The Dirt On Soil
Updated: Mar 21
The Earth is a living being, and it breathes and supports billions of lives daily. That being said, Earth also maintains the natural order through life, death, & decay. This can be seen in one constant thing: soil.
We know that feeding an ancestral raw diet allows the canine to be in a higher level of health through food. However, one little (microscopic) thing missing contributes to the world's overall health...microbes!
What Are Microbes?
Soil microorganisms are bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, algae, protozoa, and viruses. These microbes play a vital role in soil and ecology formation as they are the natural soil engineers that give nutrients to plants, pump up nitrogen, and allow the soil to become soil.
Soil vs. Dirt
Soil is the living skin of the planet. It’s composed of organic matter such as fallen leaves, dead plants, and animals mixed with inorganic matter such as rocks, minerals, and water to create soil. Dirt is just dead. There’s nothing alive about it.
The scientific definition of soil, according to the Soil Society of America, is
"soil (i) The unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface of the Earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of plants.
(ii) The unconsolidated mineral or organic matter on the surface of the Earth that has been subjected to and shows the effects of genetic and environmental factors of climate (including water and temperature effects), and macro-and micro-organisms, conditioned by relief, acting on parent material over a period of time. A product- soil differs from the material from which it is derived in many physical, chemical, biological, and morphological properties and characteristics."
An excellent example of the difference between the two is that you wash off dirt versus using soil. For example:
∙ Dirt: When your dog's paws are dirty from being out all day, and you rinse off the dirt.
∙ Soil: When you grow herbs in the backyard, the plant uses soil as a source of nutrients and water. Soil is rich, functional, and alive, while dirt is nutrient-depleted, useless, and dead.
The Modern Dog
The ancestral canine was initially surrounded by microbe-rich soil. From birth to death, the microbes were virtually on every inch. As a result, food, fur, water, and more, were never clean or sanitized. Now, this isn't to say never properly clean your space after raw feeding or feed decayed meat. But you can take what's beneficial from the ancestral way of living (aka soil) and apply it to our dog's health today.
Nowadays, many dogs don't get to be covered in the dirt until they're adults, as now litters are born inside and exposed to harmful and harsh chemicals more often than not. This means that they are never exposed to their ancestral microbes.
Dogs are healthiest when they consume their ancestral diet but can be even healthier when consuming their ancestral microbes.
Exposing modern dogs to ancestral microbes & foods may be the key to optimal health and longevity. Although there is much to learn when it comes to the microbiome, it's known that over 80% of the immune system lies in the gut and that diversity and quality of bacteria are essential. Lucky, quality soil may protect and build the immune system. Diverse soil may contain up to "10 billion microbes, and 2,000 to 50,0002 species per gram, though some studies estimate as many as 10,000,000." Since there are billions of microbes in the soil, feeding it in small amounts exposes them to healthy bacteria that will allow them to flourish. Now don't go dump soil in the bowl but sprinkling a little soil dust over the meals is more than enough for your animals to get the benefits.
If your dog is exposed to lots of high-quality soil from rolling in the woods, going on lots of hikes, or even living on a farm, most like they won't need any additions as they are already organically receiving soil from their surroundings. If they're getting it all over their face, they'll be consuming some of it either way.
It is not yet proven, but there may be a link between soil and allergies, just as there are food and allergies. Along with the modern dog being pulled about from their ancestral food, they have also been pulled away from their ancestral environment. Most dogs live in modern environments surrounded by harmful cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, and more with no excess to quality soil.
In a six-week study, it was found that the group of mice not exposed to soil was more prone to developing lung inflammation in response to an asthma-triggering allergen than were the mice in contact with soil. The study also found that the gut flora of soil-exposed mice contained more bacteria in the Bacteroidetes phylum than in the Firmicutes phylum—"the opposite of the microbial signature usually associated with asthma and inflammation in general in both mice and humans."
Lastly, soil-exposed animals also had higher anti-inflammatory proteins such as an enzyme called A20, which is protective against asthma. Overall, when animals are exposed to microbe-rich soil, it positively impacts their gut and overall health.
Where To Source
Unfortunately, this is not a supplement that is sold on the shelve. But it can be quite easy to source depending on where you are located.
If you have a local Amish or Polyculture farmer near you, contact them, and ask for a little bowl of soil. They're more than happy to give you some more often than not. The most important part about sourcing is getting a regenerative or polyculture soil with the quality and diversity you are looking for. This is because farmers who practice regenerative farming actively rebuild the soil and restore soil biodiversity. Of course, this is vital to rebuilding due to factory farming, but that's another story...
Another easy way to get soil into your dog is if you are a hobby farmer and have your own fruits and veggies and trust the quality. Feed those to your dog, and when you do, don't wash the dirt off! You can make your polyculture veggie mix by keeping the dirt on. The same thing goes for if you have chickens, ducks, or quails, don't wash the shell and feed it whole. And if you have a backyard, feeding them outside can do the trick too!
It is vital to know the soil's history and quality. For example, you don't want to go into a random field and use that soil as it's unknown what kind of chemicals were used. It is best to source locally or from your own garden.
Soil Based Organisms (SBOs) are a class of probiotic supplements. "Pro" means "for" in Latin and "Biotic" for "fit for life" or "lively." They benefit commensal bacteria (beneficial) even more so than dairy-based. SBOs are especially favored for dogs with yeast as dairy-based probiotics can feed the pathogenic bacteria.
SBOs are spore-forming, which means they create a resilient outer shell to withstand harsh conditions such as temperature and stomach acid, therefore, withstanding the digestive tract until it reaches the colon (where all the commensal bacteria lives, eats, and flourishes).
SBOs are naturally found in the soil, pickled vegetables, or found in other foods like natto from Japan. Also, some are natural inhabitants of the gut. Generally speaking, Bacillus strains make up most of the SBO probiotics on the market, so look for products that contain one or a combination of the following strains: Bacillus coagulans Bacillus subtilis. or Bacillus clausii.
Spore-forming organisms are thought to excrete antibiotic-like compounds that keep pathogenic (bad) bacteria in balance with the fragile microflora.
High-quality soil-based probiotics:
“People are not so much aware of this immense biodiversity which is harbored in the soil, but the soil is actually the most diverse habitat on Earth.” - Zechmeister-Boltenstern
Soil-based spores and probiotics are other pieces of the puzzle. The best thing you can do is take what you know, apply it as best you can, and be open to learning more. I hope you learned something new today & Always Keep Exploring!
White Oak Pastures (an actual regenerative farm)