Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dirt: The Natural Antidepressant

tidbits that tantalize

...Happy Feet

You inch toward the front of the line. Front? Well, yes - rumor has it there is a front of the line somewhere over the crest of that small hill. But, who cares? Once you crest the hill you'll probably just be confronted with, hmm... Something. Something will surely be messed up, or out of place, or late, or broken, or - well, who cares?

It seems that Gilda Radner was right after all: "It's always something."

But, then again, this may simply be the depression talking. It's hard to tell these days. Reality and perception seem intertwined in a muddy battle of competing definitions. Huh - muddy battle - considering the circumstances, you can imagine that turn of phrase may actually be comical. In theory, that is.

"Step forward, please."

What? Wow, you must've been lost in your thoughts forever. You straighten yourself and step into the red circle. A specially trained inspector sets about her task, looking you up and down, making notes and declaring her findings.

"Dirt on the left sleeve - small smudges on the right cuff - fresh earth beneath the fingernails of the left hand - trousers appear relatively unscathed - soil stains on the socks - fresh dirt just above on the right ankle - shoe bottoms moderately clean."

You hold your breath as she tallies the results

"So sorry, miss. This is unacceptable. Your total Dirt Immersion Gateway score is 62 - that's an F in my book. I'm afraid it's back to the mud with you. And see that you get down there and really muck it up this time. It's your best hope to bring your score up to a passing C."

What's your Dirt Immersion Gateway (DIG) score? Well, if you've been out digging around in the dirt, chances are your scores are off the charts.

British researchers report that bacteria in good old-fashioned dirt have a beneficial impact on people suffering from major depression. The effect was first recognized when cancer patients treated with the bacteria reported an unexpected improvement in their quality of life.

The scientists postulate the bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, activate neurons in the brain that contain serotonin. A neurotransmitter, serotonin influences multiple bodily functions, including appetite control, memory, temperature regulation, cardiovascular function and, significantly, mood, behavior and depression. Clinicians have long known that low serotonin levels are often associated with mood disorders, anxiety, fear, fatigue and depression.

...What a trudge. But, now that you're back at the pit, you find yourself oddly intrigued by the ooey, gooey pool of moist mud. Not wanting to lose the moment, you rush to the edge and take the proverbial "flying leap." Seconds later, now one with the goo, it strikes you: you feel better already...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about serotonin, see this from the University of Bristol.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Tim,

So, when someone says to me, "Eat dirt!" they're just trying to cheer me up, right?

And I thought they were insulting me. Go figure.

The Working Writer's Coach

1:07 PM  

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