With all of the allergies and diseases facing the world today it may be hard to believe that cleanliness may not be the solution to all our health problems, but rather the cause. According to a leading immunologist, Professor Graham Rook, “A little bit of germs help build a strong immune system while being too clean has made younger generations more vulnerable to allergies and disease.”
Cleanliness is everywhere. As a society people have become obsessed with sanitizing everything. The world’s growing separation from germs and dirt may very well be the reason for the rapid rise in allergic diseases such as asthma and autoimmune diseases, according to an ever increasing number of scientists.
Dr. Maria Garcia-Lloret, assistant clinical professor of pediatric allergy and immunology at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at the University of California, said
The theory behind this is as society cleans up the environment it causes immune systems to move away from being focused on fighting parasites and bacteria. It then has nothing to do and starts to react against things that are usually not harmful like cat dander or dust mites.
In other words, although most people are born with a healthy immune system, a constant interaction with germs helps keep it in great condition. The immune system needs to be fueled and without regular stimulations the immune system gets confused and starts to treat harmless interactions as a threat.
This is not a new theory; for years it has been suggested that a little dirt may be the best chance of avoiding allergies. Due to the cleaner lifestyle, the immune system does not need to fight germs as much as in times past. It is not suggested that cleaning routines be completely dismissed rather a healthy medium is needed between the two. For many this means their view of germs will need to be re-evaluated and new ways will need to be implemented to reintroduce some dirt into their lives, especially the children.
In times past children played outside and had no problem getting dirty. They would literally spend hours playing in the dirt making mud pies, dirt cakes while soaking in the earth’s brown goodness. Most people have never heard that studies have suggested dirt is even good for our brain. Reportedly there are types of bacteria naturally found in soil which activate the neurons that produce a natural anti-depressant called serotonin. Could this mean dirt has the ability to make us happy?
Today children play with electronics indoors and have developed a germophobe mentality along with a host of allergies and respiratory issues. In the germaphobic culture that currently exists there are entire aisles of sanitizing products at almost every store. Children are being raised in conditions that promote and perpetuate the fear of anything that resembles dirt.
Believe it or not dirt really is great for the immune system and needs to be embraced especially by children – the younger the better. Without the proper exposure to different microbes and bacteria, research has show the immune system does not learn to recognize its own cells, and this could be a reason for higher rates of asthma and more disease-resistant kids.
Even with research many have difficulty accepting the theory which suggests dirt and germs can actually be healthy for children. The things children want to do outside like splashing around in puddles; building mud castles and rolling down dirty, grassy hills until their clothes are irreparably stained with grass are all a necessary part of their well-being. In the day we live in these are the very things that make mothers cringe and reach for globs of hand sanitizer, but the filthy reality is dirt may just be little prescription for healthier growth process.
This indoor childhood is damaging to kids. In fact, in the last twenty or so years as kids continue to spend less time outside, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled, the United States has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world and the use of antidepressants in pediatric patients has drastically increased. Unfortunately, rather than following the innate impulse to explore the outdoors or the “natural” world, people continue to choose the sterile company of technology, and as a result are not as healthy as they once were.
The fear of germs and disease is making the world sick. With all of the allergies and diseases facing the world today it may be hard to believe that the urge for sterilized purity is hurting, not helping our society. A little bit of germs help build a strong immune system while the fear of anything dirty has made younger generations more vulnerable to allergies and disease.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)