Is dirt our friend?

In the Washington Post (registration required), Thomas Bartlett has an article on raw milk.

A couple years ago, I participated in one of the cow-boarding programs mentioned here, using the milk mostly to ferment kefir. The potential dangers of drinking it were always in the back of my mind. How could they be not? We’ve been conditioned to idolize perfect sterility — and that’s what pasturized milk is, in theory. Perfectly sterilized.

The problem is, our bodies didn’t evolve in a sterile world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we one day realize that we need exposure to microbes to be healthy. Even, sometimes, the very microbes we most fear.

Children who live around pets, for instance, and are therefore exposed to immune-system-challenging dander, are less likely to develop a whole host of immune system-related reactions. There’s a tale — floated by the anti-vaccine crowd but nowhere that I can find substantiated by references — that the devastating polio outbreaks in the mid-Twentieth century were caused by excessive cleanliness; the story goes that back when children were exposed to the polio virus as infants (by playing on the ground and eating dirt, basically) they became mildly sick but then developed the immunity to protect themselves from more eggregious forms of the disease later on.

Who knows, really. I find one of the statements by the pro-raw milk people in Bartlett’s article pretty persuasive however: the problem of microbe-contaminated milk might better be addressed through proper handling and storage of milk, rather than boiling the piss out of it.

For more check out the Weston Price foundation, which has information on other traditional foods that we should all probably be eating.

[tags] health, raw milk [/tags]

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4 Responses to Is dirt our friend?

  1. Debi says:

    I certainly had my share of dirt and germs as a kid! I remember making mud pies. And with four older siblings, I got those childhood diseases over early.

  2. “…I wouldn’t be surprised if we one day realize that we need exposure to microbes to be healthy.”

    Uh, Kirsten? Ever hear of vaccinations? Just happened to cross my mind as I read this.


  3. Okay. Now I’ve read the rest of the post. Sorry!


  4. Kirsten says:

    No apologies necessary, John!!!


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