Letting your kids roam freely in the sandbox is a way to ensure they get some fresh air, and make new friends. But several parents are worried about the possible health risks from the exposure to germs and contaminants. No wonder so many anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizers and disinfectants are available in the market. Moreover, some parents encourage kids to play indoors. Is this the best decision for their health? No, recent research says.
Playing outdoors is imperative to the kids’ mental and physical growth, and dirt could actually be good for them. Here’s why.
The Body Is An Ecosystem
While we struggle to restore the planet’s balance by reducing our carbon footprint, curbing our wasteful tendencies and recycling our junk, we fail to look closer home. Our bodies are mini ecosystems themselves, harboring several different microorganisms. These bacteria, which number around 100 trillion, are living and dying on the skin’s surface, on the tongue, and in the intestines. For every single human cell, the body houses 10 resident microbes, something germophobes should think about.
The Damage From Being Too Clean
Disorders stem from occasions when the bodily balance is upset, and there is a proliferation of the wrong kind of microbes. This is what has been shown to cause chronic diseases and infections. From overuse of anti-bacterial products to a diet that is seriously lacking in probiotics, Americans have slowly eroded the symbiotic relationship between the body and its microbial citizens. Being paranoid about letting children get dirty has led to a generation of adults with low immunity, susceptible to all kinds of allergies and plagued by conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gluten sensitivity, and lactose intolerance. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics, a diet of processed foods (which have been divested of all bacteria, good and bad), and environmental toxins, have all contributed to the body’s vulnerability.
Reversing The Ill-Effects
Dirt can be beneficial when we increase surface contact, either by playing in it, or while gardening. Recent research has shown that a strain of bacterium in soil, mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of serotonin, which in turn elevates the mood and decreases anxiety, besides improving cognitive function and possibly even treating cancer and other diseases in the future. Children and adults exposed to these bacteria are healthier and happier.
Dirt is no longer the villain, as has been thought for the longest time. In fact, being too clean could weaken your immune system. So don’t be afraid to play outdoors, run with the dog, or get your hands dirty in the garden.
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