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Will eating a little dirt help your digestion?

Presentation to describe the benefits of eating wild food

Early spring is often signaled by an abundance of dandelions dotting lawns and fields with splashes of vibrant yellow. These early blooms are the first food sources available to pollinators such as bees, giving these insects a nutritious and much needed food source after a long winter in the hive.

But dandelions are not only important for bee survival.

According to Durango’s Katrina Blair, wild foods advocate and author of the 2014 book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival, eating dandelions provides benefits to humans as well. According to Blair, “Eating wild plants from our local environment benefits our bodies through ingesting the microorganisms that live on the plants’ leaves, berries and roots.”

Blair and Nancy Utter, a local naturopathic physician, are teaming up to present “Eat Dirt, Eat Wild,” a free lecture that explores how eating wild foods can improve health, increase vitality and strengthen the immune system. The presentation takes place at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Animas Valley Grange, 7271 County Road 203.

Utter will share her passion for and knowledge of the gut biome, the environment in which microorganisms live within the digestive system.

“Everything starts in the gut,” Utter said. “Digestive health is hugely dependent on the presence of diverse populations of symbiotic microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.”

A healthy gut contains a balance of beneficial and detrimental microorganisms, she said.

Yet in today’s world, the gut biome can be wildly out of balance, Utter said. In her naturopathic practice at Durango Natural Medicine, Utter says she regularly sees the symptoms of digestive imbalances in her patients. She says one of the causes is sterilization of the digestive tract through the use of antibiotics, drinking and bathing in chlorinated water and eating foods grown with herbicides and pesticides. “We are killing off the good guys while killing off the bad ones,” she said.

Blair said she has a solution: “When harvesting and eating plants from the local mountain trails and even from our backyards, we are supporting our digestion through the addition of diversity microorganisms found on wild plants and in the local environment where we live.”

Blair said that people might improve their digestive health by eating a little dirt.

“When we harvest a dandelion, we may want to wash it if its growing in a more urban environment but if its in our backyard, and perhaps it has just rained and we feel that it is clean enough, we may choose to eat it without washing it, right in that moment,” she said. “This can be a very beneficial practice because of the symbiotic relationship that develops from eating local and wild foods along with the microflora ecosystems of our bodies.”

Utter says that eating soil can help diversify and support beneficial microbial activity in the digestive system.

“We are designed to live with dirt – externally and internally! There is a beautiful symbiosis between soil and humans ... we are supposed to be ingesting dirt with our food,” she said.

Utter, however, dissuades people from eating soil directly. “There are so many ways people can start working to take better care of themselves internally. I am not going to prescribe that people go out and eat a cup of dirt,”she said.

“Eat Dirt, Eat Wild” will offer practical, DIY advice on ways to reestablished balance in the digestive system. Utter will discuss the roles of lifestyle and stress as major mechanisms for gut biome imbalance. Blair will share simple practices that help integrate wild foods into daily life. She will highlight easy-to-identify edible plants and focus on the abundant weeds that she said are “such a great resource of nutrition to our community.” She will cover the ways to use and prepare wild edible foods into daily meals including recipes, as well as health and beauty tips.

Blair, who is also the owner of Turtle Lake Refuge Café, which specializes in preparing locally-grown, wild-harvested and living foods, will offer participants a wild green juice to enjoy after the presentation.

Contact Jules Masterjohn at jules.masterjohn@gmail.com.

Dandelion Ice CreamIngredients:3 Avocados1 cup fresh dandelion greens or 1 tablespoon of dried dandelion greens2 lemons, juiced3 cups water1 cup honey


Dandelion Ice CreamIngredients:3 Avocados1 cup fresh dandelion greens or 1 tablespoon of dried dandelion greens2 lemons, juiced3 cups water1 cup honeyBlend all ingredients very thoroughly until creamy. The longer you blend the creamier it gets. Place the mixture in a metal bowl in the freezer and stir every hour until it reaches the consistency of ice cream

Source: The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair, (Chelsea Green Publishing)

If you Go

The presentation “Eat Dirt, Eat Wild” will take place at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday at the Animas Valley Grange, 7271 County Road 203.

The presentation is free to the public. Refreshments will be served at 6:30.

A full listing of monthly speakers and workshops at the Animas Valley Grange can be found at https://www.facebook.com/animasvalleygrange.

For more information, contact Pamela Moreno at pmoreno.durango@gmail.com.

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