Our cultural obsession with feeling fresh, clean, and germ-free has lead to a whole industry of scented, anti-microbial household cleaning products.
Bath and beauty products are included in our quest to feel clean and fresh. Pull out all the tubes, vials, and jars in your bathroom, and it is likely that you will be unable to recognize over half of the ingredients listed on each product.
As the days become longer and the outdoors more inviting, many of us feel the urge to detox, cleanse, and bounce lightly into summer. And while it may seem counterintuitive to play in the dirt and even do so while barefoot, this is one of the best ways to strengthen immune function.
The Hygiene Hypothesis
According to some scientists, the rise in allergies, autoimmunity, and other diseases that have been linked to imbalanced immune function has to do with germs - or, the absence of germs. This is called the hygiene hypothesis.
Ever since the germ theory of disease came into existence, we have made a determined effort to sanitize the environment and ourselves.
In some ways, we have been successful. Countless lives have been saved. And most of us are not carrying around nearly as many parasites as we would have several hundred years ago. (2) Unfortunately, we have also invented such powerful drugs to combat infection that bacteria have been forced to evolve. Sometimes, bacteria evolve beyond current drug therapy. (3)
Become one with nature again by walking barefoot to benefit your health with the practice of earthing. Earthing will help to release a buildup of energy to ease oxidative stress that can leave you at risk for disease.
A study released this past March found that germ-free mice have excessive inflammation in the lungs and colon. According to scientists involved in the research, this inflammation looks a lot like asthma and colitis. The group of scientists also found that exposure to germs early in life gives the immune system a flexibility that is ultimately associated with health and balance. (4)
Our current understanding of the immune system is that a little provocation does the body good. (5)
For example, the presence of certain microorganisms will actually generate activity in the immune system that can combat a chronic inflammatory response. (6) Chronic inflammation and an imbalanced immune response are often the hallmarks of many disease conditions. And, believe it or not, inflammation is one major source of toxicity in the body.
Building Your Immunity Barefoot
In electrical engineering, electric circuits are connected to the ground in order to limit the buildup of electricity. The same principle applies to the human body.
Put simply, having a physical connection to the earth grounds the body and discharges the buildup of energy that naturally occurs. This buildup of energy in the body is known as oxidative stress, and it comes from high-energy electrons.
A little bit of biochemistry is needed to fully understand oxidative stress and its effect in the body. Oxidative stress is a form of stress that the body endures from the oxidative process - things like breathing, eating, and normal cellular day-to-day events. It is impossible to not experience some form of oxidative stress.
We enhance normal oxidative stress when we eat foods that are full of free radicals. A free radical is a high-energy electron. Damaged oils (like canola oil and vegetable oil) are full of free radicals!
Antioxidant-rich foods can help to balance the stress of free radical damage. This is a good thing since free radical damage (also known as oxidative stress) generates inflammation in the body.
For you, this may mean getting your hands in the dirt and gardening without synthetic pesticides. Or it may mean eating an organic carrot without sanitizing it and then scraping the skin off. If you have kids, this means letting them get dirty every once in a while.
If you are worried about eating bad bugs, give your inner ecology a boost by consuming fermented foods and drinking probiotic beverages. Remember, the microbes in our digestive tract compete for space, and ultimately, it is the friendly ones that win.
If you live near the ocean, go for a barefoot walk on the beach instead. If you have a lawn, step outside barefoot and feel the grass between your toes.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
It's no secret that our culture is obsessed with cleanliness and sanitation. But some scientists believe that instances of allergies and autoimmunity have increased because an absence of germs has affected our immune function.
You can naturally build your immunity with the practice of earthing, walking barefoot on the ground to benefit your health. This physical connection to the earth will naturally reduce a buildup of energy to relieve oxidative stress that your body experiences on a day-to-day basis.
As you get back in touch with nature to boost your immunity, you can protect your body against bacteria and disease by eating fermented foods and beverages to strengthen your inner ecology!
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- ME Sears, et al. Environmental Determinants of Chronic Disease and Medical Approaches: Recognition, Avoidance, Supportive Therapy, and Detoxification. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2012; 356798: 1- 15. doi:10.1155/2012/356798
- JH Dickson, et al. The omnivorous Tyrolean Iceman: colon contents (meat, cereals, pollen, moss and whipworm) and stable isotope analyses. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2000 Dec 29; 355 (1404): 1843 – 1849.
- Hughes, James. Preserving the lifesaving power of antimicrobial agents. JAMA. Published online February 22, 2011.
- T Olszak, et al. Microbial exposure during early life has persistent effects on natural killer T cell function. Science. 2012 Mar 22. doi:10.1126/science.1219328
- K Atarashi, et al. Induction of colonic regulatory T cells by indigenous Clostridium species. Science. 2011 Jan 21; 331 (6015): 337 – 341. Epub 2010 Dec 23.
- GA Rook. Review series on helminths, immune modulation and the hygiene hypothesis: the broader implications of the hygiene hypothesis. Immunology. 2009 Jan; 126 (1): 3-11.
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