The “indoor microbiome” is gaining more and more attention from scientists because of the billions of pathogens, viruses, and bacteria that live in and around our homes and workplaces. Experts stress that not all bacteria and viruses pose a health risk to humans. And being exposed to a plethora of indoor germs may prove beneficial, protecting you from several illnesses. There is new evidence that our furry friends are good for our health. All of us have learned this year how crucial immunity is.
All that we can do to strengthen our immune systems is something that many of us are actively pursuing. There is a wide range of scientific rigor and practicality among the approaches that purport to accomplish this. One way to boost immunity, however, might be hiding in plain sight.
Approximately 65% of homes in the United States are home to at least one pet, and these animals play an essential role in their owners’ daily lives. It’s only natural that scientists wonder if our prolonged contact with domestic animals has any bearing on our well-being. How, if at all, could our pets impact our immune systems? Let’s find out.
Improves Psychological Well-Being Leading To a Better Immune System
To be more specific, in what ways do our pets affect our immune system? The psychological benefits of owning a pet are one of the most fundamental connections between our well-being and those of our animals. A recent study found that people with mental health conditions who owned pets had higher levels of psychological well-being.
A survey of 2,000 pet owners found that 74% of participants observed improvements in their mental health due to owning a pet. According to the findings of several other studies, having a pet can even make it possible to prolong one’s life. A study that looked at data from over 3 million people published in 2019 found that having a dog was related to a lower chance of dying by 24% over ten years.
Lowers Risk of Developing Allergies
Owning pets reduces the chances of developing allergies. Even though the findings are again a bit contradictory, a clearer picture develops when looking at the effects that particular pets have on the immune system. Exposure to any kind of pet early in infancy, for instance, was connected with a lower chance of getting an allergic skin condition called eczema, according to a meta-analysis that was conducted in 2012.
The benefit was significant for dogs, but it was null and void for those exposed to cats. Similarly, research has shown that early childhood exposure to dogs is connected with a reduced chance of developing allergies later in life, while early childhood exposure to cats is not.
Boosts levels of IgA
Additional evidence shows that interaction with household pets may affect certain facets of the immune system. Volunteers demonstrated a considerable increase in salivary levels of an immunological antibody called IgA, which is an essential participant in our body’s immune defense, after caressing a dog. Children who were exposed to cats had cells that, when activated by an immune-stimulating signal, produced immunological molecules that were distinct from those made by children who were exposed to dogs.
Animals probably have the most significant effect on human immunity not only through modulating immunological markers but also by affecting our stress response. It is well established that prolonged mental stress negatively affects our immune system by raising inflammation and lowering our resistance to illness.
By providing emotional support and encouraging people to spend time with others, pets may help mitigate this debilitating side effect. Exposure to a therapy dog has been linked to reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Children who were allowed to spend time with their pets reported lower levels of psychological stress during another experiment designed to generate stress.
Increases Physical Activity
The act of going for a walk, going on a hike, or going for a run with a dog is an enjoyable and satisfying way to work daily exercise into your calendar. Research has shown that people who own dogs are much more likely to get the recommended amount of daily routine, which is beneficial not just for the owners but also for the dogs themselves. It will strengthen the bond that you share with your animal companion. Regular exercise is associated with improved immune function.
Boosts Your Vitality
If you take good care of yourself, you can combat many physical difficulties that come with getting older. Playfulness, laughing, and physical activity are all fostered by owning a dog, cat, or other pet, all of which contribute to improving a person’s immune system and increasing their vitality level.
Microbes and Their Connection with Our Immune System
Finally, it’s critical to remember that changes in our microbes may account for the immune-boosting advantages of having a pet. Increasing attention is being paid by scientists to the role that bugs living around us play in our overall health. It has been shown that our immune system both affects and is affected by the bacteria that inhabit our bodies.
That’s why it’s fascinating to learn that the skin bacteria of adult dog owners and their canines are quite similar. Although preliminary, this study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that microorganisms from our pets may have an impact on our health and immunity.
Several facets of our health, it seems, are affected by our interactions with animals. Even though it has been shown that some pets may very seldom raise our risk for certain infections, research suggests that many of us may benefit from having furry companions by boosting our immune.
These benefits seem to take place in two ways: directly, by affecting our immune systems, and indirectly, by reducing stress and fostering stronger social bonds. In an era when many of us are looking for ways to strengthen our immune systems, we must realize that our dogs may provide us with much more than just company.