I’ve just returned from a lovely long walk in nature and feel inspired to start my very first blog with the Microbiome Group!
Eleven years ago, as a newly qualified Naturopath, I entitled my first public talk 'Nature’s Gifts’, and it seems a fitting title for this first blog, as my fascination with the way nature supports our health continues. My public talk focused on the benefits of eating a well balanced diet and also on the importance of plants in the food chain, given their unique ability to convert energy from the sun and pass it on to us. Since then my appreciation of the depth of our connection to nature has grown.
The need to be in, and connected to nature became very apparent during the early months of the pandemic. Where I live in Singapore, I noticed more people getting out into nature, whether walking, jogging or cycling. This instinctive pull is hardly surprising as growing research into what is sometimes called Forest Bathing shows there are many benefits to being in nature, including elevating mood, reducing blood pressure and improving immunity.
So what conspired to give me such a lift on my walk this morning? I could explain it by my being fully immersed in the natural environment, away from the noise and pollution of the roads; by the beauty of the tangled jungle; by the excitement of spotting wildlife; by traversing a sparkling, singing stream; or by listening to birdsong, or the hum of the cicadas.
Beyond this though, there is evidence that suggests we benefit from more than we can see, hear, smell or touch. Negative ions concentrate in forests and water bodies and gentle sounds like birdsong or flowing water stimulates our vagus nerve, reducing inflammation and supporting rest and digestion.
But there are also tiny, beneficial microbes that we inhale or swallow as we kick them up from the soil beneath our feet. Yes, the soil has a microbiome! In fact, our own microbiome is related to it through evolution! Just as our gut microbiome assists our digestion and regulates our immune system, the soil microbiome is essential to the health of plants – and by extension, human health.
Life is so full of wonder! The various connections between human beings and nature are still being researched and perhaps some things will remain beyond explanation. However, for me, one thing is certain: being in nature brings an exceptional quality to my life and is fundamental to my wellbeing. For me, nature is full of gifts.
Jeffrey M Craig, Alan C Logan, & Susan L Prescott (Jan 2016) Natural environments, nature relatedness and the ecological theater: connecting satellites and sequencing to shinrin-yoku. Journal of Physiological Anthropology
Winfried EH Blum, Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern, Katharina M Keiblinger (Sep 2019) Does soil contribute to the human gut microbiome? Microorganisms
Melanie Kulkarni Ad Dip Nat is a registered Naturopath and Microbiome Group Associate. You can find out more about consultations with her here: