There’s nothing like getting your fingers dirty gardening, hunkered down in the soil, planting, pruning, and potting in the fresh air. If you like to garden then you know how good it can be for your mental health just to get outside and get dirty. But what you may not know is that gardening is also good for your gut health. Talk about a win/win!
Gardening boosts gut diversity
We know that good gut health depends on diversity, i.e. a microbiome full of a variety of different bacteria. And research has shown that the gut microbiomes of gardeners is more diverse than those of non-gardeners. In addition, it isn’t just the gardener who benefits from contact with soil. Rather, the whole family (or those that live with the gardener) also show increased gut microbiome diversity. So even if your partner, roommates, or children don’t garden themselves, they get the same boost in gut diversity.
Another interesting tidbit about this study is that they found that the gardeners’ gut microbiome became even more diverse as the gardening season progressed. In contrast, the non-gardeners’ microbiomes didn’t change throughout the season. Since diversity is key for good gut health, this change (or rather lack thereof) is important.
What does your garden grow?
It appears that your microbiome gets a beneficial boost no matter what you garden. That is, a bed full of peonies helps just as much as rows of squash. It’s the soil that’s full of billions of beneficial microorganisms, not necessarily what you plant.
Of course, gardening can also be good for your gut if you’re growing your own fruits and veggies. Research has also shown that gardeners often have diets richer in vitamins and fiber than people who don’t garden, in part from eating the products of their garden. And we know how important fiber is to overall gut health—fiber literally feeds the good gut bacteria to help your microbiome thrive.
So get out there and garden! If you don’t have a yard to garden at home, see if there’s a community garden near you (research shows those are also good for your health and the health of the community). Even working on some potted plants on a porch or in your house does the trick. As the saying goes, gardening adds years to your life, and life to your years.