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Let Them Eat Dirt - Comments

Pigzig's Avatar Comment 1 by Pigzig

Yeah I used to do this and I have a crazy immune system. I heard especially if you bite your nails it gets the dirt and you'll have a great immune system when you are older.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 04:40:48 UTC | #930048

sbooder's Avatar Comment 2 by sbooder

Hooray!

I have been arguing this for ages. I spent my childhood pretty much face down in the dirt.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 07:52:31 UTC | #930101

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 3 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator - spam

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 09:50:48 UTC | #930125

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 4 by rod-the-farmer

I always thought kids raised on a farm were healthier throughout their lives than city kids.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 10:08:13 UTC | #930128

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 5 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator -spam

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 11:57:17 UTC | #930143

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 6 by Stafford Gordon

Microbes, we can't live with them, and you can't live without them.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 12:07:52 UTC | #930145

"'s Avatar Comment 7 by "

I've been concerned for years that children nowadays are kept in sterile "risk-free" environments. I grew up playing unsupervised outdoors, walking/running/cycling miles everyday, getting dirty, falling in stagnant ponds, climbing (and sometimes falling out of) trees, eating unripe wild fruit with unwashed hands, eating half-cooked food over camp fires (which often burned my fingers, singed my hair, and/or scorched my clothes). Play for kids nowadays is spending days on end in their bedroom playing dubious video games. There should be a campaign to liberate children!

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 12:28:54 UTC | #930150

Ygern's Avatar Comment 8 by Ygern

I'd be a little more cautious.

This study was conducted on mice, not humans; so this isn't "proof" of anyone's inner convictions about children being kept in overly-sterile environments.

Also, anecdotes of one's own experience are just that: anecdotes. I've got an anecdote too, only my early-life exposure to dirt / animals/ climbing trees etc. in the great outdoors ended me up in hospital after years of puzzled doctors and a variety of medical interventions including surgery. I was unlucky, and my experience doesn't mean anything other than a cautionary tale. But the point is that eating dirt does not automatically guarantee you a healthy immune system.

This study is not advocating that parents should allow their kids unsupervised dirt-eating sessions. Yes, exposure to microbes at an early age may well strengthen the immune systems of some children. The unlucky ones may pick up viruses and parasites that can do life-long damage.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 15:02:59 UTC | #930170

sbooder's Avatar Comment 9 by sbooder

I'd be a little more cautious.This study was conducted on mice, not humans; so this isn't "proof" of anyone's inner convictions about children being kept in overly-sterile environments.Also, anecdotes of one's own experience are just that: anecdotes.I've got an anecdote too, only my early-life exposure to dirt / animals/ climbing trees etc. in the great outdoors ended me up in hospital after years of puzzled doctors and a variety of medical interventions including surgery. I was unlucky, and my experience doesn't mean anything other than a cautionary tale. But the point is that eating dirt does not automatically guarantee you a healthy immune system.This study is not advocating that parents should allow their kids unsupervised dirt-eating sessions. Yes, exposure to microbes at an early age may well strengthen the immune systems of some children. The unlucky ones may pick up viruses and parasites that can do life-long damage.

No they are not just anecdotes, we are talking whole generations here. I knew one person from my generation with asthma. Now I know over 20 children of my friends who have asthma. Bollocks to the Dettol culture

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 22:32:43 UTC | #930264

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 10 by aroundtown

You never know what the deck might deal you. Both sides of my family lived in pretty much the same vicinity with similar habits and at this late date I can say some have the ability to go the long haul and many are taking dirt-naps. Some are in their 90's and others were struck down with cancer or other afflictions in their youth. I believe you stand a better chance with some precaution but I don't lock myself away either. What is life for other than living it and that takes participation on your part.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 23:18:21 UTC | #930269

canadian_right's Avatar Comment 11 by canadian_right

There have been many studies indicating that an overly sterile environment impedes children's immune system development.

There is so much evidence of this that our local provincial government has a advertising campaign to encourage washing hands with plain soap, not using anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners, and not abusing antibiotics.

Normal cleanliness is important, but don't worry about trying to protect your kids from all germs.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 01:43:45 UTC | #930302

SomersetJohn's Avatar Comment 12 by SomersetJohn

It always was accepted that kids raised in dirt were tougher than those raised in sterile purdah.

I do believe that, as a culture (England/ UK) we are too dirt averse. What must be accepted though is that if we allow the young to get suitably dirty there will inevitably be those who will not survive. So, do we go down the path of letting the vast majority get dirty, and a few unfortunately die, or do we go for maximum protection and a population which cannot fight off pretty much anything?

I am absolutely in favour of innoculation for all the childhood ailments, and of letting kids eat a handful of mud (I survived it) yet I will not use any of the anti-bacterial cleaners for my kitchen or bathroom. I think we need to find a balance between wise protection and insane over-protection. I make no claim as to where the line should be drawn.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 02:32:43 UTC | #930312

zengardener's Avatar Comment 13 by zengardener

I caught my daughter eating dirt just yesterday. I gave her a drink of water and a bath.

It's not a big deal, but not something I encourage. I live in the city, but I have a yard large enough for a two year old to get dirty in.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 04:43:17 UTC | #930324

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 14 by justinesaracen

Well, a dirty childhood sure didn't help me. I'm only a sample of one, but I grew up in the pre-hygienic 1940s in a New York tenement building and had asthma all my life. It may be that only specific microbes have a positive effect, but certainly the urban ones surrounding me were of no help.

As Ygern pointed out, the experiment was on mice, not children. Until there is more evidence from human studies, this remains pop-science.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 06:34:18 UTC | #930330

Nyarlat's Avatar Comment 15 by Nyarlat

Complete bullshit! I have always been able to eat dirt and played most of my early life outdoors in the streets and garden. Ok, I am only one and not statisticaly significant. But My guess is: Chemicals all over the place in the early 70ties (and today), car exhaust + lead in the air + remnants of radioactive fallout from 50ties and 60ties made big cocktail of bad stuff that hit immune system and lets it run amok. Who does a study about such a multifactorial causation? "Not enough dirt" is just a myth in my book!

And why do you think I react especially bad to rye? Maybe because nobody thought about immune system response while breeding those special optimised variety that gives the biggest yield?

( I got asthma and other "auto"immune system failures when I got 15. )

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 17:58:45 UTC | #930387

Nyarlat's Avatar Comment 16 by Nyarlat

And one reminder: Statistical correlation is no causation!

Maybe the mice had a bad day?

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 18:00:29 UTC | #930388

"'s Avatar Comment 17 by "

Comment 15 by Nyarlat :

Complete bullshit!

Yes indeed; new born calves benefit from ingesting bacteria present in their mother's rumen (presumably from faecal contamination of the udder). Apparently the microflora in the calf rumen develops rapidly after birth and is necessary for proper rumen function.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 18:14:11 UTC | #930392

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 18 by Alan4discussion

The immune system learns to adapt to local bugs. That is why locals can drink contaminated well water and eat unwashed vegetables, and remain healthy, while strangers promptly go down with the runs! Foreign diseases can decimate remote populations which have not previously encountered them, while explorers in distant places are vulnerable the new local diseases. (As in Africa - "The white man's grave"!)

Industrial chemical pollution is a different issue.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 19:14:41 UTC | #930406

SuedeStonn's Avatar Comment 19 by SuedeStonn

It's like everything else... do it in moderation. Over-do it and you run the risk of succumbing to it; deprive yourself of it in increments and you run the risk of getting hit with something that you haven't worked up to fight it. The analogy of 'eating dirt' is silly, I'd never want my kid to do it, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't rush my kid to the hospital if he faceplanted after falling off a bike. We've come far enough in science to take care of most anything that we can catch that isn't nice to our bodies, but the first thing we have to do is let the body fight first.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 23:35:55 UTC | #930464

"'s Avatar Comment 20 by "

Comment 19 by SuedeStonn :

deprive yourself of it in increments and you run the risk of getting hit with something that you haven't worked up to fight it.

Ingest the excrements in increments? I can feel a song coming on...

Mon, 26 Mar 2012 05:53:57 UTC | #930511

hellosnackbar's Avatar Comment 22 by hellosnackbar

I attended a lecture on sterilisation of surgical instruments and dental instruments:probe,tweezers,and mirror. Normal autoclaves have been deemed next to useless and replaced by vacuum ones. I asked a question as to whether the conditions the recycling of instruments also applied to restauraunt cutlery?The answer was no. What tickles me is that " 'elf and saifty" has acquired a place within politically correct dogma. These people are another level of terrorist bureaucrats who should be eliminated.

Mon, 26 Mar 2012 16:36:12 UTC | #930573

"'s Avatar Comment 23 by "

Comment 21 by Alan4discussion :

A well established custom:-

Capybara, rabbits, hamsters and other related species do not have a complex ruminant digestive system. Instead they are hindgut fermenters that digest cellulose via microbial fermentation. In addition, they extract further nutrition from grass by giving their food a second pass through the gut. Soft fecal pellets of partially digested food are excreted and generally consumed immediately. Consuming these cecotropes is important for adequate nutritional intake of vitamin B12. They also produce normal droppings, which are not eaten. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coprophagia

Primatologists have also observed chimps and bonobo eating their own faeces...

I know from having been a vegan for about 18 months that B12 is an important vitamin that humans can't get from a plant only diet (I'm back to being an omnivore nowadays) - vegans have to take supplements. Although B12 is produced by colon bacteria in abundance it is too far down the gut to be absorbed directly - perhaps other ape species solve the problem through coprophagy. I've seen it suggested for humans in vegan discussion forums - not surprisingly it wasn't a popular option... ( I opted for the Boots brand B12 supplement, in case you're wondering!)

Mon, 26 Mar 2012 20:11:05 UTC | #930607

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 24 by Alan4discussion

Comment 23 by chimpious

Primatologists have also observed chimps and bonobo eating their own faeces...

Interesting link! There were examples of coprophagia in other animals on the link @21.

Mon, 26 Mar 2012 21:42:59 UTC | #930626

TeraBrat's Avatar Comment 25 by TeraBrat

Comment 22 by hellosnackbar :

I attended a lecture on sterilisation of surgical instruments and dental instruments:probe,tweezers,and mirror. Normal autoclaves have been deemed next to useless and replaced by vacuum ones. I asked a question as to whether the conditions the recycling of instruments also applied to restauraunt cutlery?The answer was no. What tickles me is that " 'elf and saifty" has acquired a place within politically correct dogma. These people are another level of terrorist bureaucrats who should be eliminated.

There are sanitation requirements for restaurants but ingestion is much less likely to lead to infection than the direct contact you have with blood in dentistry and surgery, hence the increased precuations.

As several people have pointed out, it's about caution with moderation.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 19:11:38 UTC | #930792