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Farming Practices and Gut Health: Examining the Link between Agriculture and Our Microbiome

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

I wanted to take a quick moment to connect some dots. We know that many people, especially in the United States or following a Westernized Diet are not healthy, right? We also know that our farming practices are hurting the environment. What do these two things have in common?


Microbes make your body healthy. Microbes in your gut control much of your health and wellness. If your microbes in your gut get out of control, disease symptoms occur. Skin rashes, headaches, bloating, joint pain, inflammation, metabolic disorders, etc. etc. etc.

When the right kinds of microbes are in your gut in the right proportions, you will feel so much healthier. When you eat plant-based whole foods, you will feel energized after eating (instead of bloated, tired, and sluggish). You are what you eat, and your microbiome has a lot to do with it.

The microbes in your gut also communicate with your brain, produce neurotransmitters that can influence your mood, and help you navigate your environment. (Your gut feelings usually don’t lie).

Anxiety and depression have been linked to gut health. Dementia has been linked to gut health. Inflammatory diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic disorders have also been linked to gut health.

But what does any of that have to do with farming? Well, consider our produce that is being farmed conventionally. Our farms plow up the land, cutting deep groves in the dirt. Then they spray synthetic chemical fertilizers on the fields (usually before the plant even needs the fertilizer). As the crops grow, pests will usually find them. To keep the bad insects away, strong chemical pesticides are sprayed on the crops. Sometimes the crops are genetically modified to withstand certain diseases, pests, or weed killers.

Pesticides have directly affected our health increasing our risk for certain types of cancers. The nutrient content in our food has also diminished compared to 50 or 60 years ago. But, why?

Our farming practices such as plowing, heavy fertilizers, and pesticides have depleted our soil of…you guessed it… microbes. Microbes are the ones that help produce nutrients for our plants in the first place. The network of fungi underground moves these nutrients to where they are needed.

Plowing breaks these connections, so the fungal network cannot get the nutrients to the plants. Pesticides kill off beneficial microbes, so less nutrients are produced. Synthetic chemical fertilizers are polluting our waterways leading to algae blooms, contaminated drinking water, and depleted soils.

So, when our farming practices deplete our soils of microbes, our food nutrients are also depleted. This can lead to micronutrient depletions in our bodies and the need for supplements. Our foods just aren't as healthy as they once were. But there is hope.

Regenerative farming looks to replenish the microbes in our soils by integrating natural fertilizers like manure from animals. Animals have an interdependent relationship with farming and can often solve pest problems (like chickens or ducks eating bugs/snails). As the animals move through the crop taking care of the pests, they also leave behind their organic fertilizer that gets kicked into the soil, growing more microbes, which produce more nutrients.

Cover crops like clover can fix nitrogen in the soil to be used by other food crops during crop rotations. This nitrogen source is released to the plants at the right time when they need it by the underground fungal network. Cover crops also help rainwater absorb into the soil rather than running off (and taking the top layer with it).

So, if you have a choice on where you get your produce, meats, and grains, choose regenerative or organic farms. You will get produce with higher nutrition content, for example grass fed cattle produce beef with higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Send a message to the FDA and Department of Agriculture that you prefer regenerative and organic farms and buy local whenever possible. Your gut microbes will thank you.

Are you ready to PIVOT to health and wellness?

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