News Staff via CBN News – The coronavirus pandemic has created a desire among many of us to kill all germs everywhere. However, leading scientists say that’s going too far and that over-sanitizing our environment can lead to a number of health problems.
CBN Medical Reporter Lorie Johnson interviewed Dr. Jack Gilbert, author of the book “Dirt is Good.”
Dr. Gilbert said the world around us is filled with all kinds of helpful microbes that actually strengthen our immune system.
“The wonderful thing about microbes is they’ve been here for a long period of time and they’ve adapted to every environment on earth,” he explained. “In the last 100 years since we’ve moved in moved indoors and live in our sealed homes, the microbes that have inhabited our bodies have taken up residence in our homes. The bacteria that live on our skin, in our mouth, and in your gut find their way into the homes we live in. They play an active role in our health.”
And there can be serious, harmful health consequences if we mismanage microbes, particularly for children.
“The environment in which a child grows up shapes their immune system especially in the first six weeks to six months of life. When a child is putting things in their mouth, those exposures and experiences shapes how their immune system develops and that can shape how our brains develop. For children with autism or allergic diseases, those early life exposures can be fundamental in helping them live a healthy life.”
Dr. Gilbert pointed out that growing up around animals and in an environment that isn’t totally sterile can help a child’s immune system.
“When we look at asthma which is a major disease, it affects approximately nine to 10 percent of the U.S. population,” Gilbert said. “It’s huge, right? Children that grow up living with a dog, physically interacting with a dog can have a 13 percent reduction in the likelihood of developing asthma overall. Children that grow up on a farm and interact with farm animals have a 50 percent reduction in the likelihood of developing asthma.”
“We can use our information about the exposures those children get to try and understand how to train children’s immune systems that grow up in inner cities and urban environments where their immune systems are not being trained appropriately as you might expect.”
Additionally, he explained that too much disinfecting with antibacterial products can be harmful to a child’s body.
“Early life-straining of the immune system, sensing the bacteria in dirt or the microbes in the hair of a dog play an active role in helping the child’s immune system to learn how to cope with the environment in which it finds itself,” he said. “That will stop allergic diseases such as asthma, food allergy, maybe even help the development of the brain and endocrine system to allow the body to live a healthy and productive life without chronic diseases.”
Dr. Gilbert even gave advice on how to get enough good germs while still protecting against the coronavirus.
“There’s a simple solution to allow our children to survive the pandemic without chronic consequences. Allow them to physically interact with a dog or a pet on a regular basis. Allow the child to play with dirt and plants. Allow the child outside. Those simple solutions will expose your child to the right kind of microbial environments.”
Finally, Dr. Gilbert encouraged everyone to continue washing their hands with warm water and soap, because viruses are still something to be avoided.