Dr. Maya is a neurologist, herbalist, urban farmer and author of the best-selling book: The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil. She is the founder of the Terrain Institute, where she teaches Terrain Medicine, earth-based programs for transformational healing.
Maya begins by talking about the origin of Germ Theory back in the 19th century with Louis Pasteur. During this time, germs started to be viewed as dangerous and the enemy.
Even though the body was believed to be mostly sterile for much of the 20th century, it is now known that we are home to trillions of microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and more. Maya explains that this “microbiome” is in constant communication with our gut, immune system and mitochondria. In addition, this inner terrain of microbes determines our vitamin status and even produces more neurotransmitters – like serotonin and dopamine – than the central nervous system.
According to Maya, our relationship with microbes is incredibly important and “this idea that we want to be sterile… is a really flawed way of looking at health.”
Maya’s concept of Terrain Theory finds its origin in the work of Claude Bernard and what he referred to as “Cellular Theory.” In cellular theory, “we carry many organisms in our bodies, just as normal healthy individuals. What makes the difference between health and disease is the terrain of the host.” A healthy inner terrain depends on many factors such as nutrition, water, exercise, sleep, and exposure to nature.
For Maya, the three most important things you can do for your health: be exposed to more microbes; eat fresh food from healthy soil; get outside into nature.
Food is incredibly important for strengthening that inner terrain. Maya offers some suggestions: eat nutrient dense foods; eat an array of diverse foods; eat organic or biodynamic when possible; and eat more healthy fats. She also talks about why cholesterol is so misunderstood and why it is actually critical for both the developing brain and the immune system. The research clearly points out that lower cholesterol levels can increase the risk of respiratory infections, death as well as violent and aggressive behavior.
When it comes to the microbiome, Maya says that we want a diverse community of microbes. The reason is that there is a “checks and balances” system. Greater diversity means that it’s less likely that any one microbe will get out of control.
Spending time outside in Nature is a massively important part of a healthy inner terrain. There’s a lot of talk about taking probiotics, however healthy soil is one of the most diverse probiotics on the planet. In fact, one teaspoon of soil has more organisms than there are people on the planet. Additionally, we are nourished by what we see, smell and hear in Nature.
There is an electromagnetic field around everything. Maya says that “when we go outside, we are aligning with the electromagnetic field of what’s around us.” People just feel better when they are outdoors. Nature is emitting an infinite amount of electrons. If you have contact with nature – such as walking barefoot, sitting on the ground or even hugging a tree – you are receiving this flow of electrons from the earth that function like antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals in the body as well as reducing inflammation and cellular damage.
Nowadays during the pandemic, many people and children are applying tremendous amounts of hand sanitizer, wearing masks and spending more time indoors. Maya explains why this can be weakening to the immune system and a recipe for disaster. Interestingly, many organisms and infections train the immune systems – particularly for children – to be healthy, more resilient and more vigilant against other threats, like cancer and pathogens.
In the end, for anyone feeling stuck, Maya talks about the power of appreciation and gratitude. Part of what she teaches at her Terrain Institute is how to find joy in challenging times and how to navigate unknown terrain. She says a powerful practice is to choose to find joy even when we acknowledge that things are really difficult – even if it’s just one thing.
It’s also really powerful to just get outside. For Maya, Nature is nourishment for the soul. It is also incredibly grounding and centering.
Lastly, Maya offers these words of advice to her younger self: be authentic and don’t worry about pleasing other people. Stay in touch and attuned with the gifts that you can bring to the world.
You can learn more about Maya, her book and programs here: https://drmaya.com/