When I heard book called Let Them Eat Dirt – Saving Your Child from an Over Sanitised World by B. Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta, it was music to be ears! My toddler is an absolute dirt monster and still puts things like sand and snails from the garden in her mouth. In fact, I’ve gone to the lengths of not getting the sandbox out or letting the kids have a mud kitchen because it will only encourage her!
The War Against Germs Has Gone Too Far
According to this book, she’s doing the right thing. Microbiologists Finlay and Arrieta, argue that although hygiene and antibiotics have improved our health overall, we have taken our war against germs too far. Microbes have a reputation for being bad for us. However, several recent studies have shown that early exposure to these organisms is beneficial to our long term health.
Impact on Health
The studies indicate that the presence or absence of certain microbes in our gut can influence whether we develop allergies, asthma, obesity and even – and these last two really surprised me – ADHD or autism.
The books talks about a significant rise in all these conditions over the last two generations. At a time when C-section births and antibiotic use have dramatically risen and our diet has significantly changed too.
Gut Development From Birth To Age 5
A child’s gut bacteria develop significantly from the ages of 0 to 5 and from that point it is harder to influence. Let Them Eat Dirt covers all the known factors that can disturb the microbe balance. This includes the type of birth the child has (a vaginal delivery is good for picking up beneficial microbes from the mother), what the child eats, antibiotic use and exposure to dirt.
I did feel a tiny bit guilty that my younger daughter had a sterile birth (she came out still in her amniotic sac) and also about the 48 hours of antibiotics she had at 5 days old. Maybe she’s been eating dirt to make up for that?! Though of course, the birth couldn’t be helped and the antibiotic used was necessary.
The authors don’t say you should avoid necessary antibiotic use, rather to avoid unnecessary exposure to antibiotics. They also argue against frequent use of antibacterial hand gel, antibacterial spray and antibacterial cream on cuts where there is no infection.
They say that children should wash their hands after toilet trips and before eating but that it isn’t necessary at other times. Another – slightly controversial – topic was sterilising baby bottles. There is a belief in the book that it isn’t necessary as long as the bottles are otherwise thoroughly clean!
All in all, Let Them Eat Dirt is a fascinating book. Whilst some of the research findings seem shocking, there is a lot of common sense here. I’ve definitely felt inclined to quit the antibacterial hand gel habit and have added “mud kitchen” to the garden play wishlist for the summer!
MEET THE AUTHOR IN LONDON 30TH MAY 2017
B. Brett Finlay is talking about the book at the Royal Institution in London on the evening of the 30th May. Brett is is co-director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research’s Humans & the Microbiome programme, and a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia.
Visit the The Royal Institution’s website for more details about the event and how to get tickets.
LET THEM EAT DIRT BOOK GIVEAWAY!
I’ve also got copies of the book to give away to two readers! If you fancy bagging a copy of Let Them Eat Dirt then please enter the competition using the Rafflecopter widget below. The competition runs until the 10th June and you can enter using all the methods described. Good luck!
Competition Terms & Conditions:
The competition runs from the 29/5/17 and closes at 23:59 on 10/6/17.
You can enter the competition using the methods shown on the Rafflecopter widget included in this blog post.
We have two prizes to give away of a paperback copy of “Let Them Eat Dirt” by B.Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta.
Only one prize per household.
From all of the eligible entrants one winner will be chosen at random by 16/6/17.
The winner will be notified via the tracking provided by Rafflecopter based on how they entered the competition.
Following confirmation of their win by The Mama Story, the winner should confirm their postal address within 10 working days. Should they fail to do this then a substitute winner may be chosen.
No alternative prizes or cash substitute will be offered.
The Mama Story’s decision is final, no correspondence will be entered into.
PROMOTER: The Mama Story Blog.