The Buzz on Healthy Living Trends and Topics
Aug 7, 2013
10:32 AMHealth Kick
Years ago I wrote an article about the hygiene hypothesis, which is an idea that one of the reasons that allergies and asthma are growing more prevalent is because we're too clean and our immune systems, programmed to fight something, start to fight non-threatening substances in the absence of actual germs. One of the doctors I interviewed had a simple recommendation: let your kids play in the dirt.
I grew up with a borderline obsessive/compulsive mother who fixated on spots and dirt. She polished the stainless-steel sink. She sprayed down hotel rooms with Lysol (she still does this). We never sat on public toilet seats.
All this stuck with my brother. I still remember him scooping ice cream into a bowl. At some point he got some on his hand. He stopped, put the dish in the sink, washed his hands, got out a new dish and scoop, and started over.
It did not, however, stick with me. I'm the opposite. I eat fries that spill off my plate onto the restaurant table (sometimes making my brother cringe in outright disgust). My daughter never wears shoes outside. Her feet are coated in layers of dirt that a single bath can't remove. I remember those kids from when I was growing up. How could they stand to walk on gritty sidewalks with no shoes? Did their toenails ever get clean? And yet I wanted to be like them. I'd secretly take off my shoes in the backyard in hopes that I'd get dirty and look like I had played outside.
Summer is winding down. Days are shorter. Sandal season is almost over. I need to take a cue from my dirty birds and walk barefoot through the lawn before the chance escapes. I highly doubt it will make me sick. Quite the contrary. I bet it will be good for my body and for my soul.