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#MomLife: Let them eat dirt!

This book is a must-read for every parent or parent-to-be

Having finished up my latest and loved book, it's time for my next review. My next parenting book recommendation is Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World by Dr. B Brett Finley and Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta.

What's it about?

Let Them Eat Dirt takes the complex and revolutionary science behind microbes (the tiny organisms that live in our bodies), and puts it in a parenting perspective. The evidence provided in the book is easy to follow, interesting, and stems from relevant and recent studies.

Dr. Finley is a Canadian microbiologist and a long-time standing professor at the University of British Columbia with expertise how microbes causes diseases and how they are used as a tool to fight infection. Dr. Arrieta is a micro-biome scientist who runs the Arrieta Lab within the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

The book covers a range of important topics from microbiota in pregnancy, analyzing how early childhood exposure to microbes impact the development of various diseases, and explores the crucial role of how things like vaccines and antibiotics affect your child's long-term health.

Why I Loved It

The number one reason I loved this book is its accessibility. Sometimes I find that reading the science behind my baby's development, I get lost in the jargon. Finley and Arrieta are both parents and take the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies used to support the arguments in this book and make it not only understandable, but a fun and interesting read. They also make a convenient "dos and don'ts" list at the end of every chapter that summarizes the information for your fogged mommy brain.

I also learned tons from this book! I had absolutely no idea how much our microbes impact our health and how crucial their development is during early childhood. It also helped me relax as a new parent about protecting my baby from the "germs" of the world, and in learning the difference between what to protect baby from and what to let her play around in.

What I Didn't Love

My only critique about this book – which is entirely because of my preference for fiction – is that because it is so science-heavy, it did take me a while to finish it. I found that I had to stop and start again over the last few months (which was easy to do because each chapter covers a different topic that was simple to jump back in).

What I Learned

Oh! So much to choose from! Here are a few favourite take-away tidbits:

  1. You are what you eat! Our 'western diet' with its heavy emphasis on refined and processed foods has had an impact on our gut biome in recent generations. This has contributed to a dramatic increase in childhood diseases like obesity, diabetes, IBS, celiac disease, allergies, and asthma. Diversity and whole foods is a good rule of thumb meal-planning for your family.

  2. We have between 500-1500 different species of bacteria in our gut and trillions of them! In fact, if we got rid of all the microbes in our bodies, we'd lose about three pounds!

  3. A woman's body is home to an extremely high number of microbes and a natural birth is nature's way of giving baby a bacteria boost when entering the world. In fact, our evolution is so fine-tuned that we are host to specific lactobacilli (there's your $10 word of the day), which is a bacteria used directly to digest breast milk. When baby gets plenty of it upon exit, it's the exact gut bacteria they need to digest their diet for the next few months.

  4. The increasing number of C-sections in our modern healthcare is having a negative impact on newborns microbe development because they miss out on all that good bacteria. That being said, C-sections happen (by choice or not), so consider talking to your doctor about a swab to give baby an early dose of microbes on delivery day.

  5. Antibiotics (though a gift of science and necessary to combat severe bacterial infections) destroy your microbes. This is especially important regarding pregnant women and babies under 12 months, when baby's microbiome is still developing. What happens in your gut in early childhood has an impact on the microbes you host for life. And on top of that, the more you use specific antibiotics, the more resistant your body becomes to them – to the point they won't work for you. I know that banana-flavoured amoxicillin is tasty, but ease up unless you really need it.

  6. Having a dog in the house does wonders for your baby's microbes! Dog kisses can be linked to a decreased risk of developing allergies and asthma. Cats, though equally as loveable, don't seem to have the same microbial benefits.

  7. Microbes even affect your brain! New research has linked gut health to psychological disorders like anxiety and depression! They are even starting to explore how gut health may impact the potential development of autism.

  8. Vaccines work and are safe (and do not cause autism, BTW). And though you may be a parent who has decided to "opt out" of this protection for your children, be aware that by making these choices we also put other children (too young to receive their vaccines) at risk. With significantly unvaccinated population, we're unable to break the cycle of infection to eliminate these completely preventable diseases. We saw the impact of this in December 2012 with a Whooping Cough outbreak in the Lower Mainland. Even if you're on the diehard anti-vaxx team, I encourage you to take a read of this book – the authors argument around microbes in general is links closely to the philosophy of natural medicine but explains the pro-vaccine perspective in a kind, thorough, and evidence-based way.

Where to Find it

This book is a must-read for every parent or parent-to-be! If you'd like to pick up your own copy, you can order a copy for pick up at Coles in Totem Mall. Also, there are two copies at the Fort St. John Public Library that you can borrow too. Happy Reading!

A.M. Cullen lives and writes in Fort St. John. Are you parenting in the Peace? Send in your questions, topics, or suggestions for #MomLife to cover at