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Ditch The Germicide, Pass The Mud Pie! Your Child’s Immune System Will Thank You

Continuing the series exploring Jordan S. Rubin's The Maker's Diet.

Rhonda Robinson


September 9, 2013 - 4:00 pm


“You can always tell a first time mother,” she said, as we sat in the kitchen sipping our coffee. “They’re always jumping up, running after the baby, worried about every little thing she touches. By the time the third one comes along, she’s like, ‘Oh look, the baby’s licking a shoe–isn’t that cute?’”

A quick glance at my toddler revealed the source of my friend’s caffeinated blurt of wisdom–my eight-month old daughter, sitting quietly at my feet was teething on a sandal.

No, I didn’t give it to her; she slipped it off my foot without me noticing. And no I didn’t think it was cute, but I didn’t panic either.

She was right.

You might be tempted to say a mother of several children just gets lazier. I say, she gets wiser or she won’t survive.

It always seemed curious to me that children in small families, living in town with mothers that kept immaculate homes and doted over them– were constantly sick. I noticed these families because, well in some ways, I envied them.

Although I couldn’t stand the thought of raising a large family in a subdivision, raising kids in an old farmhouse was a lot of hard work.

Open windows welcomed the dust in from the fields, and a constant stream of little feet imported dirt and mud from every corner of the yard. It was hard enough to keep the house clean, but keeping it sterile was not an option.

Oh, and their favorite place to play? The barn. Followed closely by the large eight-by-eight foot sandbox under a magnolia tree. The boys built treetop shanties tree houses and played army barefoot in minefields of manure the pasture.

In this week’s reading of Jordan S. Rubin’s The Maker’s Diet I found the reason my kids were seldom sick. To this day, even as adults– it takes a lot to knock them down. I used to think it was because I was such a good mother. Wrong. It was because God is such a good Father.

Rubin explains how science is just now discovering how the Creator designed our environment to keep us healthy. Which, it turn, also explains how we’ve messed up the process.


If you ever see a guy in a white lab coat, carrying a spoon and a sandwich bag don’t worry. He’s not an escapee; there’s a good explanation. According to Rubin, everyday, scientists are traveling all over the world looking for new sources of soil microorganisms. They’re looking everywhere from bat caves to undersea volcanos.

“Each exotic locale may yield a completely new discovery of germs–a gold mine of potential pharmaceutical profits. Some leading government officials and scientists in the United States suspect that organisms in our soil may yield powerful new treatments for AIDS, cancer, and other deadly diseases. Even the National Cancer Institute is funding research on soil organisms.”

Science is discovering the healing treasures God placed in the soil for us. New antibiotics are being sought to replace the pool of antibiotics that are growing less effective as “super-bugs” mutate. As a good example of a current antibiotic that came from microbes in the soil  the author points to streptomycin–the first treatment for tuberculosis.

The author’s list of drugs that came from microbes in the soil are impressive, starting with cyclosporine, an anti rejection drug used in transplants. A drug that is used to cure parasitic infections that plague livestock and vancomycin, the drug of “last resort” for treating the toughest infections.

“Did you know that one gram of soil–enough to fill a little packet of sugar–can contain as many as 10,000 species of microbes unknown to science…”

No. I had no idea. An apparently science is now discovering that microbes differ profoundly from known bacteria.

So what does that mean to us? Should we allow the little darlings to eat their own mud pies in hopes they ingest the right microbe?

Hardly. What it does mean, is that while hygiene and cleanliness is vitally important to good health, so is the soil. Dirt made by our Creator, not only holds treasures of cures, but builds and trains our immune system. Rubin cites a report in New Scientist saying:

“Researchers have discovered that microorganisms found in dirt influence maturation of the immune system so that it is either functional or dysfunctional.”

We’ve created an indoor environment with antibacterial soaps, homes laced with disinfectant and sofas decorated with children holding remote controls. Our farmlands are now sterilized by pesticides and herbicides that destroy the beneficial microbes alongside the harmful.

Rubin is convinced that our immune systems need regular exposure to naturally occurring soil organisms for long-term health– so am I.

Go ahead; send the kids out to play in the dirt. Don’t worry about that dust that’s blowing in the open windows–it’s “sterile.”

Not everyone raise their children in the country. Do you have any creative ideas for parents who want to give their children a healthy immune system, but live in the city?


Buy it here and join the conversation.


Photo credit Shutterstock,  Heidi Brand

Rhonda Robinson writes on the social, political and parenting issues currently shaping the American family. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Middle Tennessee. Follow on twitter @amotherslife

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All Comments   (12)
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The topic is interesting, but Robinson's articles featuring this book seem to be to be going beyond informational journalism or product reviews and into express advocacy. I'd like a disclosure statement showing whether or not Robinson has a financial interest in this book.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If this kind of thinking becomes the standard, than the EPA will no longer have the ability to run rampant imposing enormous fines on farmers when they drop manure on the road.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I just finished reading ASLEEP, a book about encephalitis lethargica, and the author proposes that polio was rampant in white, middle class neighborhoods (and not in the poor tenement sections) because immunity to those nasty buggers was wiped out by our clean water sources. Makes sense. This also makes sense when you think of the daycare centers with workers running around dosing everything with alcohol and bleach. Those kids are sick constantly. My kids who were raised on a dairy farm, playing in the "dirty environments" have NO allergies, and are barely ever sick.

This also points to those severe peanut allergies being blamed on antibacterials. Remove every bacterial source in your environment and your body no longer recognizes complex proteins (such as those contained in nuts).

What doesn't make sense is the present vaccination police who insist your children be vacccinated against STD's (which can be avoided by not engaging in bad behavior choices) as well as the dangers of your unvaccinated child to vaccinated children.

(Of course I know it boils down to big pharma and money ) but it makes one think...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One of my favorite memories of when my children were little is what they called "Sticky Beach." It was an area of my veggie garden that I didn't plant one year. The kids were watering the garden and that bare area got soaked in the process, creating a nice mudhole ... which became the favorite outdoor playspot for a couple of years. Made for fantastic photos, too!

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was raised in filth, at least by today's standards. Drafty old Southern farmhouse with wood heat and no running hot water until I was 8 or ten. Other than hands and faces, baths were at most a weekly event, and less than that in winter. We kept cows for milk and meat, hogs for meat and to control the snakes in the bottoms, horses and mules for farming and mules even after we got tractors because they were necessary for tobacco cultivation. Animal hubandry is nasty work! Other than sugar, white flour, corn meal, and such, if we didn't grow it or kill it, we didn't have it. My mother was a less than stellar housekeeper and I lived in a lot of dust and dirt. We only played inside when it was raining or very cold, at least cold by South Georgia standards. I was surrounded by agricultural chemicals and I don't think I'd ever even seen a mask or respirator until I was in my teens and ony sissies wore gloves. We'd spread out a bag of DDT-based boll weevil dust under the house to control the bugs. First aid for cuts and scrapes was turpentine, spider webs for cuts, and unless they couldn't stop the bleeding, you weren't going to the doctor. My thoroughly modern, pampered stepkids couldn't believe all the scars the first time they saw me in a swimsuit.

I was fairly sickly as a youngster because of respiratory issues every winter. My tonsils came out in pieces they were so infected when I was seven. Thank goodness for antibiotics then, because I'd have died from that fifty years before. The respiratory issues, which everyone who had wood heat had to a greater or lesser degree, pretty much went away after we got gas heat. I don't recall ever getting sick after we quit farming, even during the rampant "flu epidemics" of the '60s. I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day from my twenties until I was 59. I've been known to drink a bit and did a pretty good course of recreational substances in the '60s and early '70s. I don't get sick. I don't get infections. I have no allergies. Now, I may die of a deep tissue cancer because of all the exposure to agricultural chemicals; technically my Dad did, but you could as easily say that he died of being 78, and he spent four of those years building Liberty Ships with heavy asbestos exposure.

My bio daughter, b. 1971, was an urban kid until she came to Alaska in '74, where she became a suburban kid but with a lot of outdoor play. If she got the sniffles at school she stayed home a day or three and got lots of fluid and aspirin or tylenol, not a trip to the Doc and a useless antibiotic prescription to shut her mother up. She's always been as healthy as a horse. My stepkids, b. 82, 84, and 86, had a working mother and daycare. Said mother also had good health insurance and paid leave. They went to the Doc for the slightest upset and every case of sniffles got an amoxycillin scrip until I came along and kinda, sorta put a stop to it. Those kids have constant colds, the oldest had terrible allergies and asthema, though he's better now that he's out on his own and away from his mother and her health insurance. The daughter has Crohn's. The youngest was borderline autistic when very young but we resisted the ritilin and special ed, taught him to drink coffee, and old trick for over active kids from the days before ritilin, and I, particularly, refused to tolerate acting out, so while he's not a stellar citizen even today, he functions, works a decent job, etc.

What we have today, and I see them everywhere and hear about them from every parent is incredibly spoiled, pampered children. Since we've lost the ability to impose discipline on kids, we give it names like ADD and ADHD, or the various varieties of autism related things, but what we really have are feral children who are very prone to all sorts of infections. Hover parents keep them in the house all the time and they never get any exposure to the outdoor environment. I know there are lots of kids in my neighborhood, but I NEVER see them except if I happen to drive by the school at recess time, and those recesses are only a few brief minutes twice a day, not long outside activities or PE classes. The school buses run through the neighborhood but there aren't many kids at the bus stops. There is however a very long line of expensive SUVs and such dropping the little darlings at the school door. Basically, most modern women have lost any ability to sensibly raise children, especially male children, and the sure as Hell aren't going to let any man raise a kid. So, we get sickly, feral children.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I work with a single mother who has 3 kids. She's the worlds biggest hypochondriac; she has a anti-bac bottle in a belt pouch for crying out loud. Touch a doorknob? Squirt squirt goes the anti-bac. Answer a phone? Squirt squirt.

She wonders why she's sick all the time and blames her military service for it, but her doctors tell her she's fine.

Now all 3 kids have health issues, and with no father at home (she divorced the clown years ago) they don't play in the dirt, go to the emergency room for sniffles, etc.

I've told her more than once to let the kids be kids but she's full of crazy sauce.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We had dogs that used to run outside and lick us when they came in. Also, we used to pick fruit ( wild blackberries, grapes, tree fruit) and sample it before it went to the kitchen for a wash.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Houses, even those in the suburbs or the city, have yards that need work. Cutting the grass, trimming the hedges....

And another possible line of evidence... Sports. Most sports are played outside... in a field of dirt and grass. Football, soccer, baseball, field hockey and on and on. Who knows, being tackled may be good for you yet. :)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The Hygiene Hypothesis".

Ya'll oughta' google it. It gets pretty wacky. The whole unheavenly host of autoimmune diseases and allergies can be laid at sterility's door. It seems there may be an autoimmune connection to the explosion of asthma and autism in the 1st world.

To properly fine-tune the young immune system requires exposure to a stew of bacteria, protozoans and even parasitic worms (you heard me, it's called "helminthic" therapy). Perhaps (in lieu of that daily teaspoonful of gardening dirt and quarter cup of pond scum) a liquid commercial preparation just a' wriggling with microbial life might be formulated. Three drops of the brown goo a day on the tongue keeps multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn's disease...etc. away?

Hmmm, I see a science fiction plot. Perhaps when humanity becomes space-faring, spaceships and far-flung colonies will carefully nurture their sacred sourdough starter and eagerly cross-fertilize it with that of others whenever they meet.

Imagine a quasi-religious ceremony when the kiddies are periodically marched to the holodeck and fed the holy goo surrounded by scenes of distant earth (think of Edward G. Robinson's last moments in Soylent Green but with an upbeat theme) to remind them of where they come from. It's inspiring.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>>you heard me, it's called "helminthic" therapy

I keep telling my brother who suffers from IBS to drink some pig roundworm, but he won't believe me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I always enjoyed getting dirty and muddy as a kid; little did I know that it was so good for me. Today I enjoy yard work, so I'm exposed to bone-strengthening and sleep-enhancing sunshine, and I still get dirty and muddy. Pass me the mud pie.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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