January 27, 2009

Mmmm, dirt!

In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system. Several continuing studies suggest that worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry and resulted in autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma.

These studies, along with epidemiological observations, seem to explain why immune system disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies have risen significantly in the United States and other developed countries.

. . .

Dr. Weinstock goes even further. “Children should be allowed to go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt, and not have to wash their hands when they come in to eat,” he said. He and Dr. Elliott pointed out that children who grow up on farms and are frequently exposed to worms and other organisms from farm animals are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27brod.html?em

Latest news on the 'hygiene hypothesis', which, I admit, I find pretty darn persuasive. But I have a little trouble with the worms (further down in the article).

That said, we do know people with Crohn's disease. And they would probably prefer worms.

5 comments:

Kelli said...

I just saw this article too, and I have to tell you that it made me feel like maybe I'm being a GOOD mom by not washing off those toys when they fall on the floor. And letting Darwin lick the cat.

Amy E said...

Yeah, I've been really surprised these past two years of cat ownership to learn how many people who grew up in very urban areas are allergic to cats. None of said people were exposed to pets or farms at a young age, and they make for very annoying guests... I'm glad you have a dog! Make sure Elliot gets to pet a friend's cat!

sheree said...

I'm a fan of the hygeine hypothesis, although I'll still pass on the worms.

Andy Callan said...

I'm unfortunately something of an expert on this topic after having some crazy allergy/sinusitis stuff the last few years. I actually emailed Weinstock and he got right back to me! The research is still ongoing but seems very promising for a lot of folks so hopefully the pace of progress picks up but in the meanwhile keep letting the kids play outside, handle lots of animals and layoff the antibacterial soap unless its cold season or you're traveling abroad....

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