Immune systems under threat

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  • The epidemic that threatens our immune systems
  • Why germs are good for you
  • A diet that boosts your resistance to disease

Well, that struck a nerve!

Last Thursday I sent out an email about the ‘5 second rule’ of food falling on the floor – is there really a ‘safe’ zone where no bacteria get time to transfer? (If you missed it, read it here.

At the end I questioned whether we were too obsessed with germs and contamination these days… or not obsessed enough!

Because while it’s true that we wilfully (or unwittingly) ignore many germ-ridden perils in our homes, workplaces and schools…

It’s also true that exposure to a wide range of bacteria from a young age is a good thing, because it helps prevent allergies and weak immunity when we’re older.
Within an hour I got a flurry of responses…

And pretty much ALL of them agreed that life was too clean these days.

Kill all known germs dead?

No thanks!

One reader says: “Yes! We can become obsessional about cleanness. What happens next is gradual Obsessional Compulsive Neurosis. You have to empty the house bin into the collection bin. Out comes the gloves and the bacterial wipes and the special shoes”

Another reader emailed me to say: “Maybe our allergies are rising because we are too clean.”

And he’s right – most scientists now agree with this.

For instance, Guy Delespesse, a professor at the University of Montréal Faculty of Medicine, claims that the rise in hay fever, eczema and asthma are directly linked to the sterile environment created by our modern cleaning habits.

There simply aren’t enough germs around our homes these days!

“The more sterile the environment a child lives in”, he says, “the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an immune problem in their lifetime.”

To show you how serious this immunity problem is, let me hit you with some stats….

• Over 150 million people in Europe have allergies – it’s now the most common chronic disease and will affect 50% of all Europeans in a decade’s time!

• There are 21 million adults in the UK with least one allergy – it pus Britain in the top three countries for allergy rates!

• Asthma, Rhinitis and Eczema have trebled in the past two decades

• By 2025, asthma will be the most prevalent chronic childhood disease

Honestly, until I researched these latest stats I had no idea of the extent of this.
This is an epidemic!

This is why there’s a bit of a buzz about a new book called Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitised World by B Brett Finlay and Marie Claire Arrieta.

Their argument is that our war on germs in the 20th Century has caused a major crisis in the 21st Century…

Is your microbial community diverse enough?

Good health depends on having a diverse community of micro-organisms inside us and NOT blasting everything to death with high-powered cleansing sprays.

I now feel fortunate that I didn’t grow up with one of those mothers (or fathers) who obsessively cleaned every day and kept the house like a show home (sorry if you’re reading this, Mum, no offence!)

What’s more, most days I’d play out in the abandoned fields next to my house where there was mud, rusty corrugated iron panels, dirty puddles and all kinds of muck. I know that a lot of kids these days don’t get that chance (it makes me sound old, but it’s TRUE, and I’m as guilty of this with my own children).

Funnily enough, even if my mum HAD been an obsessive cleaner, it turns out that many of these high priced products people have been using aren’t quite as good as claimed.

For instance, the US Food and Drug Administration now say that antibacterial soap and gel sanitisers have no special advantage over ordinary soap and water,

In fact, they could do harm…

Because there’s an ingredient in these products called ‘triclosan’ which is linked to hormone problems and could be linked to the increase in anti-biotic resistance in bacteria.

Instead of lining the pockets of companies who produce damaging artificial cleaning products, there is an alternative…

Use lemon juice or vinegar with warm water as a natural cleaner for your home. These can work just as well, without side-effects.

And perhaps don’t feel you have to sanitise every surface, or keep your house like the inside of an international space station…. Particularly if you have kids.

Also consider this…

Eat yourself more immune

The best way to increase the diversity of microbial life inside your body is….
…to eat a more varied diet.

Again, this is of vital importance if you’re feeding kids. If you want to give them the best immune system for life, then offer them a wide variety of grains including oats, rice, barely, and quinoa. Choose whole grain versions of them whenever you can.

Also throw these into the mix….

• Cultured dairy products like buttermilk, yoghurt, and cheese

• Fibrous foods like leeks, beans, mushrooms, onions.

• Fermented foods like apple cider vinegar and pickled vegetables.

• Plenty of raw fruit and vegetable – it’s the obvious advice, but it’s worth repeating!

The golden rule is to replace processed and refined foods wherever possible with whole foods and raw foods.

It doesn’t mean you have to live on rabbit food – treats and special occasions are fine. It’s more about trying to increase the microbial life inside your stomach to give your immune system a boost.

For more on allergies, please read this short piece I put together in August, called Allergies? Soon you might be able to switch them off.

Well worth looking at!

Until the weekend, then, stay healthy!

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