The DL On Germs + Dirt + Bacteria
What if I told you the environment that you are living in right now MOST LIKELY has a direct impact on the health and diversity of your microbiota and immune system?
First off, there's this: In the first few years of life, our gut microbiota (the world of bacteria that will forever be with us) and immune system develop simultaneously.
Functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC, states in his book, Healthy Gut, Healthy you, “The importance of early life on development of the immune system cannot be overemphasized. It has been well documented that early life exposure to dirt, germs, and bugs (bacteria) aids in the development of your immune system, and if you’ve had robust exposure, you’ll be less inflamed and have a healthier immune system later in life.”
Ever wonder why we have SO many inflammatory + autoimmune diseases, and allergic disorders here in our industrialized/westernized country? =/
Take a quick second and think about how much contact we have lost with dirt, bacteria, farm animals, etc. over the years.
I get it that we want to protect our kids and ourselves from infections, but what if we have gone way too far? What if early childhood infections were meant to give our immune systems the training it needed?
Think about our ancestors – working on their shelters, making equipment, gathering foods, running around barefoot, and butchering animals ALL without anti-bacterial soap?!?! OH MY!
And THEN…they would hold and play with their infants and children?! ABSURD, right? Not so much!
Guys, because of these daily activities, these people and children had fantastically well trained immune systems. High bacterial exposure = so important.
Look here at present day – we slather ourselves with antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers (which kill bad AND good bacteria both), we barely come in contact with the earth and farm animals, and we are given antibiotics for EVERYTHING (blog post to come on that topic).
That being said, our immune systems are weak and untrained. They are confused and often attack or react to healthy tissue in the body that are not actual threats to us– causing autoimmune diseases (celiac disease, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, psoriasis, anemia, MS, etc.) AND allergies (to grasses, pollen, or foods).
Guess which countries have far less inflammatory, autoimmune, and allergic diseases? YEP – those in NON-westernized societies. Do you ever wonder why allergies are at an all-time high here in the US? There are even nut-free lunch tables at some schools these days! Doesn’t that make you stop and say…what? WHY?
So throughout your years on earth, have you had the “Don’t touch that!” and “Wash your hands immediately” mentality for yourself or your kids?
What if I told you when I am at HOME (not the Simply Rooted Kitchen, guys - I can assure you we follow the health department guidelines), I am always barefoot, doing computer work outside in the grass, I use the same dish sponge for months, I never wash my hands with soap EVEN after touching raw meat or going to the bathroom (again – this is at home, not the SIMPLY ROOTED KITCHEN), I use the same glasses over and over again, I am around horses almost every day, and heck, most days I probably put my fingers right in my mouth after the barn. So, you guessed it, BACTERIA IS MY FRIEND, while Clorox bleach and Lysol are NOT welcome in my home. And yes, Kacy is the same way.
Are many of you thinking, my goodness! What the…?
Well, when was the last time I was sick? Over two, maybe three years ago. Hmm...
Studies show that people who grew up around animals and livestock have more diverse microbiota and stronger immune systems. People who grow up in the city, rarely touching dirt and playing with animals have been shown to have damaged microbiota.
If our “good bacteria” is wiped out from soaps, sanitizers, and cleaners, we are prone to a compromised immune system. Trillions of bacteria live in and on our body (microbiota) and these bacterial cells outnumber human cells by...guess what... 10 to one. So yeah, they are super important for our health and wellbeing.
When our microbiota is compromised it can do more than bring upon autoimmune diseases and allergies. Diabetes, obesity, autism, mental health (anxiety, schizophrenia) colds, flus, and being more susceptible to food poisoning are all possible outcomes.
Side note: When gut microbiota is damaged… guess what…so is our serotonin production, which messes with mental health. Because 80% of serotonin is made in the gut from the food you eat – FOOD is beneficial information for our brain – OR NOT if the gut doesn’t recognize what we are feeding it. (more on this topic later, along with the link between inflammatory cytokines and depression).
So for those of you who are thinking... "I was raised on antibiotics and hand sanitizer, what the H*** can I do to support my gut and immune system now?"
Here are some steps we can take to boost our + our kid's microbiota and immune system health...
First off, mothers to be – try your best to have a vaginal birth so your baby can acquire super important bacteria made in the vaginal canal for the baby. It provides protection for the baby and gets their microbiota off to a great, strong start. Also, if you can, breastfeed. Again, wonderful for the microbiota of the little bebe. If none of this works for you, it’s ok! Your kid will be just fine.
We can focus on eating (and feeding our kids) a clean, whole-foods based diet – free of sugar and processed foods. It is important to fix imbalances and infections like SIBO, candida, and parasites in the gut – because if we don’t take care of those, they can feed off of prebiotics, probiotics, and certain foods. There are tests and protocols out there for checking on this.
The way to go = fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetables, clean 100% grass-finished and pasture raised meats, and healthy fats are great for keeping the gut ecosystem balanced.
Feeding our gut microbiota with probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, fermented pickles and onions are fabulous . Also, good prebiotics include onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and dandelion greens.
Aside from diet, get outside and dig in the dirt – ground yourself (see previous blog), play with animals (go to the petting zoo with your kids or by yourself if you don’t have access to farm animals – the more poop the better), grow lots of diverse plant-life in your yard or go somewhere that has lots of plants and flowers, and TRY to stay away from antibacterial soaps and antibiotics as much as possible.
Remember: it is best to stay away from or limit foods that mess with gut health, causing inflammation/leaky gut… gluten, dairy, sugar soy, caffeine, and alcohol.
Thanks for reading! AND NOW… go lick your hands!
Information from this blog was gathered from studies and research done by Dr. Michael Ruscio, Dr. Chris Kresser, Dr. Tanda Cook, and personal research/testimonials.
*This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illnesses. I am not making any medical claims, just sharing personal testimonies and informations gathered from reputable sources.*