By Dr. Lisa Metzgar, PhD:
We live in an age of over sanitation, especially when it comes to our children. We use antibacterial soaps and don’t expose our children to necessary bacteria that help to build their immune systems.
"According to this "hygiene hypothesis,'' the human immune system evolved two types of biological defenses. When one defensive system lacks practice, perhaps from an overly sanitary lifestyle, the other system becomes too powerful and overreacts to harmless substances like pollen (1)."
So, it is just as important to our children’s health to expose them to dirt as it is to feed them a healthy diet. Keeping your kids too clean may be contributing to autoimmune dysfunctions like allergies and asthma. They aren’t getting exposed to pathogens at an early age which helps develop their immune systems so they end up having problems later in life (2).
There are so many factors that have an effect on our immune systems and specifically our gut microbiome. Stress, antibiotics, processed foods, chemicals and pesticides, antibacterial cleaning products, and sugar all destroy our microbiome. We need to get back to a more natural life for ourselves and especially for our children. A study of Amish farm raised children found that they had significantly lower rates of allergies compared to those not raised on a farm. They both led very natural healthy lives but the only difference was the exposure to the soil of the farm (3).
The overuse of antibacterial soaps, especially those with triclosan, has been shown to increase antibiotic resistant bacteria (4). This means that the overuse of antibacterial soaps has forced bacteria to evolve to survive. These resistant bacteria are very dangerous because they don’t respond to any antibiotics. They are very prevalent in hospitals and create serious health issues sometimes lead to death. With the evolution of bacteria and not getting exposed to the microorganisms that can protect our immune system there are serious health concerns.
It has been shown that the microorganisms and bacteria in soil is very beneficial to our 88improvement in their symptoms (5). It seems that the bacteria in soil are stronger strains and survive the digestive tract to get to where they need to go to improve gut health.
Not only do soil based bacteria protect our immune system, they also help balance our moods. A group of lung cancer patients were injected with soil based bacteria, although it didn’t improve their physical symptoms, they showed improved mental well-being (6).
So how do we get more dirt in our diet without actually eating dirt…although eating a little dirt doesn’t hurt either. Here are a few tips to get more dirty.
- Every once in a while, let your children play in the dirt (yes, actually dirt) and only have them do a quick rinse with water and no soup before they eat. I know this sounds crazy but they will get some beneficial bacteria from their hands.
- Go barefoot in the dirt and grass. You will be amazed at how grounded you feel and how happy it makes you.
- Garden! Digging in the garden is very therapeutic and you will definitely benefit from getting your hands dirty. The vegetables you get from your own garden are also very beneficial because they have the native soil bacteria on them. Being exposed to the native strains helps your immune system to be stronger against native allergens like pollen. Get you kids to help you garden. They will not only reap the benefits of getting dirty but will be proud to be eating something that they helped to grow. If you can’t do a garden then buy your vegetables from local farmers.
- Buy organic and don’t wash your vegetables with washes…just rinse in water. The plants bacteria protect them from disease and will do the same for you.
- Get a dog. Dogs will drag in all kinds of things from the outside world. It seems that households with dogs and other pets have 56 more different strains of bacteria than those with no pets. The likelihood of allergies and asthma in children with pets seems to be lower than those with no pets (7).
It turns out that we got it all wrong when it came to how clean we need to keep our children. We have overdone it with the obsession to sanitize everything and need to get back into the dirt. The dirt is where it all starts.
Maybe more trips to the neighborhood sandbox playground? Some parents are afraid to go there with their babies and toddlers because of the germs.Posted By Doug on 10/17/2017