Friday, Mar. 7, 2014
Getting dirty is not such a bad thingPosted Monday, March 26, 2012, at 2:33 PM
Is there such a thing as being too clean?
Can being a 'clean freak' be bad for the health of a young child or even adults?
Will a little dirt actually help kids rather than hurt them?
Some would debate those questions, but a new research study suggests that early exposure to some bacteria is essentially important to children to keep autoimmune disease levels low as they grow older.
Now by no means am I trying to suggest being a messy, disgusting pig is okay when it comes to keeping things clean. I am merely saying we probably get too obsessed about keeping our kids clean when it comes to them playing in sand piles, making mud pies or simply getting dirty in the normal course of play.
The research study was done with mice, but it appears to support the idea that some bacteria to shape a healthy immune system and that our present-day bacteria-fearing trends may attribute to growing levels of allergies, asthma and other autoimmune disorders, Fox News reports.
Study researcher Dennis Lee Kasper, a senior physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says it's a some times a stretch to compare humans to mice, but both are mammals and there are noticeable similarities in their immune systems.
The Fox News report also said in humans the immune system serves as the front line defense against germs that surround us every day.
These prevalent germs can be bad for our bodies ---- causing colds, food poisoning and an array of other diseases.
The study suggests problems come when the drivers of immunity ---- white blood cells ---- can sometimes turn against us.
Fox News says by nature, white blood cells are programmed to seek out "foreign" proteins coming from cells that aren't a part of our bodies. But sometimes they recognize parts of our own cells as foreign and start mounting an attack against our bodies, called an autoimmune disease.
Among popular autoimmune diseases are lupus, a chronic disease marked by muscle and joint pain and inflammation that may involve attacks on the kidneys and other organs; juvenile rheumatoid arthritis; scleroderma, that can lead to inflammation and damage of the skin, joints, and internal organs; ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that involves inflammation of the spine and joints, causing stiffness and pain; juvenile dermatomyositis, a disorder marked by inflammation and damage of the skin and muscles
In the study, which was published in the journal Science, the researchers compared normal mice with mice that were raised in special germ-free environments. They found high levels of special white blood cells called invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT) in the lungs and intestines of the germ-free mice.
To me, the study is interesting because it suggests that being obsessive about cleanliness can actually be bad, especially when it concerns children who are building up their immune system.
Moms need to stand back and let those kiddos lap up some dirt now and then.
I remember as a youngster, my dear mother would freak out at the sight of dirt on the face and especially the hands, on her mischievous boy who had a way of getting dirtier than most of the other kids he ran around with.
As I remember it my Mom spent a great deal of her precious time, sweeping, dusting, mopping, scrubbing and polishing things around the house because she really thought that dirt and grim was going to forever tarnish the future good health of her only son.
I also recall the time when I was about six or seven years old when we were fishing at a favorite pond and in my boredom when the fish weren't biting very well, I decided to give an earthworm that we were using for bait a taste. My Mom went ballistic -- literally rinsing my dirt stained mouth with water that she dipped from what I am sure was not a very sanitary pond. When we got home, the disinfecting process continued with several mouth swishes of hydrogen peroxide and plenty of warm soapy water.
She knew for sure that the dirty worm was going to be really bad for me.
Well, I wouldn't recommend taking a chomp out of a slimy fishing worm to anyone, but in the big picture of things, I probably wasn't all that harmed.
With all this talk about cleanliness and dirt, I am reminded of a cute little chant that my daughters did in their young softball playing days. It goes something like this, "Hit it hard down the middle, make the pitcher bend a little, make her eat some dirt."
Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be contacted by telephone at 847-4487 or by email at email@example.com.
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