Want to get protection now for the up coming cold/flu season? Get your hands dirty!


The Greenwood Community Garden- join in to cultivate tomatoes, peppers, green beans and your immunity. Immunity? Grow your immunity in the garden?
Yes, want to get protection now for the up coming cold/flu season? Get your hands dirty!
Now getting your flu vaccine is important to help prevent or lessen flu severity symptoms. Most people know proper hand cleaning reduces the transmission of illnesses, such as, the common cold or flu. On the other hand, getting them dirty in the soil helps seeds and cultivate a stronger immunity. Exposure to the enriched bacterial, fungal, parasitic laden dirt-makes your immune system more robust. Does that make you want to dig in? It should and here is why.

As soon as we are born the skin and gut starts to colonize with bacteria from the environment. This bacterial agriculture is essential to immune development. If this did not occur the infant’s survival would be at risk. A child is born with passive immunity from mom, but that will not stick around, they need to develop their own- to continue to live. The exposure to good, bad and ugly pathogens are essential to mature an immature immune system and it is now believed to reduce other chronic illnesses such as asthma and allergies. In time, trillions and trillions of bacteria will colonize on the skin, mucous membranes and intestines. In fact, over a 1000 different species of bacteria will eventually take residence in the gut alone. An adult can have up to 2-3 pounds of bacteria in the intestines. These gut microbes go to work on an array of task from digesting hard to digest fibers, cultivating immune health and influencing your metabolism. In fact, alterations in the bacterial gut flora can affect hormones, such as insulin, that regulate hunger and energy. A healthy intestinal microbe community is vital which is why the medical community is so excited about the positive results of, brace yourself- fecal transplants! As disgusting as it sounds, fecal matter from a healthy person is transplanted to an ill person to cure certain problems such as antibiotic-resistant C.difficile.

So once your immune system matures does it stay that way? Well the basic mechanisms do but over time, if it is not continually being challenged it will weaken.
Do you know someone who is constantly washing their hands and surfaces with disinfectants? They avoid touching door knobs, stair railings and other community surfaces. They are not challenging their immune system.
If you think of your immune system as your personal entourage of bodyguards, you would want your bodyguards fit and equipped to protect you against harm. For them to be effective and efficient at this, they need to train and learn new skills. No one wants lazy, clueless, ill-equipped bodyguards working for them. That is why exposure to pathogens like bacteria, viruses and funguses keeps your defense mechanisms on their toes.

Believe me, I do appreciate society’s advances in disease prevention. We have been successful in decreasing morbidity and mortality with sanitary water, proper waste management, food-borne illness prevention, pasteurization, antibiotics and vaccines. But in the western world we have become obsessive with cleanliness to the point that we have been causing more health harm. Not to mention the over-use of antibiotics creating antibiotic-resistant ‘super-bugs’.

Have you heard of the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’ phenomenon? It is quit interesting.
Generally they found two major theoretical epidemiological associations.
They found that countries whom have a decline in pathogen-causing illnesses from bacteria, viruses and parasites, such as the western civilization and other developing countries had an increase in certain chronic illnesses. Allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis and autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are way more common in developed countries. I was really shocked to read that parasite exposure was associated with decrease inflammatory bowel disorders such as Chron’s disease.

Secondly, they found that children exposed to bacteria, viruses, parasites, dust, dirt, animals, siblings, daycare centers in early childhood had a decline in allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis and autoimmune disorders inspite of genetic, nutrition, economic and pollution variances. This is why the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’ has gotten so much buzz from major medical establishments such as the New England Medical Journal.

So use common sense with hand washing- keep washing your hands with antibacterial soap after digging in the dirt. Here comes the disclaimer- soil does have dangerous pathogens such as tetanus, botulism and anthrax that can cause serious harm especially if your immune system is compromised. So you would need to consult with your doctor before digging.

Obviously wash your hands in high risk situations such as after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, preparing meals and after touching raw meat. Healthcare employees, daycare workers and food preparers need to be washing their hands frequently.

After reading all of this, lets get back to playing in the dirt like we did when we were kids. You can still start a garden in July. If you do not have a spot of your own the Greenwood Community Garden is perfect! It is located along Fry Road between U.S. 31 and State Road 135. A 20-foot by 20-foot plot rents for $20 for community center members, $25 for city residents and $30 for non-residents. Returning members can dibs on their plots through March 1. Newcomers can rent remaining plots beginning March 1.”
You can find this information on the http://www.greenwood.in.gov. Search for community garden. To sign up there is a ‘garden application’ link you click on.

So we need to get over our germ-a-phobia. You need all the friends and foes to mature and challenge your immune system. Remember healthy gut microbes are vital to support digestion, metabolism and immune system. Get outside, get your hands dirty and cultivate your immunity.

1). Easy Immune System Health: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/Handwashing.html
2). Immune System Health: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/Immune-System-Health.html
3). Hygiene Hypothesis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841828/e
The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ for autoimmune and allergic diseases: an update
H Okada, C Kuhn, […], and J-F Bach April 2010; 160(1): 1-9.
Clinical and Experimental Immunology from the Journal Translational Immunology.
4). Greenwood city website: www. greenwood.in.gov


About adwettrick

I am a Family Nurse Practitioner that works in an OB/GYN practice at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis. I graduated with my undergraduate and master's degree at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis in 2005. I am married to my best friend, Don Wettrick, whom is one of the inspirations in my life along with my three beautiful children and of course my faith in God. I enjoy educating my patients on preventative health and how to balance their busy life and being healthy. Mind, body, spirit are all connected and if one is in trouble the others tend to suffer as well.
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