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May 30, 2019

The stress antidote you've been looking for may be lurking in dirt

A new study identified a stress-fighting bacteria in soil

Wellness Stress
dirt bacteria stress Eddie Kopp/Unsplash

These findings could lead to a "stress vaccine."

Gardening has long been thought of as a calming activity for those who enjoy it, and some new research puts some science behind that idea.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder published findings this week in the journal Psychopharmacology that suggests there's a bacteria — Mycobacterium vaccae —that’s naturally occurring in soil and can prevent stress and anxiety.

This research coincides with the longstanding theory of "hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that it can actually be beneficial to health to be exposed to some “germs,” the study’s release explains.

RELATED READ: Gardeners, beware: there's dangerous bacteria lurking in potting soil

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," said senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry in the release. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

While this is not Lowry’s first look at the interaction between “good” bacteria and mental health, the study provided some new insights.

Researchers pulled out the fatty acid found in Mycobacterium vaccae to see how it interacted with immune cells. The result: the acid did, in fact, protect from the spread of inflammation — and, theoretically, stress — on a cell level.

This finding, paired with his past research, drives Lowry’s desire to develop a vaccine for stress using Mycobacterium vaccae geared toward those who work high-stress jobs, the release explains.

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