The Buzz on Healthy Living Trends and Topics
Aug 7, 2013
10:32 AM
Health Kick

Dirty Birds

Dirty Birds

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.

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About This Blog

Contrary to the title of this blog, I'm not always on a health kick. I try (for the most part) to eat well and exercise regularly, but I'm far, far from perfect. I do, though, enjoy learning about health trends and scientific discoveries, and I hope to share information and pose questions that you might find interesting or useful. Hey, if you get a little inspired while you're reading, all the better. Just don't expect it on a regular basis. I'm a writer, not a celebrity trainer.

Why health? Well, I've been around the block enough times that I don't take it for granted anymore. I also recognize that our health is the result of myriad factors ranging from genetics to diet to habits to socioeconomic status to prejudices and beyond. It's a complicated puzzle with different pieces for each of us. That means there are few guarantees or absolutes and still a ton to discover. I never liked the rigidity of science in practice, but I love the insights it produces.

So let's start 2013 on a Health Kick. With any luck, we'll all be better for it.

– Jennifer Garrett 

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