You’re probably aware of the microbiome in your gut, but there’s another microbiome that has a major impact on your health, and it’s not inside your body—it’s inside your home…on your counters, in the air, and on every piece of furniture. That’s right: Now that the importance of maintaining a healthy diversity of bacteria in our digestive systems, on our skin, and the rest of our bodies is entering the mainstream, scientists have expanded their bacterial curiosity to our home microbiome.
When most people think about bacteria in the home, they’re likely to reach for bleach to remove any traces of “germs”, but new research is showing that the pursuit of perfect sanitation has had a big impact on our physical and mental health. Much like antibiotics can wipe out our body’s beneficial bacteria leaving our systems vulnerable to digestive trouble and health issues down the line, indiscriminately bombing the home with disinfectants and harsh chemicals disrupts the natural balance of bacteria in our indoor spaces and can lead to serious issues like asthma, allergies, and skin conditions like eczema.
We’re just starting to discover what makes up the living, invisible world around us. One long-term study from researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Colorado is mapping the incredible diversity of the bacterial communities of our home. As more research probes the makeup of our unseen allies, we’ll gain a brand new understanding of the complex ways our environments impact our health. We’ll also learn more about how interactions with our homes, from gardening and cleaning to air conditioning, shape that health-promoting microbiome that, in turn, shapes us.
The rise of probiotics shows that many people are interested in fostering richly diverse microbial communities in their guts, but what can we do to support a safe, supportive microbiome at home? We’re spending more and more time indoors (according to the EPA, upwards of 93% of our lives, in fact) so making sure our indoor environment is health-promoting is key.
If you’re interested in introducing healthy bacteria to your home, it turns out pets and plants should be part of the equation. Children who grow up in homes with a dog are nearly 13 percent less likely to develop asthma, and kids living the farm life rich with dirt and farm dust are a whopping 50 percent less likely to develop allergies or other immune-related diseases. Houseplants also increase microbial diversity while improving air quality. Similarly, it’s time to choose cleaning products that keep the microbiome of our bodies and our homes in mind. Aunt Fannie’s creates healthier homes with cleaning solutions that celebrate nature’s microcosmic allies. Safely exposing ourselves to puppy kisses, organic soil, and non-disruptive household solutions could be the ticket to vibrant immune systems at every age.