Restoration Health

The Dirtier The Better

Our civilized, modern approach to life has had dramatic and significant impact on our overall health in very undesirable ways. Autoimmunity and obesity, just to name a few, are on the rise which has continued to gain the attention of researchers all over the world. And what they’re finding is no surprise. The answers lie in the billions of microbes that make their home in our gut.

Recent emphasis has been especially focused on trying to determine why autoimmune diseases are dramatically increasing in western societies. And there’s no place better to look than what might be going on in our children. Researchers looked at the bacterial composition of over 200 children from birth to age three living in one of three countries: Finland, Estonia or Karelian, a fairly small country between Russia and Finland.

They found the same thing as many other researchers have confirmed: an abundance of Bifidobacterium during infancy and early childhood, as seen in the Karelian children, resulted in heightened “immune training” as compared to the Bacteroides-dominant Finnish and Estonian children who seemed to have less-robust or active immune responses. The absence of these important bacteria during infancy can set the stage for a lifelong struggle with immune-related challenges not to mention an increased tendency toward unregulated inflammation.

Suspected as being a key factor driving the increased presence of Bacteroides is the absence of bacterial exposures. Our societal obsession with cleanliness has left our immune systems weak and unchallenged. Without regular exposure to normally-occurring microbes via our hands, food and of course the soil, we do not have sufficient contact with the very thing that will enhance our physical health and overall state of wellbeing. And children living in the city, away from rural life and daily exposure to plants, animals and the dirt, are at the greatest risk.

The only way we can restore a healthy microbiome in not only ourselves but more importantly, our children, is to get dirty. Allow your children to be sick. Expose them to “clean dirt” (free from harmful chemicals and fertilizers) on a regular basis and then {gasp}, allow them to eat their lunches with dirty hands. Resist the temptation to clean every surface with antibacterial wipes (which aren’t antibacterial at all) and avoid the frequent use of hand sanitizer. Give yourself permission to have a home that looks like someone lives there instead of one that is perfectly kept and smells clean. This is the very environment we want to avoid.

Let’s educate ourselves and others about the need to be dirty. I know it’s shocking for some but just go with it! Wisdom dictates appropriate hand-washing with soap after coming in contact with toxic substances, hospitals or heavily trafficked public environments. But the rest of the time, let your kids have dirty fingernails. It’s a sign of good health.

Ronda Nelson

Ronda L. Nelson, PhD, MH is a holistic nutritionist and master herbalist who helps support and restore optimal health for those who are looking for alternative options with regard to their overall health and well-being.

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