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Why do We Kiss? (Hint: It Has Nothing to Do With Love!)


To love is to hold dear, or to feel a lover's passion, devotion or tenderness. And what better way to express those feelings of passion than with a kiss, right?

Sharing germs with a kiss may add to your own internal defense system.

Well, not so fast.

Researchers from the University of Leeds found that kissing may have started as a technique to spread germs, and thereby boost your body’s immunity to illness.

Specifically, a germ called cytomegalovirus lives in saliva and is passed from man to woman during a kiss. While cytomegalovirus is normally harmless, if a woman catches it while pregnant it can kill the unborn baby or cause birth defects.

Kissing the same person for about six months appears to offer the best protection against this bug, researchers say.

Researcher Dr. Colin Hendrie from the University of Leeds wrote in the journal Medical Hypotheses, "Female inoculation with a specific male's cytomegalovirus is most efficiently achieved through mouth-to-mouth contact and saliva exchange, particularly where the flow of saliva is from the male to the typically shorter female."

On a similar, yet somewhat less intimate, note, this swapping of saliva in order to benefit from the germs therein is very much in line with the relatively new theory known as the Hygiene Hypothesis.

Is Getting Some Exposure to Germs a Good Thing?

According to "the hygiene hypothesis," children who are not exposed to some dirt and germs at an early age (due to living in an overly sterile, "hygienic" environment) are at an increased risk of immune system disorders such as asthma and allergies and possibly rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, insulin-dependent diabetes and scleroderma.


Because their developing immune systems didn't get exposed to many germs, they didn't get a chance to develop a tolerance to them and are more likely to overreact.

So it may be a mixed blessing that in modern times exposure to germs is not what it used to be. Children receive vaccinations from early on, which means their immune systems will not have to fight off illnesses like polio or measles. Antibiotics, too, fight bacterial infections for you so your immune system is off the hook.

Our homes are also often doused with antibacterial cleansers, while we wash our hands with antibacterial soaps. And our indoor environments are typically sealed off with airtight windows and doors designed to save energy, but which concentrate allergens inside.

Even our diets are becoming largely sterilized, with chlorinated drinking water, pasteurized dairy products, and irradiated produce common in the United States.

The result, while beneficial for reducing the spread of infectious disease, may be backfiring in the form of rising numbers of immune system disorders.

Kids’ Natural Exposure to Germs May Make Them Healthier Adults

New research from Northwestern University further supports the notion that everyday germ exposure may be quite natural … and healthy. The researchers used data on over 3,300 Filipinos who were followed beginning in utero through 22 years of age. They examined how early exposures to microbes affected the participants’ production of C-reactive protein (CRP).

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a special type of protein produced by the liver. When your body experiences systemic inflammation, levels of this protein go up. Many researchers and doctors now believe that CRP may be as important as -- or more important than -- cholesterol levels in determining risk of heart disease.

The researchers found that CRP levels in the Filipino participants were at least 80 percent lower during young adulthood than their American counterparts. This is important as Filipinos suffer many more infectious diseases as infants and toddler than American toddler typically do.

"Contrary to assumptions related to earlier studies, our research suggests that ultra-clean, ultra-hygienic environments early in life may contribute to higher levels of inflammation as an adult, which in turn increases risks for a wide range of diseases," said Thomas McDade, lead author of the study, associate professor of anthropology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, in Science Daily.

"In the U.S we have this idea that we need to protect infants and children from microbes and pathogens at all possible costs … But we may be depriving developing immune networks of important environmental input needed to guide their function throughout childhood and into adulthood,” he continued.

A Simple Solution if You’ve Been Living in an Overly Hygienic Environment?

Give Your Body the
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Is there anything you can do, now, if you and your family have been using antibacterial soaps and cleansers, taking frequent antibiotics, and trying to shun every germ known to humankind?

According to a Webcast from Harvard Medical School:

“[There is] encouraging scientific evidence that probiotic administration may prevent and reduce the immune-mediated disease trend. Probiotics are living organisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.

Regular consumption of certain probiotics can help regulate the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract and reinforce mucosal defenses that helps limit the propagation of immune mediated disease bacteria. Probiotics have been used historically by many societies worldwide to promote health.”

In fact, 70 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, which means that if your gut is overrun with bad bacteria, there’s a good chance your immune system will not be functioning at its best.

On the other hand, if your gut is being fortified with good bacteria, or probiotics, your immune system will be fully functioning and have the best chance of fighting off any disease-causing bacteria it encounters.

In choosing a probiotic supplement for yourself, highly recommends AbsorbAid Probiotic from -- a superlative probiotic supplement that provides clinical activities supporting systemic health and wellness through immune-system protection, allergy reduction and effective and enhanced nutrient absorption.

AbsorbAid Probiotic has 30 billion organisms per capsule, with two clinically effective and dominant genera Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus: L. acidophilus and L. salivarius in a 2:1 ratio and B. lactis and B. breve, also in a 2:1 ratio.  Each bacterial genus-species has its own specific metabolic activities, which lead to their effective inter-species synergism.

Studies have shown that probiotics may be helpful with immune system modulation and allergies, so it’s a simple step that may help keep you and your family in the best health possible.

Of course, if you’re a parent to young children, you can also encourage them to play outdoors often and not shield them from animals, pets or other children. It seems that some good old-fashioned playtime and exposure to a wide range of bacteria and germs may help your little one develop a strong immune system for life.

Recommended Reading

EXCESSIVE INNER-Hygiene: Dangers of Killing Good Bacteria You Need to Stay Healthy

Eight Reasons to Kiss More! (And They’re ALL Great for Your Health!)


Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences December 9, 2009

Medical Hypotheses October 12, 2009 December 9, 2009

Telegraph October 31, 2009

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