Diggin’ Dirt

A big chunk of the Adventist health message centers on what we eat. That’s why I’m always interested in articles like the one in the Seattle Times that described an eating addiction of a woman in Mississippi.

According to the report, “Once Johnson tried hard to kick the habit. She took up smoking. She began eating laundry starch as a substitute. But the old craving still lingered.”

Her addiction? Dirt. Yep, that’s right, dirt.

The article reports, “Johnson has to have a daily fix of dirt, particularly her favorite, crunchy clay.”

“I’ve tried to wean myself away from it,” says Johnson as she displays her soil source to visitors in her native Holmes County on the edge of the Mississippi Delta. “On a daily average, I’d say I’d eat a tablespoonful, just enough to get a taste in my mouth, like pinching tobacco.”

The article quotes Dennis Frate, a medical anthropologist and program director of the University of Mississippi’s Rural Health Research Program, an authority on dirt eating: “It’s analogous to eating potato chips. A snack food is what it is.”

Dr. Frate conducted a study in 1971 that found that one out of four adult women in Holmes County ate dirt regularly. For some reason, however, the study also showed that very few men eat dirt (Kathy Eyre, Oral History, 18 Dec. 1988, X).

As a pastor, I read this article with keen interest, because often we run out of food at church potlucks. Now I keep a shovel in my office. So there’s always enough food—at least for the women.

Seriously, I doubt that you struggle with an obsession for dirt. But my guess is that you wrestle with some flavor of a food addiction—whether it’s sugar, shrimp, or sherry. The Devil knows that one of the most effective avenues to the soul is through the mouth. That’s why God offers so much counsel in His Word and the Spirit of Prophecy on what to eat and what to avoid. What a blessing our Church has received in the health message! As Adventists, we have no excuse for missing out on happiness and health.

Science confirms that there is a direct link between your food and your mood. “It may surprise some people to learn that many food constituents can actually affect the chemical composition of the brain,” says Richard Wurtman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Food & Mood, “Nutrition Action Health Letter,” Sept. 1992, 1).

Frankly, I don’t need some hotshot scientist to tell me that. He’s preaching something I already know—if you eat six bags of chips, five hamburgers, four pounds of cheesecake, three loaded pizzas, two chocolate shakes, and a partridge in a pear tree, you won’t think so clearly.

Out of love, God provides dietary guidelines for us to follow if we want to think and feel our best. He loaded up the Garden of Eden with everything we need to experience optimum health.

Again, modern science seconds God’s motion. C. Everett Coop, former surgeon general of the United States, suggests the best menu is “a varietal diet rich in complex carbohydrates and protein obtained from whole grains, bean, peas, legumes and a selection of root vegetables. Daily servings of leafy vegetables, daily servings of fruit, a few nuts and 8-10 glasses of water.”

The bottom line: Eat lots of stuff that grows in dirt. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat the dirt! •

October 01, 2002 / Fresh Start
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Karl Haffner is senior pastor of the Walla Walla College Church and writes from College Place, Wash.