In college, I read a book called The Soil and Health by Albert Howard. Little did I know, that book would forever change the way I viewed the relationship between dirt, food, bacteria, and human health.
One key part of that relationship is the microbiome. Our microbiome is comprised of the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and even viruses present within the body. The balance of these microbes can make or break good health, and you won’t be surprised to learn the food we eat, and more specifically how it’s grown, is heavily correlated to our microbial composition.
Today’s guest on The Doctor’s Farmacy is Daphne Miller, a doctor bridging the gap between medicine and farming. Dr. Miller is a practicing family physician, Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco, and Founder of the Health from the Soil Up Initiative. She is the author of two books: The Jungle Effect: Healthiest Diets from Around the World and Farmacology: Total Health from the Soil Up.
A pioneer in the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” initiative, Miller helped build linkages between our medical system and our park system and writes her patients “park prescriptions” to get outdoors. She also developed a soil learning lab for health professionals at Paicines Ranch in Hollister California.
Dr. Miller joins me on this episode to talk about the microbiome of our soil and how that circles back to our own internal environments. While our microbiomes are as unique as fingerprints, we see genetic crosstalk between the bacteria we harbor in our bodies and the bacteria or microbes within our soil. Food acts as a language, it helps the two communicate; Daphne elaborates on this complex and incredibly fascinating relationship and how it can benefit us when nurtured.
Daphne was fascinated by the impact of diet on health but saw that there is a much deeper issue because of how our food is being produced. We have moved away from traditional farming methods, leaned too heavily on monoculture and agricultural chemicals, and reduced the diversity of nutrients in our soils and our diets. Our current conventional farming practices are destroying the soil and our nation’s main commodities (corn, soy, wheat) are created into processed foods that destroy our health.
Here are more of the details you’ll hear in this episode:
- How Dr. Miller came to understand the relationship between health and soil (2:45)
- Connecting the dots between our diets, the soil, and how, when, and in what conditions our foods are produced (7:10)
- Communication between the microbiome in soil and our own gut microbiomes (9:30)
- “The Farm Effect” and why children raised on sustainable farms have much lower rates of asthma and allergies (13:56)
- Our planet’s loss of diversity in animals, plants, and microbes in our soil (16:00)
- What health practitioners could learn from working with ecologists and farmers (19:02)
- The underproduction of fruits and vegetables in the United States and the depletion of nutrients in our soil (22:10)
- The regenerative food movement and the 3 principles of protecting soil (28:13)
- How Dr. Miller applies these principles to treating her own patients (32:20)
- How the health of our climate relates to our health care and financial systems (37:40)
Looking at the big picture, it’s amazing how impactful soil quality is on the state of our food system and our health. I hope you’ll tune in to learn more from Dr. Daphne Miller.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD