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Let Them Eat Dirt

Saving Our Children from an Oversanitized World

Regular price $19.95 CAD
  • ISBN: 9781771642545
  • Tags: B. Brett Finlay, Health & Wellness, Marie-Claire Arrieta, Nature & Environment,
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Published On: 8/26/2016
  • 304 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781771642552
  • Tags: B. Brett Finlay, Health & Wellness, Marie-Claire Arrieta, Nature & Environment,
  • Published On: 8/26/2016
  • 340 Pages

“A must-read for parents, teachers and any healthcare provider for children, Let Them Eat Dirt takes you inside the inside tract of a child’s gut, and shows you how to give kids the best immune start early in life.”—William Sears, M.D, co-author, The Baby Book

Our over-sanitized world threatens children’s health, but parents can change their environment into one where they’ll thrive.

Babies and young kids are being raised in surroundings that are increasingly cleaner, more hyper hygienic, and more disinfected than ever before. As a result, the beneficial bacteria in their bodies is being altered, promoting conditions and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, and autism. As Let Them Eat Dirt shows, there is much that parents can do about this, including breastfeeding if possible, getting a dog, and avoiding antibiotics unless necessary—and yes, it is OK to let kids get a bit dirty.

Professor of Microbiology at the University of British Columbia and a world leader in how bacterial infections work. Finlay’s research has been widely published and reported on worldwide, including in Nature, Scientific American , and on BBC and NPR news. He has won several prestigious awards including five Howard Hughes International Research Scholar Awards and thePrix Galien. Finlay is an Officer of the Order of Canada..

Marie-Claire Arrieta studies the link between intestinal alterations and several immune diseases, and she has led a major clinical study on the role of the microbiota in asthma.


"[Let Them Eat Dirt] functions both as a primer on the growing body of scientific knowledge around the microbiome, as well as a guide for parents who now find themselves navigating through essentially uncharted territory."
David Kates, National Post

"[E]veryone can benefit from [reading] Let Them Eat Dirt]… it [is] clear, easy to follow and most importantly, interesting."
Alexandra Nordstrom, The Ubyssey

"[F]rightening and fascinating"
Homa Khaleeli, The Guardian

"In “Let Them Eat Dirt,” authors B. Brett Finlay, Ph.D., and Marie-Claire Arrieta, Ph.D., experts on bacterial infections, reject the super-sanitized world our kids live in."
Maureen Mackey, LifeZette

Lisa Salmon, Evening Mail

"The authors keep health trends in perspective… [putting] research into more of a real-world context."
Molly Walker, MedPage Today

"[M]icrobiologists B. Brett Findlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta make [their] case with an unusually convincing display of evidence – as well as historical anecdotes and a parent-friendly sense of humor – in their new book, Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World."
Nancy Szokan, Washington Post


From the Preface

We all want what is best for our kids. The problem is that there is no perfect handbook on how to raise them, nor is there any one best way, either.

We read books and articles, talk to friends, and try to remember (or forget!) how our parents raised us. Both of us have children and have struggled and muddled through the parenting process the same way everyone does. We are also scientists who have worked with microbes for many years, and we couldn’t help but consider how these ever-present microbes influence development as we raised our children.

At first we studied microbes that cause disease, and we feared them just like anyone else. But more recently we began taking notice of all the other microbes that live in and on us — our “microbiota.” As we continue to study the microbiota of humans, it is becoming clear that our exposure to microbes is most important when we’re kids. At the same time, modern lifestyles have made childhood much cleaner than ever before in human history, and this is taking a huge toll on our microbiota — and our lifelong health.

The genesis of this book came from the realization that the studies in our lab — and the labs of several other researchers — prove that microbes really do impact a child’s health. What shocked us most was how early this starts — the first one hundred days of life are critical.

We knew microbes played a role in well-being, but we had no idea how soon this role began.

Several other factors converged to help convince us to write this book. Claire has young children, and all of her young parent friends were extremely interested in the concept of microbes and how they might affect their kids. Whenever we tell other parents about our work, the questions never cease — Do I need to sterilize their bottles every time? What kind of soap should I use? We realized that there are many questions out there about microbes . . . and a lot of wrong information.

Brett is married to a pediatric infectious disease specialist (Jane) who was constantly suggesting articles and findings about how microbes affect kids, which led us to realize that since this was such a new field, there was no one source parents could turn to if they wanted to learn more. Not to mention that scientific articles are usually dry, terse things with lots of jargon and, frankly, are terribly boring. However, this new area of research has a lot to offer to people raising children who are not likely to get this important information from dense scientific papers or from studies often misinterpreted by the press. There is a lot of information being produced by some of the best scientists in the world, which we consider extremely useful for the day-to- day decisions we make while raising our children, so we felt compelled to gather it all in one book and make it accessible to the everyday parent.