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Filthy Healthy

We are all familiar with the term “filthy wealthy” – I sometimes wish I were- but how about “filthy healthy”? Well, it is becoming more and more evident that filth is not all that bad at least in moderation. It has been known for quite a while that dirt and infections make us less allergy prone. Our immune system has evolved over thousands of years to fight pathogens, parasites, and other microbes. Our modern sanitized lifestyle takes away these threats which in turn throw our immune system out of kilter, making it more prone to overreact to certain stimuli like peanuts and pollens.

Now, new research is also suggesting that exposure to dirt and germs can lower our risk for cancer later on in life. For example, recent studies have found that children who have social contact outside the home early on, have a reduced risk of both childhood leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma as young adults. Another study looked at cancer rates among female cotton textile workers in Shanghai, China. Detailed records show that the longer the women are exposed to endotoxin on the job the lower the incidence of many cancer types, including lung, breast, liver, stomach and pancreatic cancer. Other researchers have found that dairy farmer, who breath in manure particles, had a lower rate of lung cancer than those who worked in fields or orchards.

Next time instead of taking a family outing up to the mountains you might consider visiting your local dairy farm. And don’t worry if your kid gets too dirty.

Terry Pfau DO, HMD

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