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Researcher reveals surprising impact indoor plants have on human health: 'We live too cleanly in cities'

"The findings are significant."

"The findings are significant."

Photo Credit: iStock

Plants can be our allies in living a healthier life, despite what may have gone down in "The Happening."

A new study, as detailed by Medical Xpress, demonstrated that the research subjects' health improved after one month of exposure to indoor plants.

"The findings are significant, as urbanization has led to a considerable increase in immune-mediated diseases … we live too 'cleanly' in cities," said Mika Saarenpää, a doctoral researcher from the University of Helsinki.

The study, published in the journal Environment International, had one group exposed to peat-based soil, common in gardening because of its versatility but lacking microbes and causing harm to the environment when harvested, while the other group used naturally derived, microbially rich materials. The group exposed to the latter had "boosted the diversity of bacteria on the skin" and had higher levels of "anti-inflammatory cytokines in the blood," Saarenpää said.

More research is coming out on how important it is to maintain a healthy gut and how microbes can help. As many as 50 million people in the U.S. have an autoimmune disease, which the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences notes is the third-most prevalent disease category in the U.S., behind cancer and heart disease. 

It's critical to find more ways, like indoor gardening, to promote a healthy balance of bacteria inside our bodies. Every human hosts about 10 microorganisms for every human cell, and these microbes promote a host of health benefits like digestion, producing certain vitamins, keeping the immune system healthy, and detoxifying us. Even certain probiotic microbes can help us fight microplastics in our bodies.

Saarenpää told Medical Xpress they consider it important to specifically invest in children's exposure to nature and microbes, as the development of the immune system is at its most active in childhood. A recent study published by the JAMA Network estimated that 5% of children globally have some sort of autoimmune disease.

While the study notes health gains came from a one-month period of gardening, researchers suggested that turning it into a hobby can promote potentially lifelong benefits. If you have outdoor space, rewilding your yard with native plants is one way to achieve that goal. 

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