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According to a new body of research, the solution to our mental health lies in your garden…unless you grew up in the city, then it’s too late.
As someone who suffers from anxiety, seeing this headline immediately reminds me of the baleful words of Moe Syszlak, as I believe that “I’m better than dirt. Well, most kinds of dirt, not that fancy store-bought dirt… I can’t compete with that stuff.”
So it goes, those suffering from mental maladies, the great worried many of us, just need to get grubby be cured, as there’s a molecule within dirt that will apparently euthanise the black dog. Frankly, I call bullshit, and I also wonder why we’re being outed, and indeed, why you think we’re stupid.
Despite this, today’s discovery has its roots in yesterday, as British scientists David Strachan mentioned in 1989 that our “generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.”
I don’t have a bit of a splutter, Dave, I’ve got clinical depression.
The new research has apparently refined Strachan’s hypothesis, believing that those who shirk the dirt (or more accurately, the microbes in the soil and the environment) are more susceptible to poor mental health.
The study’s senior author and (day time Integrative Physiology Professor) Christopher Lowry believes that “the idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation,” explained Lowry. “That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders.”
Lowry also believes that being raised with animals in an agrarian environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Aforesaid children were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than those city folk sans pets.
Lowry believes that the soil-based bacterium in question (mycobacterium vaccae) acts as an antidepressant when injected into mice. It also apparently alters their behaviour and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder.
“This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils,” said Lowry. “We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us.”
I’ll just keep my therapist, meaningful cognitive framework and my vines from 2016 in the meantime, thanks.