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Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World Paperback – 22 Sep 2016
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"This book might change your perspective on real cleanliness . . . and along the way help you to raise healthier kids." (Giulia Enders, author of Gut)
"Very clearly written and well-explained – it stopped me worrying" (Evening Standard)
"Let Them Eat Dirt has turned my world on its head. The book is a rallying cry to parents to put down antibacterial wipes, throw out sterilising tablets and start making mud pies." (Guardian)
"A must-read for parents, teachers, and any healthcare provider for children, Let Them Eat Dirt takes you inside the inside tract of a child’s gut, and shows you how to give kids the best immune start early in life." (William Sears, author of The Baby Book)
"Parents around the world are bound to rejoice at the publication of Let Them Eat Dirt." (Sunday Times)
"This book is filled with practical advice for parents on how to positively impact their children’s health from natural childbirth to breastfeeding" (The Green Parent)
About the Author
B. Brett Finlay (Author)
B. Brett Finlay, PhD, is Professor of Microbiology at the University of British Columbia and has published over four hundred and fifty articles on microbes and how bacterial infections work. A founder of the biotech companies Inimex, Vedanta, and Microbiome Insights, Brett is Officer of the Order of Canada – the highest Canadian civilian recognition. He lives in Vancouver, BC, with his wife, who is a pediatrician, and has two grown children.
Marie-Claire Arrieta (Author)
Marie-Claire Arrieta, PhD, has been studying how intestinal alterations lead to several immune diseases since 2007, combining her knowledge of microbes and immunology to lead a major clinical study on the role of the microbiota in asthma. A mother of two, Arrieta is a tireless advocate of using scientific knowledge to improve the health of children.
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Microbiome is the latest buzzword in the world of medical research, and with it comes lots of exciting possibilities including personal microbiome analysis. Resulting microbe deficiencies could be replaced, using simple dietary tweaks, so that our immune system can function better. The aim would be to reverse the recent spike in non-infectious autoimmune diseases including: asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes, intestinal diseases and mental health disorders like autism.
The authors suggest that the rapid rise in such conditions which adversely affect public health can be linked to the vital importance of the first 100 days of life in terms of developing the immune system. Small changes to the diet of pregnant women, a better understanding of why vaginal birth is so important, early breastfeeding, a reduction in the use of antibiotics, as well as the addition of probiotics, could have a huge impact on all our lives. The authors provide many examples of new treatments and explanations of how research has increased our knowledge of how the microbiome protects us. By following a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes we have the potential to trigger far-reaching effects to the health of our individual microbiome.
Pregnancy and birth tips to keep yours and baby's immune system healthy:
• eat a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables plus yogurt and fibre
• top up your friendly bacteria with diverse probiotics (avoid high sugar varieties). Get more information in our article on Rhythm Health: http://www.tipslimited.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=243&Itemid=675#ttt) including lactobacillus acidophilus to reduce the risk of vaginal thrush and Group B Strep (GBS).
• aim for a vaginal birth as this coats your baby with friendly bacteria, also known as 'seeding'. This helps to kick start your baby's immune system by populating their gut with protective microbes that will then be fed by oligosaccharides (indigestible to the baby) found in your breast milk
• if you have to have a caesarean section consider 'seed swabbing technique' (artificially wiping your baby's face and body with swabs innoculated with your vaginal secretions - as explained in our book review of The Microbiome Effect) to artificially 'seed' your baby's microbiome at birth. It might also be worth delaying antibiotics until after delivery so as to avoid further damage to the delicate microbiota. This will still give you protection against infection while avoiding early exposure to antibiotics for your baby
• skin to skin contact with you and baby's father (not health care professionals), especially in the first hours after birth will help with breastfeeding and bonding, as well as transfer friendly bacteria via skin and breast milk
• antibiotic eye ointments should not be used. This unnecessary and potentially damaging practice is still followed in the US and Canada but has already been stopped in Europe
• reduce use of antibiotics for premature infants
• increased use of prebiotics and probiotics may be more useful to prevent and treat infections.
Childhood - tips to keep your little one's immune system healthy:
• encourage the development of a healthy gut - the first 2-3 years are key to this (after 3 years 60-70% of the microbiome is fully developed so much harder to change)
• use baby-led weaning from six months (preferably not after baby is 7 months old): this is thought to be the 'window' of opportunity to increase diversity and avoid allergies
• milk feeds are still vital during this period alongside the introduction of foods one at a time
• introduce yogurt and kefir probiotics to help maintain a stable microbiota from six month onwards as part of baby led weaning.
• Consider trying probiotics to treat baby colic
• try to reduce the use of antibiotics, especially for ear infections as it has been found that most ear infections are caused by viruses or the eardrum may be red just because a baby is crying in the doctors surgery. Swabs should be sent for analysis and antibiotics only given if a bacterial infection is confirmed.
• remember that babies who use teats or dummies are at higher risk of ear infections because this increases negative pressure in the ear leading to more infections. Breastfeeding also helps by providing antibodies against infections.
• family pets and social interaction is good for your baby and should be encouraged with care because it is associated with increased microbial diversity, which in turn helps to develop a healthier immune system
• encourage hand washing using soap (not antibacterials) and water should before eating, after using the toilet, after contact with someone who is ill, following trips on public transport and after touching animal waste
• hand wash bottles and feeding equipment carefully (pay attention to teats) using plain soap and hot water - this is just as effective as sterilising for babies of any age
• wash fruit and vegetables with water and keep uncooked foods separate from cooked foods
• explain the importance of 'feeding your tummy bugs' to your toddler. If they understand that their 'tummy bugs' will be much happier if they are fed with lots of healthy foods then they are less likely to be picky,
• Follow a 5210 diet - 5 portions of fruit or veg, < 2 hours of screen time per day, 1 hour of exercise per day and 0 sugary drinks = healthy child!
• Research, science and general health:
o A worrying rise in children affected by autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) could be associated with a damaged microbiome. Gut conditions are also much more common.
o Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT), used in China since the fourth century, have been shown to have a dramatic effect on children suffering from intestinal conditions and ASD.
o Treatment needs to be carried out early to avoid irreversible complications to the central nervous system.
o Vaccines are vital to public health and, contrary to inaccurate historic publicity, there is no proof they are associated with autism. A healthy gut leads to a strong immune system which in turn will reduce any minor side effects from immunisations.
Tips for a healthier immune system for everyone:
• eat a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, plus live yogurt and fibre
• take probiotics every day to help feed your friendly tummy bugs
• take plenty of exercise
• only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary. Best to get a bacterial confirmed than take them for a viral infection as this will not help.
A happy healthy microbiome that works well keeps us healthy on the inside and on the outside. Future research on the by-products of microbe activity, known as metabolomics, might help diagnose someone's risk of disease before symptoms occur. This may sound like science fiction but it could be closer than we think.
Personalised diets, perfectly tailored to your own unique microbiome may soon be common place. Meanwhile the best advice is to opt for a more diverse diet that is rich in fermented foods and daily probiotics. The saying: 'You are what you eat' has never been truer.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Many people will just see the title and see that it's written by PhD holders, and take it at that. I've certainly observed people doing this.
I can post citations in the comments for anything in this review if anyone wants.
To start off they are working on the premise that the infant gut is sterile and is populated from the environment - ie: poor sanitation/hygiene. This is still being researched and may be false.
Starts off with the farm environment example (less asthma when growing up on farm) - being in that environment is not the same as eating dirt or practicing poor hygiene. Jumping to conclusions based on correlations.
Pretty much just misattributing missing microbes from antibiotic use, poor diet, lack of breast feeding & possibly vaginal births, and unhealthy people having kids (generational compounding), to good hygiene.
Low quality anecdotes regarding the farm kids being unsanitary - so how are we supposed to judge whether this helped or harmed them? We're presented with no information about their health.
"Dirt is a known source of pathogens, toxins, and even lead". - direct quote.
Says "it's not the c-section itself causing the disorders associated with it, but rather the lack of exposure to mother's vaginal & anal microbes". - more jumping to conclusions.
Acknowledges environmental microbes are very different from mom's [host-native] microbes.
Comparison of children living a rual lifestyle in Burkina Faso, West Africa, to urban, city-dwelling kids in Italy. Diet vastly different. Gut microbiota of the Africans was more diverse, but they were more likely to suffer severe infections and malnutrition (caused by gut dysbiosis), and have lower life-expectancy. But have decreased risk of suffering from immune diseases.
States that it appears that children who adopt an "adult-like" gut microbiome earlier have poorer health. This seems to contradict the "eat dirt".
As does the admission that most antibiotics are/were derived from soil bacteria.
Admits that dogs can pass on diseases to their owners.
Admits that the first hygienic methods were very successful in reducing infectious diseases and deaths by promoting washing the sick, along with their bed linens and their rooms.
"Spectacular drop in childhood mortality from following hygienic practices". - direct quote.
"Handwashing is, without a doubt, the best hygienic practice that we can follow to prevent contracting and spreading infectious diseases. It’s been shown time and again that communities with good handwashing practices stay healthier, and no one should stop washing their hands just to promote more exposure to microbes." - then goes on to, in my opinion, be contradicting, and make poor, unsupported statements.
"it pays to follow hygienic practices in order to reduce the risk of infection in heavily populated areas. This means that it’s a good idea to teach your children not to play on the floor in these places, nor to lick any surfaces, and to wash their hands (with regular soap and water) when they get home or before eating" - direct quote.
Admits that fresh vegetables & fruits have a serious risk that ought to be reduced by following hygienic practices.
"there’s no better way to influence the development of a diverse microbiota than through diet. Offering a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fiber is probably even more important than not being overly clean with babies and children." - direct quote.
Gives example of environmental microbes (dirt) causing a severe illness (malnutrition).
Colic example may also be caused by environmental microbes/pathogens.
Hutterite vs Amish example shows that it's not just as simple as "eat dirt" or "grow up in farm environment".
"Some studies show that occasional visits to farms may actually exacerbate any pre-existing allergy tendencies" - direct quote.
The “eat dirt” thing seems similar to certain anti-vax sentiments, in that people have forgotten how prolific certain microbial illnesses used to be (and still are in many 3rd world countries due to poor sanitation).
While there are a lot of similarities in the information shared, the latter is more detailed, quotes more studies and gives wider information.
I enjoyed the story of a mum telling her little daughter about all the tiny little microbes in her tummy and how important it is for her to look after them well by eating the right foods. Seems like a good idea to encourage kids to eat more healthy fruit and veg.
The chapter on breast milk barely touched the topic which made my wonder why bother at all. It also concluded that formula feeding might be a "societal necessity".
The chapter on vaccines was largely an opinion piece that quotes one study and mentions no other data, surveillance reports or risk benefit analyses but advises that you should vaccinate your kids anyways.
The information on Wakefield is very poorly researched if not simply parroted whats been said in a media without verifying the information. This for example:
"The media picked up the story and very rapidly the rates of vaccination dropped, resulting in a jump in a measles and mumps cases, along with the deaths and long term damage associated with those diseases".
I checked the surveillance records on UK.GOV website and here is what the measles infections and deaths were like 4 years prior and 4 years after the study was published:
1994 16,375 0
1995 7,447 1
1996 5,614 0
1997 3,962 3
1998 3,728 3
1999 2,438 3
2000 2,378 1
2001 2,250 1
How do you conduct a thorough research while omitting the source?
In overall I found "the Human Superorganism to be much better written book, so consider that one before purchasing.