Nowadays parents are obsessed with not allowing their children to play in the dirt. Parents carry disinfecting wipes wherever they go; hand-sanitizer dispensers seem to be on every other corner, parents don’t let their kids get even a little dirty… the list goes on. It's a stark contrast to the way we were raised as children not too long ago. We used to roll around in the dirt and get a little mucky, jump into streams to bottle fish, climb trees to grab a handful of boras, get bruised and dusty on playgrounds, collect mud, walk barefoot through dust bowls in search of kantam and chunnam, you name it... We craved to immerse ourselves in natural environments.
Parents today are so worried about their children falling sick, or catching a cold or flu, that they are obsessively focused whether their child is clean and germ-free. However, this seems to be working against the natural rhythm of life.
Science has proven that exposure to dirt is beneficial to a child’s life. Research into the connection between getting dirty and a healthy immune system has found that this modern obsession with germs and cleanliness might be leading to the rise in allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Children love dirt because they instinctively know it is good for them in order to grow up with a strong immune system.
Just like any other muscle in our body, the immune system needs to be exercised in order to fully develop and become strong enough to resist illness and disease. The best way to do that is to play outdoors in the dirt!
What a child is doing when he gets dirty is allowing his immune system to explore his environment. Not only does this allow for the ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what things can be ignored as harmless without any hypersensitive reaction. When children are not exposed early to such environments the immune system fails to recognize such substances as harmless and therefore tries to defend the body against these substances which it now recognizes as foreign and harmful through an exaggerated immune response which we recognize as allergies.
Bacteria are everywhere: on us, in us and all around us. Most of these microorganisms cause no problem, and many, like the ones that normally live in the digestive tract and produce life-sustaining nutrients, are essential for good health. The typical human probably harbours some 90 trillion microbes. The very fact that you have so many microbes of so many different kinds is what is keeping you healthy most of the time.
At Vitanova Clinics we have found children who have been exposed to the outdoors, to all sorts of bugs, worms, dirt, sand and natural elements, demonstrate fewer allergies and autoimmune problems than children who spend most of their time indoors. We also find this vast contrast in the health of two children raised by the same parents in the same environment. We usually find that the elder child, who has been protected from dirt by cautious parents, falls sick much more than the younger child who has been less protected.
Children raised in an ultra-clean environment are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.
Dear parents, take a deep breath and enjoy watching the joy your child will experience playing in the dirt, knowing that you are allowing them to build their intuitive instincts and a strong immune system. It's time for you to relax and trust your child’s in-house doctor - their ‘immune system’ - which will make them healthier, the dirtier they get.