In an age of hyper clean, researchers are wondering if all the hand sanitizers, anti-germ wipes and cleansers we use are actually making us more sick in the long run. Increasing evidence is pointing towards autoimmune disorders, like multiple sclerosis, and common allergies being associated with a lack of naturally occurring microorganisms inside our gut and our daily diet. In fact, that perfectly shiny apple and triple-washed lettuce sold at your grocery store is hardly recognized by your immune system as food.
The human body is actually meant to be exposed to a varying degree of dirt to keep defenses active and strong and the properties in dirt have historically established baseline levels of microorganisms in the body that ensure our cells don’t overreact to foreign invaders. Eradicating these necessary and helpful microorganisms, or killing them altogether with hyper sanitation, may in fact be causing greater harm than we intend, although we’d like to think spraying various cleansers and obsessively washing our hands is wise, precautionary “healthy” behavior.
While it’s good hygiene to wash your hands after going to the bathroom or shaking hands, it’s simply not necessary to go overboard. Interestingly, upon entering this world, when a child passes through the mother’s birth canal, trillions of beneficial microbes are passed onto the baby. Scientists are now realizing that this mysterious process occurs in a biological effort to douse the newborn with as much helpful bacterial defense as its young immune system can handle. The notable increase in cesarians, however, gives rise to concern as those infants are lacking this protective first line of defense. Of course some cesarians are necessary, but for those that are not, it’s alarming to think how many babies are born without this natural bacterial shield.
With autoimmune diseases affecting approximately 50 million people and costing more than $100 billion in research and treatment, it’s time to rethink our relationship with dirt and what we eat. Farmers markets and local produce are a great place to start and continue to grow in popularity and demand. Unlike commercial grocery stories, farmers markets supply food fresh off the farm, sometimes complete with a worm, bug and/or visible dirt. While many people cringe at the thought of this raw presentation, this is how food is suppose to arrive! So, rinse off your lettuce, tomato and carrot with some fresh water and make yourself a nice, healthy, microorganism laden salad. Your immune system will thank you.
Photo Credit: Dasha