About the Documentary Film

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Let Them Eat Dirt:

The Hunt for Our Kids’ Missing Microbes

The Prime Suspects

Environment and Lifestyle: 20% of North American children now suffer from asthma, compared to only 4% of North American Amish kids. We travel to farm and urban communities to compare the long-term health effects of different upbringings.

Antibiotics: Today, life expectancy is 30 years longer than it was just 100 years ago, largely due to antibiotics – a remarkable achievement. But have we inadvertently traded one class of ailments for another?

C-sections: Babies born vaginally pick up vaginal and fecal microbes from mom, while those born via c-section are first exposed to microbes from maternal skin. We follow pregnant women through birth and the first few months to explore how these initial moments may establish children’s microbiota for the rest of their lives.

Diet: The developed world’s diet has changed drastically over the last two generations. But why should formula-fed babies be twice as likely to grow up to be obese as breast-fed babies? And how do first foods – and the ways in which they are ingested – determine what microbes establish a presence in your gut, with lifelong consequences?

The Witnesses

Authors of the book Let Them Eat Dirt, Dr. Brett Finlay and Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta provide the framework, guidance, and clues as to where the evidence – and the answers – might be found.

The film starts with real-world kids and parents living in a variety of environments across Canada, the US, and Mexico. We meet researchers at the forefront of discovering how modern lifestyles affect our microbiota – and how these modern microbial ecosystems may be affecting our health. Some clues can be found in the work of researchers like Dr. Suchi Hourigan, who is pioneering studies with C-sections and whether vaginal microbes can help reduce disease incidence later in life; Dr. Stuart Turvey, on the link between early-life microbe exposures and long-term health with a particular focus on Asthma; Dr. Jack Gilbert, whose work with Amish and Hutterite communities has proven the protective influence of environmental microbes against common childhood diseases; and Dr. Meghan Azad who helps us understand why breastmilk should be considered the first “personalized medicine”.

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