Up until recently we have been encouraged to make a virtue of cleanliness by washing our hands before meals and keeping the house spotless and germ free. Now scientists have noticed that more and more children suffer from allergies and so have revised their attitude to dirt. In fact they now say that it is a good idea for young children and their elders to spend time outdoors playing in the dirt since this will build up their immune system. This comes from an article by David Gutierrez on the Natural News website.
One of the best ways to protect your children from a lifetime of allergies and autoimmune disorders is to make sure that they ? and you ? spend plenty of time outdoors getting dirty, scientists are now saying.
That’s because exposure to the naturally occurring microbes in our outdoor environment helps program the developing immune system to learn what types of foreign agents are actually harmless. This prevents it from later attacking innocuous allergens, or even your own body.
“You want your immune system to have a large repertoire of harmless organisms that it has learned not to attack,” said medical microbiologist Graham Rook of University College London. “If you have this, then, because all lifeforms are ultimately built from the same building blocks, you are equipped to recognise almost anything that comes along and mount an appropriate immune response,” he continued, as reported by the U.K.’s Daily Mail.
More dirt = healthier immune system
The idea that exposure to microbes helps program the immune system goes back to 1989, when epidemiologist Prof. David Strachan noted that rates of allergies were rising in Western countries, concurrent with a drop in infectious diseases. He had also found that children with more older siblings were less prone to allergies (and, scientists later discovered, to autoimmune diseases). He suggested that exposure to more childhood infections via older siblings helped “train” the developing immune system.
In the years since, scientists have discovered that the key factor is not actually childhood infection ? understandably, since our hunter-gatherer ancestors rarely got many of the “herd” infections that large, urban populations now suffer from. Instead, the immune system is programmed by exposure to parasites and, most of all, harmless microbes that surround us.