The connections between soil and human health are profound. Learn how to restore gut health with a healthy soil microbiome. Choosing the best foods for gut health and supporting holistic farming practices can make a big impact.
Today, there is increasing emphasis on how a healthy diet can strengthen our gut microbiome. We are often told to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables or eat the rainbowto provide our body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to survive, as well as fiber and a variety of phytochemicals that positively affect the gut microbiome. Our gut microbiome is made up of microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract; they strengthen our immune system and protect us from harmful diseases. In addition to digesting vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from the products we consume, we also digest microbes found in plants. and rto research shows that microbiota occur directly and indirectly in potting soil To uses the human gut microbiome. It’s all connected! As a matter of fact, scientist discover that the human gut microbiome and the soil microbiome are similar in many respects.
California strawberry farm
Human gut microbiota and soil exist under similar environmental conditions, EMBO, 2020
In the gut
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Plants get beneficial microbes from the soil they grow in, which means it’s important to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet and Be mindful of where and how your produce is grown for your own optimal health. maintain A healthy intestinal flora is crucial for immune systemthat helps protect us from it Diseases, like cancer. They also help us digest our food, synthesize essential nutrients, and convert these phytochemicals in food into powerful antioxidant compounds. The term colon microbiota simply refers to microorganisms that live in the human gut – it has been estimated that the human body is made up of ten times more bacterial cells than human cells, most of which reside in the gut. There are slight differences in the composition of the gut microbiota by gender, but the biggest factor contributing to microbial composition is diet. To promote a healthy, diverse, and rich gut microbiome, it’s important to ensure your diet is packed fiber, which feeds those hungry microbes in your digestive tract. Foods that help gut health contain full grain, legumes, fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber. while meat, highly processed foods contribute to poor gut health because they lack the nutrients your gut needs to thrive.
A California farm prepares for planting
Down in the soil
Humans are not the only creatures with a microbiota. Soil and plants also have their own microbiota. In fact, the soil microbiota is extremely rich in microbes, including fungi, archaea, bacteria, and protists. A single teaspoon of productive soil contains 100 million to 1 billion bacteria. The microbes contained in the soil contribute to plant growth, which in turn provides humans with food and beneficial bacteria. For example, vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria and archaea in soil before being transmitted to plants and animals microbial interaction. The main benefits of taking vitamin B12 include DNA synthesis and red blood cell formation, which help prevent anemia.
It is estimated that 98.8% of our calories come out of the ground. This is a fact we often overlook. Unsustainable food production practices place an emphasis on quantity rather than quality, which can lead to this soil degradation and rid the soil of beneficial microbes. The use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers has been linked to reduced soil health. As we have learned, this negatively affects human immune function and makes plants vulnerable to attack pests and pathogens.
The direct and indirect effects of plant microbiota on the human gut microbiome, EMBO, 2020.
Organic, sustainable agriculture and the microbiome
Just as antibiotics can damage the human gut microbiome by destroying the diversity and abundance of health-protecting microbes, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides can destroy the diversity and colonies of microbes in soil, as well as on fruits and vegetables grown in that soil and eventually eaten by humans. This, in turn, contributes to poor gut health in humans because plants lack the diverse microbes your gut needs to thrive. Organic, sustainable farming practices have been documented to improve soil microbial health and promote higher nutrient levels in the fruits and vegetables grown on that soil. Research has also linked the consumption of Organic produce to reduce pesticide residuesas well as lower risk of cancer.
Carrots from my organic vegetable garden in Ojai, California
That increasing use of chemicals in industrial agriculture is of great importance for our health and the vicinity. To reap the benefits of plant soil, you should aim to consume products that grow in plant-rich soil microbial diversity due to treatment with reduced amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. These types of plants are more organic and environmentally friendlythat offer benefits that go well beyond the gut. Learn how food is grown in your own community by buying directly from farmers markets or CSAs, where you can speak with the farmer about growing food and soil health practices. You can also grow some of your own food and compost– an organic fertilization method that immensely promotes the health of soil microbes.
For more information on the relationship between health and agriculture, see these blogs:
Written by Cara Joseph, Dietician, with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Photos by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
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