Foraging Wild Child

It’s an ironic twist that the cleaner, more sterile we become the worse the illnesses that befall us. Autoimmune diseases lead this list, with cases such as asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus and more than 70 others wreaking havoc on modern man ... and in may cases, even worse on modern women. It’s like the less our immune system has to work the more easily confused it gets.

Actually, there’s no “like” about it. More and more research is showing there may be a link between the reduced time kids are spending time out in the wild dirt and their immune systems failing to be properly “tuned” to fight the right enemies. This link was first noticed by allergy researchers noticing farm kids and children raised in third world countries suffer significantly less allergy and asthma problems than their cleaner, city, first world counterparts. Lupus, perhaps the most feared autoimmune disease, is also rare once you leave the world of hand sanitizer, video games and plastic-wrapped foods.

Lupus has a gender-specific aspect, attacking women nine times more often than men. Researcher Dr. Sharyn Clough believes this may be because fewer little girls these days are encouraged to play in the dirt. Without lots of interactions with common soil microbes to train their immune systems, they are woefully unprepared to fight off real infections and overreact. They can’t tell friend from foe, so their immune systems attack both their own tissues as well as alien invaders.

Since sealing your children in plastic bubbles to permanently prevent contact with infectious organisms isn’t a viable option, the best thing to do is let them go wild. What better way than to take them foraging? Start in your yard, identify those weeds that have been vexing you and research to see which ones are edible. Of course, you can’t eat any that have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, but untreated lawns are likely a smorgasbord of nutritious greens ... and bacteria on which your child’s body can practice fighting.

Even if you don’t eat your finds, just getting down in the grass or better yet, woodland soil, and identifying the plants will still give your child the necessary dirt-time needed to build a strong, healthy immune system. Understand today’s pile of laundry from a mud puddle excursion is a small price to pay for the benefits obtained. The job of parents is to prepare their kids for the world. Being overly protective may keep them safe in the short term but leaves them incapable of dealing with the sometimes harsh aspects of the real world. You love your child so let them touch the wild.