It's the dog days of summer, and there's no better way to spend these warmer months than with your pooch by your side! Even better than the love and playfulness they bring to your life is the fact that they may actually boost your health (as if we needed more reasons to love dogs...)!
As you've probably gathered by now, I'm super passionate about the gut. About 70% of the immune system stems from the gut, which makes it a major factor in developing disease if it falls out of balance. The gut also can affect our mood, produce hormones, assimilate nutrients and more.
Because we live in a world that's becoming more and more sterile from overuse of hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps, antibiotics, reduced time outdoors and overly cleansed environments, our body's "good" bacteria is becoming less attuned to putting up a strong defense when it is being attacked by invaders, such as when we catch a cold from a friend or food poisoning when we're out to eat. So, while it seems to be good for us to be living in a very clean environment, we've gotten to the point of being too clean, therefore creating a difficult space for our beneficial microbes to flourish.
All disease begins in the gut.
Dogs, on the other hand, dig in the dirt, put things in their mouth from the ground, roll in grass, and then come into our homes with paws that cannot be removed, like shoes - therefore, carrying dirt and germs from the outside world in. Not only that, but their fur alone carries bacteria from the air or from the grass where they laid or rolled. These microbial colonies from our furry friends that then end up on our couches, beds, rugs - and eventually our mouths and skin - help to train our bacteria, so to say, so they continue "building their muscles" and preparing defenses for when we need the good bacteria to fight off the pathogenic, or bad, bacteria. This also helps our immune system understand which microbes are friends, and which are foes.
It's actually been reported that households with pets get fewer infections and require fewer antibiotics. Increasing your natural defenses by welcoming a cute pet in your home? Sign me up!! Next time your pup gives you kisses, jumps on your bed or couch for snuggles, or begs for a belly rub, think about all the immune-boosting action you're getting by simply sharing a little puppy love.
Other ways to get good microbes brewing in your home (while still maintaining appropriate cleanliness!):
Keep your windows open. Bacteria is in the air, so by keeping your windows open you're allow them to pass through the window screens and into your nostrils or onto your skin. Better yet, spend some time outdoors!
Limit use of antibacterial soaps. Non-antibacterial soaps work well if you wash your hands and body properly - scrub for 30 seconds to a minute under warm water and dry using a clean towel or disposable paper towel (though more environmentally sound ways are best!).
Use natural household cleaners. Avoid stripping every single bacterial cell away by using harsh cleaning products, and instead opt for natural ingredient based cleaning products or making your own using essential oils and/or Dr. Bronner's soap. These are much better for the health of your hormones, as well!
Drink filtered H2O. Most tap drinking water is chockfull of chlorine, (bad) bacterial contaminants, aluminum, fluoride, and even arsenic. Not only can these mess with the health of your gut in big ways, but they can also disrupt your brain. Choose filtered water over plastic bottles, too, to avoid unhealthy impurities like BPAs.
Lastly, keep a little garden around. Digging your hands in dirt encourages happy, healthy microbes and soil is a wonderful healing element in it's own right.