My children were always playing outside in the dirt, climbing trees, or out in the backyard. It was good for them in so many ways- but one of the reasons was that John and I felt that exposure to a little dirt (bacteria) would be good for strengthening and building their immune system.
I’ve been rather amused yet also alarmed at all the anti bacterial washes, wipes and related products that are for home use! I mean, all those silly ads- always with mothers and their babies who go near a clean looking bin and the mother freaks out…but it’s okay, she’s got her handy dandy anti bacterial wipes. Doh!
My concern is that children don’t have the opportunity to build up their natural immune system by coming into contact with these regular bugs. I think the more we use these anti bacterial products, the more we assist those nasty super bugs to grow and evolve.
But it’s all okay- now it is *news*.
The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests exposing children to certain bacteria can help develop their immune systems, while a sterile environment can increase the risk of disease.
Research to be published in the journal Nature today gives a boost to this theory.
American scientists found specially modified mice raised in a germ-free environment developed “robust” type 1 diabetes.
When the mice were given the friendly bacteria found in the human gut, the incidence of diabetes fell.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, while the more common type 2 diabetes is more likely to be lifestyle-related.
The authors concluded that intestinal microbes, which travel from food and the surrounding environment into an infant’s gastrointestinal tract, have a critical effect on the immune system.
Melbourne autoimmune expert Professor Leonard Harrison said the study was “compelling evidence” that living conditions were linked to diabetes. “Clean conditions increase and dirty conditions decrease diabetes incidence,” he said.
Flinders Medical Centre Director of Endocrinology Professor Nikolai Petrovsky said the “exciting and seminal paper” showed the importance of breastfeeding for infants followed by a healthy diet that includes yoghurts and cheeses with “good” bacteria.
Cumberland Park father Dave Bastin said the important thing was to be sensible about hygiene. “My son (Daniel, 3) at the moment is up to his elbows in sand outside . . . he’s pretty healthy apart from the normal sorts of things,” he said.
So it’s safe to let your children outside to play outside again… Whew, thank goodness for modern day research.