I hope you had a lovely Christmas and that you’ve been able to enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve been having. If Christmas has been a difficult time for you, as it is for many families who may be in conflict or be grieving, then I hope you’ve found the support that you need. My heart also goes out to those who had family or friends on the missing AirAsia flight. What a terrible tragedy.
I’ve been camping at the beach with my family since Boxing Day. The first three days were absolutely gorgeous but we had lots of wind yesterday with quite a few gazebos going flying through the camping area.
My two year old grandson has thoroughly enjoyed the beach this year. He’s played in the sand, gone for big walks, had lots of swims, fed the seagulls, indulged in Babyccinos and eaten like a horse. He’s spent most of the past 4 days barefoot and carefree. It’s been a joy to watch him have new experiences and connect with nature.
I was listening to a radio interview recently about outdoor play experiences for children. The woman being interviewed said that there is a growing group of children who have been so disconnected from nature that at the age of 6 or 7 they have difficulty walking on uneven ground. It stands to reason that if children are only ever exposed to flat surfaces like floors, paving, decking, asphalt, concrete, lawns or synthetic turf then they don’t develop the ability to navigate uneven surfaces. Their sense of balance, which is a combination of their ears, eyes, muscles and joints working together, isn’t stimulated to develop.
The other point that was made was that when children only play in safe environments then their sense of judgement about what’s safe, and what’s not safe, isn’t stimulated to develop. The woman being interviewed was advocating more opportunities for kids to play in nature where they can discover what they’re capable of doing and what actions might end in bumps and bruises. I guess it’s a bit of a balancing act for parents (and grandparents) to find that fine line between putting a child at risk and overprotecting them.
Interestingly enough, the same dilemma applies when it comes to how clean and germ-free a child’s environment should be. The latest research shows that children who grow up in super clean environments where germs are kept to a minimum are much more prone to allergies and have lower immunity. Kids who grow up on farms or have pets have stronger immune systems, less asthma and less eczema. In fact immunity improves when they simply spend time in nature.
There are two issues to consider when it comes to kids and bugs. One issue is that our exposure to microbes plays an essential role in our health. Our immune system depends on trillions of microorganisms in our gut, on our skin, in our mouths and in all the other nooks and crannies of our bodies.
Did you know that the micro-organisms living in and on our body outnumber our own cells 10 to 1? We are actually host to an enormous ecosystem that scientists have recently called a microbiome. We depend on these micro-organisms for an huge number of vital functions in our body. One of the roles of the microbiome is to create protective linings on our skin, on our gut wall and on all our other mucous membranes. Another role of these bugs is to digest certain carbohydrates that are indigestible to us and provide us with the nutrients we need. If these bugs are mssing we will ahve an intolerance to these carbohydrates. Another role is to regulate our immune system. Without these micro-organisms we’re in big trouble.
Contact with a variety of micro-organisms as we are born and go through childhood enhances our immunity and our health. And the balance of good and bad bugs depends greatly on what we eat and consequently what they eat. Whole, healthy foods feed the good bugs, unhealthy, sugary or starchy foods feed the bad bugs.
The other issue when it comes to hygiene and our battle with bugs is what we use to kill them. So many cleaning products these days are antibacterial. Even air fresheners are now being promoted as antibacterial. Of course a certain level of cleanliness is important but remember that most antibacterial products will also be toxic to you and the good bugs.
Antibacterial hand soaps or moisturisers can be particularly dangerous as they kill the good bugs that protect your skin and are also absorbed through the skin. A few years ago the hospitals in Holland stopped using a waterless, antibacterial handwash when they found it was causing infertility in the nurses. Antibacterial mouthwash will also kill the good bugs that are essential for oral health. I remember regularly using a certain well known brand of mouthwash years ago and I discovered that as soon as I stopped using it I had awful bad breath. I’d killed off the good bugs that naturally kept the bad (smelly) bugs at bay.
So it seems that it’s time to rethink how clean we need to be and develop a new, healthy respect for the bugs in our system.
I hope you have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and a fabulous 2105,
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