Reprinted from The New York Times, February 11, 2016
How the ‘Dirt Cure’ Can Make for Healthier Families
BY ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein has a message for the parents of small children: Don’t be afraid of dirt.
She is a firm believer in the idea that children in Westernized countries today grow up in a world that can be too sanitized. They spend less time outdoors exploring nature and more time in front of screens than they did two decades ago. They eat foods that are heavily processed. Many do not know what it’s like to taste fresh, seasonally grown foods plucked from a garden with nutrient-rich soil.
Dr. Shetreat-Klein, a pediatric neurologist in New York and an instructor at New York Medical College, explores these themes in a new book, “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids With Food Straight from Soil.” The book delves into research that suggests that spending time around farms, parks and other green spaces can benefit children in surprising ways, protecting against allergies, enhancing immune function and potentially even improving attention span and academic performance.
Dr. Shetreat-Klein wrote the book after a frightening experience with her youngest son, who started wheezing, breaking out in rashes and showing signs of delayed cognitive development after his first birthday. Various doctors suggested it was nothing to worry about.