By: Kennedy Shelley
Is your addiction to hand sanitizer making you sick?
While there have been several studies that show our war on germs actually makes us more vulnerable to disease, one doctor wants to take his war on clean to the next level — dirty hospitals.
Dr. Jack Gilbert first noticed that dolphins that were in dirty tanks at aquariums lived longer than those in the cleaner environments.
That observation got him interested in getting dirty. Then when his son was born, he started looking into how much dirt his kid needed to be healthy.
It turns out most germ exposure is actually beneficial. Most germs are not good or bad but neutral.
For instance, his advice is to ignore the “five second rule” which he says is a myth (most bacterium hop on in milliseconds). Unless you know the food landed in a place with a dangerous pathogen (which he believes is almost impossible in a modern US home), don’t worry about it.
He doesn’t wash his kid’s pacifier; he licks it because it will reduce his kid’s chances for allergies down the road.
And he lets his kids get licked by dogs and only makes his kid wash his hands during cold and flu season.
We have white blood cells called neutrophils which are always ready to fight infection. The problem is that we are so clean we don’t use them enough.
As a result, as soon as we get a super reaction when they finally spring into action, an allergic reaction is the result.
So, Dr. Gilbert’s advice is let your kids get dirty, they will be healthier in the long run.
While this is especially important for kids, there may be some advantage of being a bit of a dirty adult too.
Using a hand sanitizer that kills 99.9% of the germs does two things:
- It may create stronger germs.
- Takes away an opportunity to boost your immune system.
The way you change this is “Reverse Hygiene.” In other words, make your home dirty enough to be healthy, clean enough to be happy.
This doesn’t mean you stop taking showers, but does mean you should lay off the hand sanitizers.
The body needs to develop a stronger microbiome, and the way it does it is by exposure to dirt.
Your microbiome is the catch-all term for all the germs and bacteria that live with you every day. You carry about four to five pounds of it, most of it in your gut.
This stuff is vital to help you digest food, creates vitamins and regulates your entire system. When you have an antibiotic, you kill off many of your vital bacteria and you have to build that back up.
And you have to keep exercising your body’s immune system by not getting too clean.
While we know that dirty children are not only happy but healthy children, the evidence is actually not quite as clear with adults.
A study done noted that Amish children who were raised on rustic farms have far less asthma and other problems that plague kids in the “clean” world.
The question is if increasing the amount of dirt in the adult world can make your immune system stronger.
If you have any adult experience in this, please share your observations in the comments below.