There are antidepressant microbes living in soil that make you happy
There's a good reason we should play outside. The most natural antidepressant in the world lives right beneath our feet.
Marilyn Caylor

What do gardeners, farmers, and little kiddos have in common? They always seem to have a happy smile on their face after they’ve been playing in the dirt all day!

And now science knows exactly why that is.

Wikimedia Commons/Eddie Kopp fiveohfilms, CC0
Wikimedia Commons/Eddie Kopp fiveohfilms, CC0

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the gut microbiome. It’s basically a vast army of microorganisms that can do both good and bad things for our bodies.

They can protect us against germs or give us the squirts.

It all depends on which side they’re batting for. The soil that’s found right underneath our feet also has its own microbiome. And it turns out that we need it as much as it needs us!

Wikimedia Commons/Ahlan Dias, CC BY-SA 3.0
Wikimedia Commons/Ahlan Dias, CC BY-SA 3.0

Serotonin is what helps us smile at 5 am on a Monday morning.

Science has proven time and again that low serotonin levels are linked to things like anxiety, depression, and a host of other health maladies.

But now researchers are discovering that certain soil microbes have the ability to activate serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain, which are the same exact nerves targeted by prescription meds like Prozac.

Flickr/Anders Sandberg
Flickr/Anders Sandberg

These “happy” microbes cause cytokine levels to rise, which in turn leads to the production of more of the jolly good stuff.

Dirt – the original mood booster!

Let’s be clear, though – it’s healthy, organic soil (the kind mother nature makes from scratch) that gives prescription antidepressants a run for its money.


You need real, live soil, not the Monsanto stuff.

Any patch of earth that’s being kept on life support with an injection of chemicals isn’t really alive anymore. So go for the gold and get the real deal!

“There can be 10,000 – 50,000 species in less than a teaspoon of soil. There are more microbes in that teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth. Real soil is active, alive and moving.” – Veda Scherer, Microbes in Your Soil

Wikimedia Commons/Reel Gardening, CC BY-SA 3.0
Wikimedia Commons/Reel Gardening, CC BY-SA 3.0

In one study, cancer patients who were given Mycobacterium vaccae during their treatment reported a better quality of life.

Here’s proof that it works!

Inspired by the results, researchers from Bristol University and University College London gave rats the same bacteria. It showed without a doubt that these microbes can activate a group of brain neurons that are responsible for producing serotonin.

Notable benefits included lower stress levels, increased cognitive ability, and better concentration.

The lead author from that study, Dr. Chris Lowry, concluded:

“They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”

There are plenty of ways to get in your recommended daily amount of “soil vitamins.”

You could take a dirt nap like this cute puppy. Or not. It can be as fun or mundane as you choose.

The point is, you don’t have to serve up some mud pies in order to reap the benefits of happy soil microbes…unless you were THAT kid who liked to eat sandbox patty cakes when you were five.

But, you DO actually need to be in physical contact with it.

People normally come into contact with happy bacteria through touch, inhalation (it’s not snuff, I repeat, it’s not snuff!), and small cuts in the skin.

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Basically, if you touch some dirt then pick your nose, you’re good.

P.S. Don’t worry about what your neighbors think about rolling around in the mud, ’cause getting down and dirty literally never felt so good!

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