“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”-John Muir
There is no denying that enhanced sanitation can bring about positive effects. Good hygiene such as washing our hands lowers our risk for diseases, which are often spread through contact with bacteria. Keeping clean decreases the risk of infection and prevents us from spreading illness-causing bacteria to others. Whilst good hygiene is essential for staying healthy, what happens when we stay too clean for too long?
Too Much Of A Good Thing Is Bad
The term “hygiene hypothesis” first originated in 1989 by Professor David Strachan who theorised that a lack of exposure to harmful germs at a young age is to be blamed for the rise in allergies. Our immune system is designed to protect us. When the environment is too sterile, it reduces the opportunity for our immune system to develop. A good example is a person who grew up solely on organic food. Any intake of street food is almost certain to make him or her unwell. Today, mounting research suggests that early exposure to allergens contributes to healthier immune systems in adults.
The Right Balance Is Crucial
Hyper cleanliness and exposure to too few foods & bacteria mean our body is robbed of the opportunity to learn and adapt. Exposure to low-level allergens at a young age is necessary to train our immune system to deal with different kinds of substances and environments. Our body needs challenges almost as much as it needs nourishment to grow stronger. Having a pet at home or letting your child play in nature is a good way to train the body to recognise what is harmful and what isn’t.
Not All Bacteria Are Harmful
Our body has trillions of bacteria that take up residence inside our body. In fact, the bacteria in our body can weigh as much as our brain! It is important to note that not all bacteria are harmful. Within our body, there are good bacteria that work hard to keep us healthy. A healthy microbiome should contain a flourishing, diversity of bacteria for a robust immune system. Daily consumption of good bacteria such as live probiotic cultures known as Lactobacillus is essential in keeping us healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally.
In the zeal to live clean, we need to keep in mind that moderation is key. Being too clean is like overusing antibiotics whenever we fall sick. After a while, it changes your immune system. Sanitisation is important but as with everything in life, moderation is key.