We have an intimate connection with this world, and some of the most essential ties binding us together are the microbes that reside in and around us. We may take for granted how vital their proper balance can be to our health because too often we dismiss them as "gross" and try not to think about it. But many of us who suffer from undiagnosed chronic inflammatory conditions may be suffering from the effects of crashing microbiome. And it may have begun in our childhoods.
Our environment plays a significant role in determining the types of microbes we pick up and nurture. Research has found that the cement jungles many children now grow up in could be contributing to unhealthy microbiome changes, leaving a whole generation open to a host of inflammatory conditions.
Researchers have believed for some time now there’s a connection between the health of our microbiomes and our immune systems. Recently, a group of experts in Finland sought to examine that relationship and their work has been dubbed the “biodiversity hypothesis.” They published their findings in Science Advances.
The study looked at the skin and gut microbiomes of 75 children between 3 and 5 years old. The children were divided into three groups, with 36 children playing in modified yards filled with sod and material from the forest floor, 23 taken to play in the forest each day and 16 playing in unmodified concrete yards.
The children who were exposed to nature developed more diversity and richness to their microbiomes. Researchers found these subjects also had markers for reduced inflammation in their blood. They believe the two phenomena are connected.
Many experts now believe the root of numerous inflammatory and autoimmune disorders begins in the gut, with losses of important microbes being the key. Antibiotics and other chemicals likely also contribute, but lack of interaction with nature (and the resulting microflora) could be part of the issue.
We may need regular enrichment from the biomes around us to stay in proper balance, especially for those who live in environments that could contribute to die-offs. Those who’ve been raised in urban environments might be primed for chronic illness simply because their systems lack the microbes necessary to control inflammation.
Our microbiomes are vital to our wellbeing in more ways and on more levels than we may be aware of. And we could be depriving ourselves and our children of essential components to our health simply by not playing in the dirt of the forest enough. More research is necessary to pinpoint all of the connections, but hopefully, future findings will give us the tools we need to make the right tools available for future generations in a way that prevents some of the ailments from which we currently suffer.
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