But are all these practices really healthy or might they even be bad for our health?
Let’s look at this from a historical perspective. Almost throughout our entire existence, we as humans have been sorounded by bacteria and microorganisms of all kinds. Long before the invention of terms like “personal hygiene”, people were actually getting a daily dose of dirt, if not conciously (some tribes have been shown to actually eat dirt alone for it’s mineral content, getting a good dose of microorganisms at the same time), then by not washing their hands or digging up roots and other plants from the ground and eating it, drinking unfiltered water etc.
There’s research to suggest we’ve evolved to depend on the daily dose of bacteria and microorganisms we got through the continiously consumption of dirt. To better understand the importance of this relationship between humans and microbes, let’s look at one of the most important parts of our bodies, our digestive system. It’s a long hollow tube-shaped tract that runs from our mouth to our rectum. Research has estimated that as much as over 70% of our immune-system exists in our digestive tract. This long and hollow tube is also host to a whole ecosystem of different bacteria and microorganisms that have many vital fuctions. The most important beeing supporting different immune functions, assisting in digestion and absorption of food, and protecting the body from harmfull invaders.
As we transended from the paleolithic area to the neolithic area and became an agricultural society, new methods were invented, that provided us with additional ways of getting these microbes. The practice of fermentation not only served as a way of preserving the food and harvest, buts also made sure that the consumers got a substantial dose of healthy bacteria and other microorganisms. This was a widespread practice in agricultural societies all the way up until the last century, and even today people and certain kinds of societies still practice these methods.
So it’s evident that a relationship between humans and microorganisms have existed in different ways througout the whole human history. Only in recent times have this “relationship” diminished as a result of both improved food preserving techniques, change in our eating habits, and as our knowlege of the importance of hygiene have increased. These changes in hygiene pratices and measures have all changed very rapidly, and in a very small time frame especially if seen from an human evolutionary perspective.
So back to my question earlier regarding what impact these changes might have on human health. It might be to early in time to answer this question fully, and more research may be needed. But what we do know is that chronic health conditions especially coditions related to the immune-system like different auto-immune conditions, different allergies etc have seen a dramatic increase in only the last few decades. It may therefore be resonable to assume that a disturbance in the human microbe relationship might play a role in the rapid increase in these conditions and possibly many other health conditions, considering the microbial importance in the function of the human immune system and other functions.