With the constant stream of news telling us the dangers of bacteria and the many anti-bacterial cleaners that we are made to feel that we need, it is no surprise that children are leading more and more sterile lives. They are often deterred from playing outside and getting mucky because of this. More often than not busy work schedules and urban living mean that the opportunity to get grubby is not in the reach of many youngsters anyway.
However, a study conducted by Lowry et al may start to change the tide, bringing a more relaxed attitude towards kids and dirt. This article explores the top 5 reasons that you should encourage your youngsters to get stuck into a pile of mud!
1. It can make you happier and healthier
Friendly soil bacteria can give your immune system a real boost, in fact a study has suggested that it could be as effective as antidepressant drugs!
The study was conducted by exposing mice to a harmless microbe found in soil, known as Mycobacterium vaccae. Once exposed the mice were required to perform the kind of task generally used to measure the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Specifically, the rodents were put into a container of water and observed to see how long they would continue swimming and trying to escape before giving up. Those that had been exposed to the bacteria were more likely to continue swimming for longer.
The leader of the Bristol based study, Chris Lowry made the following comment: “At the risk of anthropomorphizing, you could say the [bacteria-exposed] mice had a more active coping style”
A medical trial was conducted a few years ago, where cancer patients were treated with this same bacteria. It was found that they showed increases to the quality of their life. It did not however show any sign of prolonging life, so is not being tested further as a cancer treatment. Scientists were very interested in what it was in the M. vaccae that improved the mood.
It appears that the microbes somehow affect the brain causing a release of chemicals from immune cells. This started a reaction that resulted in a flood of seratonin, the feel good hormone. Lack of seratonin is thought to be linked to depression, so playing in mud could boost the immune system plus our susceptibility to depression.
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