Are we too clean? Consider this hypothesis: Asthma, autism, cancer, arthritis, obesity and MS could be on the rise not only because of improved diagnosis, but also these illnesses seem to correlate with the rise of anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial living. Apparently, dirt is part of the delicate balance of healthy living.
While this shift in disease occurs on the physical plane, what about “dis-ease” on the emotional plane? Are depression, anxiety and stress more prevalent nowadays because we drive ourselves crazy with too pure idealizations and perfectionism?
“Dirtier Lives May Be Just The Medicine We Need” by Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal
gives the reader an overview of the shift in diseases from grandma’s day to the present. He alerts us to the vast evidence presented by Moises Velasquez-Manoff in An Epidemic of Absence
which draws on hundreds of studies to explain the rise of inflammatory and auto-immune diseases. The author claims that they are caused by an “unbalanced immune system because of an impoverished microbial ecosystem.”
When we are not exposed to enough parasites, bacteria and viruses as children, the immune system instead of drawing its attention to do battle inward, draws its sword outward to fight Don Quixote windmills like allergens from nature and other environmental triggers. Also, a Finnish study as published in the July 9 online issue of Pediatrics asserts that babies who grow up with pets - especially dogs - are less likely to develop colds and other respiratory infections by the time they're toddlers. You might be interested to learn the protective benefit is proportional to how much time the dog spends outside –particularly what the dog tracks in offers the greatest benefit!
If this is happening to the body, the mind inevitably follows. Stress unleashes an inflammatory process to the mind as well as to the body. The effects of stress lodge longest in the brain. Unhappy and dissatisfied with our ordinary lives, we turn to celebrities and fairytale marriages. The media fuels the imagination for unrealistic body images and so, eating disorders follow. We wonder if we are living with our soul mate, especially after an argument or unexpected financial problem. We keep busy, busy, busy to avoid processing our dirty little unhappiness.
How to embrace the common dirt:
- Get out in nature and be more natural. According to studies children on farms have fewer cases of asthma and allergies.
- Consider probiotics, particularly if you have digestion problems. Many of us have an imbalance of the good bacteria.
- While you should wash your hands to avoid viruses and bacteria, don’t be too clinical.
- Don’t use anti-bacterial cleansers for everything. Plain soap and water are effective.
- Don’t always tell the realist in your group to shut up, labeling this person a pessimist. Listen and improve what is needed.
- Couples should argue to clear the air. It’s how you argue not that you argue or how often. No name calling or dirt from the past, please!
- Forgive people who hurt you even if they did not apologize. Then move on and feel better about yourself.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life
, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com