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Is eating dirt bad for you?

You may find this to be an odd question, but it’s a serious one given that the average person unknowingly consumes about six pounds of dirt over their lifetime. On top of that, we eat approximately two pounds of insects each year without realizing it.

The dirt and insects we consume are naturally found on the foods we eat such as fruit and vegetables and in other common products like jams, jellies and peanut butter. They’re also found on other not-as-obvious foods such as coffee beans and chocolate.

So, getting back to our issue at hand, eating dirt. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that there are two categories of dirt that we eat. One is soil and the other is dust. They say about 55 percent of the dirt we consume comes from dust, while about 45 percent is from soil.

Okay, so we’re still wondering is eating dirt bad for you?

Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London published findings in a paper where she injected her advanced lung cancer patients with a harmless, common soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae.

She wanted to see if it would help their immune systems fight the cancer and prolong their lives. While that part of her study failed, she did find that the injected soil bacteria had other positive results, writing that her patients had “significantly improved patient quality of life,” with improved cognitive functioning, more vitality and were happier.

Other studies have also yielded similar results, that the Mycobacterium vaccae bacteria naturally found in soil may actually be good for us, showing a relation between our immune systems and emotional health.

This means a day in the garden breathing, digging and playing in the dirt could be good for us since science is leaning toward the fact that it elevates our moods.

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