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25 June 2010

Eat dirt – it’s good for you!

Scientists have shown that the bacteria in dirt make you smarter, happier and healthier. So go on, get dirty!

I remember, as a kid, frequently coming home from a days’ play in the garden, the park or the street, covered in mud and muck from head to toe. My mother would complain that it seemed to be impossible for me to have fun without getting completely dirty! The only plausible explanation I could ever come up with was that it was “fun”.

Scientists have argued for some time that the sharp rise in immune system disorders like asthma, allergies, inflammatory bowl disease, multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes during the last century, particularly in the developed world, stems from an unhealthy obsession with clean living. Dr Joel V. Weinstock, the director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston argues that at birth our immune system “is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instructions.” He says that “children raised in an ultra clean environment are not being exposed to organisms that help the appropriate immune regulatory system develop circuits” which can tell good bacteria from those that are harmful.

 
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