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Postcards from Scotland

Sacrificing our safety and our sanity to sanitisation

Just as overprotecting children can undermine their ability to cope; sanitising people against germs may undermine their immune system and cause more, not less, physical and mental health problems.

Not long ago, ten years or so, the only place you would find hand sanitising gels would have been in hospitals. Now they are in homes across the developed world and flying out of the shops in bucket loads. We are obsessed with being clean and will go to great lengths to make sure that those nasty germs are distinguished.  Yet, the truth is that these bacteria are playing a vital role in our physical and mental health

This cleaning frenzy is particularly damaging to young people. If children are not exposed to germs and instead they are pounced on with baby wipes each time they get a bit of dirt on them, then they may end up with more problems. This is because being exposed to many different bacteria builds up the immune system. For example, studies show that children who grow up on farms or come from families with many siblings i.e. are exposed to a multitude of germs, have less allergic diseases.

Not only does the removal of germs impact on physical health but on mental health too.  Feelings of depression and anxiety for example are thought to be set off by inflammatory processes within the body.  Again, it is believed that people need to be exposed to mircobodies, a bit of stress in the body, in order to build up a resistance.  However, in the developed world this hyper cleanliness may be contributing to a reduced tolerance, increased inflammation and thus more mental health issues.

According to the article in this month ?Psychology Today? people are not only undermining the immune system by this obsession with cleanliness but they are making inaccurate risk assessments too.  For example, people are much less likely to die of salmonella than from an obesity related death ? yet they don?t run away from a big mac!! This article looks at how cleanliness is seriously undermining the immune system, inviting allergies and making people feel anxious and depressed. To read the article click here

 
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