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Dr. Robert G. Lahita M.D., Ph.D. - Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease

Dr. Robert G. Lahita M.D., Ph.D. (“Dr. Bob”) is the Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health in Paterson, New Jersey, and the author of IMMUNITY STRONG: Boost Your Body's Natural Healing Power and Live to 100.

Dr. Bob is the ultimate expert on the immune system and is consulted constantly by media across the globe including Reuters, Newsmax, Fox Business, Fox News, NBC Now, MSNBC, EWTN and CBSN. Dr. Bob is the author of more than 150 scientific papers, and has written or edited 14 books, including Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, which is now in its 6th edition. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a Master of the American College of Rheumatology, and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He's a reviewer for some 15 medical journals and on the editorial boards of three.

Tags: bacteria | hygiene | kids health | immunity

Dirt Happy: The Hygiene Hypothesis

Dr. Robert G. Lahita M.D., Ph.D. By Tuesday, 14 June 2022 04:26 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Howard Hughes, the mid-twentieth century American businessman, went from billionaire playboy to world-famous recluse and obsessive-compulsive germaphobe. He believed his neighbors made him sick by living unkempt lives, demanded that anyone who touched his food use layers of paper towels (and that most of that food was contaminated anyway), and yet still believed that everything was covered with a small layer of dirt that no amount of cleaning would help.

I think all of us who lived through the global pandemic may have some understanding of Hughes’s need to socially distance from others, and stories of bacteria leading to food poisoning should make us all be conscious of safely handling our food.

But the dirt part is harder to get my head around. If I saw one of my children eating dirt, playing in the cat box, or wrestling with the dog, I was sorry for whoever was doing laundry but took comfort in the fact that they might be arranging their adaptive immune system to respond to horrid infections later in life.

Robust collections of healthy bacteria in a child’s bowel can build immunity at a young age that lasts through a lifetime. In other words, children who eat dirt, pick their noses and eat the snot, and luxuriate in covering themselves in mud, might have healthier immune systems because they do that.

As counterintuitive as all that sounds, studies of rural children who wallow and even swallow dirt when they are little reveal that they are less prone to allergies that affect suburban and urban children.

Children living on a farm, being around and breathing in (and likely ingesting a bit of) manure have less allergies and healthier immune systems. There is also evidence in adults of being “dirt happy,” meaning playing in and laying in dirt acts as a natural antidepressant and mood lifter.

This is something we continue to study but think about that the next time you resist the urge to lie on the ground.

Howard Hughes be damned — the power of dirt might be the best thing for training immune systems. There is growing evidence that this power of dirt starts the moment we are born.

This is called the “Hygiene Hypothesis.”

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Robust collections of healthy bacteria in a child’s bowel can build immunity at a young age that lasts through a lifetime.
bacteria, hygiene, kids health, immunity
Tuesday, 14 June 2022 04:26 PM
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