Healthy Dirt: Importance of a Non-Sterile Environment for Children

Child playing in dirt

Asthma, food allergies, and environmental allergies are on the rise in developed countries. Allergies have gone from 10% of the Western population in 1980 to 30% today. Why?

The Hygiene Hypothesis offers us an answer. This medical hypothesis states that a lack of early childhood exposure to germs has meant a rise in allergies and suppressed immune function. Zealous hygiene and overuse of antibacterial products, which are more common in the industrialized world, are well intentioned but actually have the effect of making us weaker. Put simply, children need germs to develop a healthy immune system. For children to develop their full potential immunity, they need a non-sterile environment.

Should each of us as parents be concerned about maintaining our children’s health? Absolutely. That includes nutrition, activity, a stress-free environment, and even natural exposure to dirt and good bacteria. That doesn’t need to include filters and antibacterial hand goo unless the child is already in a compromised state. A sterile environment is not a healthy environment. Quite the contrary.

When we talk about reducing toxins in your home, we aren’t talking about the good bacteria that we have evolved relationships with. Remove the chemical toxins that make you sick, and embrace the bacteria that keep you healthy. Gut flora have enzymes that help us digest foods. If the balance of good bacteria is changed (through overuse of antibiotics, for example), that can interrupt our ability to get the nutrition we need from the same amount of food. As our internal bacteria change, our digestion and waste processes try to adjust. Killing our gut flora can make us sick.

We need microorganisms. We are full of microorganisms that help us maintain our health. There are plenty of situations when we need to embrace microorganisms, dig our hands in the dirt, and let our bodies function naturally.

Help Your Children Maintain Healthy Microorganisms

Encourage children to eat fermented foods and priobotic foods. Your children will follow your lead in the foods that they love. These foods have beneficial bacteria that help digestion. This might be a taste acquired at a bit older age, but introduce more over time as their tastes develop. Just make it a habit to eat cheese, dark chocolate, pickles, vinegar, kimchi and sauerkraut, bread, yoghurt, sour cream, soy sauce and miso, and many other flavorful foods from around the world.

Use only natural antibacterials like essential oils and vinegar. We carry Clean George hand purifier for those situations when you need to get rid of bad bacteria, such as after a diaper change while travelling.

Ask a holistic pediatrician for help in supporting your child’s normal immune development.

Image © Susan Leggett |

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