Let Them Eat Dirt? Yes, this title is what caught my attention, too! When I saw it in my email box I just had to have a closer look at what it was about – just like you. How could germs be good for kids? My curiosity was piqued and I asked the publisher to send me a copy of the book so I could have a closer look at it.
Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World is a just-released book by Brett Finlay, PhD and Marie-Claire Arrieta, PhD. They are both parents, as well as researchers, at the forefront of microbial breakthroughs. Okay, so this may not be your favourite exciting topic, but this book really is a very interesting read. And it’s well-balanced so that it leads you through the research and technical aspects so that the average person can comprehend it while not talking down to you. In fact, there’s even a good dose of humour thrown in for good measure! The authors were on Good Morning America this week; you can see them here. And you can listen to Brett Finlay’s interview with The Nutrition Heretic when she asks him “How dirty is too dirty?”
If you know me personally, you’ll know that I can be a bit of a germophobe at times, much to some people’s annoyance. However, since having children and homeschooling them, there isn’t as much time for rigorous cleaning and I have had to try to relax my own standards (well, to tell the truth, my standards are still the same, but I haven’t the choice but to either let them slide a little or go insane and spend every waking moment scrubbing). The good news is that this could be a good thing for my children!
I’ll share the chapters with you so that you can get an understanding of the variety of topics discussed:
- Children are Microbe Magnets
- A Newly Discoverd Organ: The Human Microbiome
- Pregnancy: Eating for Two? Try Eating for Trillions
- Birth: Welcome to the World of Microbes
- Breast Milk: Liquid Gold
- Solid Foods: A Growing Diet for Microbes
- Antibioticcs: Carpet Bombing the Microbiota
- Pets: A Microbe’s Best Friend
- Lifestyle: Microbe Deficit Disorder
- Obesity: The World is Getting Heavier
- Diabetes: Microbes Have a Sweet Tooth
- Intestinal Diseases: Fire in the Gut!
- Asthma and Allergies: Microbes Keep Us Breathing Easy
- Gut Feelings: Microbiota and the Brain
- Vaccines Work!
- Bugs As Drugs
As you can see, there’s a lot covered in Let Them Eat Dirt! (USA affiliate link; UK readers can get the book here) Life truly does begin before birth if you’re a microbe. Before my children were born I was the typical expectant mom – reading all sorts of books and information about pregnancy and babies. But when Tristan was born extremely premature without notice, all of a sudden I found myself reading about a whole new world of infant health. Since then I have become more interested in the amazing ways infants and children develop (well, maybe I have been interested longer than that, as it was my focus in my psychology degree). Of course, for premature babies, a different set of ‘rules’ apply, but as they grow they filter into the mainstream.
I knew that breast feeding Tristan was the best thing I could do for him, and over the next 6 years I learned many things about liquid gold. It’s the only thing that prevents necrotising enterocolitis in premature babies, as well as many other benefits for both baby and mother. But I didn’t really know why it was such. In fact, science is still learning a lot in this area and some of it is presented in this book.
Did you know that the way your child is born affects their microbiota? As does living in the city or the country, having pets (or not), as well as what children eat. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important as the microbiota can change a lot during this time, but after this age it is pretty stable.
Have you ever considered that health issues such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, and even autism (all of which are dramatically on the rise) could be connected to microbiota and society’s obsession with eliminating germs? This book opens up the mind and will have you thinking about the connection.
Over the past century science has made terrific progress and saved countless lives through pasteurisation, sterilisation, sanitation, antivirals, vaccinations, chlorinated water, and antibiotics. However, we have also gone too far with the use of antibiotics, and some would argue the same with the other points. How can we get the balance right?
And let’s not forget that everything we eat nourishes not only ‘us’, but the millions of microbiota living on and in our bodies. Too much sugar isn’t good for them, either! Think about what you eat, and what your children eat, and how it may affect their health; not just now, but in the future as well.
One growing area of research that I hadn’t been aware of is the not-so-pleasing-to-think-about fecal transfers. Yes, that’s right – fecal transfers. Gross, is what comes to mind, and it’s certainly not something to be done at home; but read what Brett and Marie-Claire have to say about this treatment and it makes so much sense!
Think about your garden; if you’re an avid gardener, you will be aware of the ph level of your soil and what each variety of plant will need to grow to its full potential. You’ll add compost, manure, topsoil, nutrients, etc. These fecal transfers are a way to adjust the balance of microbes in our body in order for our bodies to be at their best.
Each chapter ends with a section of Dos and Don’ts to help parents remember the important things they can do for their children (and themselves).
It’s clear to me that Brett and Marie-Claire are deep into their research and have access to data before it’s made known to the general public. I’ve had my hands on this book for three months, and within the past month or so I’ve read at least two research articles in the news that had already been referred to in this book. (You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to share little excerpts from it with you).
Go have a look around their website; there’s information for parents and caregivers, frequently asked questions, news, and even some pictures for kids to colour and learn more about feeding their microbiota a healthy diet to keep them balanced. And I urge you to purchase this book and have a good read through it. It makes a lot of sense. It won’t cure you of being a germophobe, but it will have you stepping back, biting your tongue, and letting your children have fun out in the dirty playgound. So concentrate on their smiling faces and know that the extra load of washing will be well worth it for their future health.