An interesting theory called the hygiene hypothesis proposes that childhood exposure to bacteria and even certain infections can be really beneficial to our health. Increased exposure to particular viruses, bacteria or parasites could partially explain why children who grow up around animals and in rural areas appear to develop conditions like asthma less often than children who don’t. This germ exposure not only has a vaccination effect on the immune system – priming it to defeat these microbes more easily in the future – but also teaches the body to differentiate harmless substances from the harmful substances that trigger conditions like asthma.
It’s likely that contact with certain germs teaches the immune system not to overreact. Such healthy exposure could have applications ranging from alleviating allergies to treating autoimmune diseases. And even adults could benefit from the hygiene hypothesis. After all, bacteria are all around us. The idea that things can be and should be “perfectly clean” is a myth. Humans have always coexisted with bacteria and need them to live.
However, rather than “roll yourself or your child on the floor of the NYC subway,” embrace bacteria in more practical ways. Eat cultured foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi) and take a high potency probiotic supplement with a diverse array of strains.
For more reading, check out the full story here.
Image via Flickr