Actually Eat Dirt?

should you eat dirt
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While dirt is often beneficial to health, you probably shouldn’t go out and make yourself a bowl of dirt for dinner.

Obviously, there may also be poisonous substances — like pesticides and lead — in dirt, so you shouldn’t just eat dirt from the ground.

Instead, you can buy an earth or clay supplement that will give you some of the benefits.

Even better? Just incorporate a little dirt into your daily life.

Rinse off organic fruits and veggies with water, but don’t go to extreme measures to sanitize them; swim in the ocean; walk barefoot; play with dogs; and allow yourself to get a little dirty from time to time.

If you think everyone should be exposed to dirt sometimes, please SHARE this article with your friends!