By Dr. Jennifer Barham-Floreani: Tip # 4: GET DIRTY – Benefits to the Immune System
Many of us have been led to believe that germs are the root of all evil. And that we should go to great lengths to avoid them…
Anti-bacteria hand creams, sprays, and wipes, fill our handbags and counters. Yet, compelling research tells us that we have gone too far. Some exposure to pets, dirt, and other children, for example, are vital for stimulating the immune system to work effectively. In experiments where we grow animals in completely sterile (germ-free) environments, their immune systems do not develop normally. In a conclusion, they develop severe immune diseases, including allergy and autoimmunity.
When our “microbiome” (our internal network of helpful and harmful bacteria) becomes imbalanced, our digestion, immune function, state of mind, and general health and wellbeing in time become compromised. Scientists now believe, an imbalanced microbiome to be one of the primary causes of several diseases and disorders. Such as:
- Chronic infection
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue
- Neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and schizophrenia.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal just a few months ago stated that “the disruption of the gut balance [is linked] to an increasing number of diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, allergies, and asthma.”
Studies now tell us that exposure to dirt and germs is incredibly essential. We need regular exposure to bacteria and viruses to strengthen our immune system. In our own homes, among our own families, we want to take the opportunity to build up our immune systems.
Here are a few quick tips:
- Letting children crawl on the floor is fine, playing in the dirt is a good thing; we encourage having family pets and sharing a spoon with your sister is, again, fine.
- Cleaning away visible dirt or grime on any surface — sinks, floors, or door handles with thorough washing and cleaning products that are free of harsh chemicals — is usually enough without constant sterilizing. And also using disinfectants such as bleach (which probably kills everything in the air around it, too!).
- Washing our hands with simple soap dislodges and removes surface particles without stripping everything on the skin. Antibacterial soaps kill both good and bad bacteria. They also strip the skin of the environment it needs to sustain good bacteria.
- Be less concerned about germs but instead focus more on considering how strong is your child’s digestive power and immune system.
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