Gardening and Family Health: Elucidating the Role of the Human and Environmental Microbiota

two stylized figures planting a plantGardening is a leisure activity that transcends cultures and is a tool for promising interactive environmental health promotion due to its potential to influence multiple aspects of health and family dynamics. A converging body of literature now supports the impact of community gardening for a variety of individual health benefits including greater nutritional quality, physical activity, and healthier weight status. However, there is a gap in the literature pertaining to the biological underpinnings by which gardening may influence health. Further, whether the impact of gardening extends to promotion of family routines and rituals remains unclear.

Accordingly, the proposed work has three objectives: 1) assess the impact of gardening on family routines and rituals across diverse populations; 2) determine effects of gardening on changes in the GI microbiota of the gardener in the household and family members; and 3) investigate the link between the soil microbiota and the GI microbiota of the gardener in the family.

We will employ a cross-sectional study design to contrast differences in familial routines and rituals and GI microbial profiles between families comprised of at least one gardener vs. families comprised of no gardeners. A gardening family will be comprised of at least 1 gardener who plans to grow consumable plants (e.g., herbs, fruits, and vegetables) for at least 30 minutes/week on average over the course of the growing season (May to October) and at least 2 other family members (spouse or partner + 1 child older than 5years). Therefore, we will enroll 20 total families (10 per group) and a total of 60 participants. Data will be collected over 2 visits (pre and post) to the laboratory.

Elucidating the biological contributors to the beneficial role of gardening for family health has the potential to provide vital knowledge necessary to develop interventions that capitalize on human-environment interactions to promote family resilience to chronic disease. This is especially important for minority populations in the US (e.g., Hispanic immigrants) that suffer disproportionately from obesity and type II diabetes.