I knew it would come to this: dirt is officially good for you. The “hygiene hypothesis” has received another shot in the arm in a recent talk by Professor Peter Openshaw of Imperial College, London: How ‘Dirt’ Could Educate The Immune System And Help Treat Asthma.
What is the hygiene hypothesis? It’s the idea that being exposed to filth early in your life strengthens your immune system, whereas being constantly scrubbed clean by anxious parents merely sets you up for a clock-cleaning viral sucker punch. Your wimpy little immune system will never know what hit it. The same hypothesis explains why polio’s awful bloom happened alongside the rise in modern plumbing. As Jane Smith says in her book Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine
Put simply, paralytic polio was an inadvertent by-product of modern sanitary conditions. When people were no longer in contact with the open sewers and privies that had once exposed them to the polio virus in very early infancy when paralysis rarely occurs, the disease changed from an endemic condition so mild that no one knew of its existence to a seemingly new epidemic threat of mysterious origins and terrifyingly unknown scope.
As I’ve mentioned before on this site, drinkable pig parasites (i.e. barnyard filth) are now being used to combat Crohn’s disease. And now, Professor Openshaw is telling us that the alarming rise in asthma may be due to the same cleanliness your mother so cherished. However, “having many older siblings, attending day care at an early age, or growing up on a farm can help in promoting resistance to disease.” Eventually our best vaccines will consist of finely tuned warmed-over sewage.
The fruits that civilization has given us, boons such as high-fructose corn syrup, Wonder Bread, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and now personal hygiene, we must eventually surrender in the name of robust health. Take two mudpies and call me in the morning.