There might be an unconscious reason your child picks their nose when they’re hungry or bored. Boogers could be able to fight cavities as well as the common cold and our desire to eat the gooey things might be a subconscious reaction to defending ourselves from these common health problems. So, next time your child sticks a finger in their nose, consider leaving them alone; they might be intuitively protecting themselves from common health problems.
Boogers Fight Cavities
A study by Frenkel and Ribbeck, in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, looked at cavity causing Streptococcus mutans (S. Mutans) and a key component of boogers, MUC5B, and found that snot might coat your teeth, protecting them from harm.[i]
S. Mutans are bacteria which bind and feed of the sugar on your teeth the produce an acidic by-product which erodes the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavities. [i]
However, boogers keep S. Mutans in the planktonic phase making it more difficult for them to attach to teeth and erode enamel. MUC5B reduced attachment by 88% on the glass and 77% hydroxyapatite discs. Therefore, if our teeth are protected by that mucus, S. Mutans are less likely to attach to them and can’t produce acid which contributes to tooth decay. [i]
Snot Prevents the Common Colds
A Canadian biochemist, Scott Napper, believes that the sweet taste of snot and our habitual consumption of it might indicate a benefit in boogers that we recognize subconsciously. [ii]
In our over-sanitized world, we’ve seen an influx of allergies and some believe this is because we’re are not naturally protected from bacteria and germs anymore. We avoid germs systemically by frequently showering, washing our hands, and using effective soaps. This means our bodies aren’t given much opportunity to build antibodies and deal with problems regularly.[ii]
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Eating snot could be one way young kids “test” their bodies. Mucus catches dust, germs, and bacteria that tries to get into our body and when they eat these germs diluted in mucus, their bodies have an extra chance to recognize it in small doses. [ii]
What does this mean for colds? Well, colds are a reaction to invaders, as it raises your temperature and inflames parts of your body like the sinuses it disposes of the harmful viruses and bacteria. However, Napper thinks that allowing your body to recognize these viruses and bacteria in small doses gives your body a chance to eliminate it without much effort as it has already produced antibodies for these invaders when they arrive in larger doses. [ii]
So, as more research is done, maybe we’ll find out that our snot isn’t supposed to be blown out of your nose and thrown into the garbage, but it’s a superfood meant to be eaten whenever the desire strikes (Kidding!).
Natural Remedies to Use if Boogers Still Gross You Out
Even after hearing the potential benefits of snot, you still might be unconvinced or you’re just grossed out. And after decades of social conditioning and because of proper etiquette, picking your nose might not seem worth it. So, here are some other ways to help your family naturally fight cavities and colds.
Cavity Fighting Alternatives
Other than brushing your teeth with potentially harmful fluoride toothpaste and poisonous mouthwashes there are some healthy ways to stop your pearly whites from turning into rotting yellows.
Coconut Oil toothpaste and oil pulls are effective antimicrobials which can strip S. Mutans away without any dangerous chemicals. [iii] Apples are also good for cleaning our teeth by assisting saliva and using flavonoids to inhibit bacteria. [iv] Cranberries also have flavonoids which stop S. Mutans from sticking to your teeth. An added benefit to cranberries is that they stop e.coli from attaching to your bladder wall to prevent urinary tract infections. [iv]
Lastly, it’s not just about what you put in your diet, it’s about what you take out. Foods to avoid are: [v]
- High sugar foods like chewing gum, candy, and soda
- Sugary Breakfast cereals
- Sauces and syrups
Therefore, you really don’t need to eat your boogers to stop cavities if you’re willing to change your diet a little.
Cold Stopping Techniques
Most people address their cold after the fact with dangerous medications. However, there are definitely a few ways to numb the effects of a cold before you have to stoop to that level.
Drinking water and teas can help you stay hydrated to prevent dryness, and flush everything out while thinning out your mucus to ease congestion. [vi]
Avoid sugary juices like orange juice. You don’t want the added sugars which make it hard for the body to fight the infection. Instead, eat whole fruits if you want vitamin C while only getting natural sugars with some wholesome dietary fibers. [vi]
Drink and eat soup, because not only is it comforting but the warmth can break some of your mucus up, and many soups are easy to drink with a sore throat. They are also a good way to get some nutrients you might be lacking. [vi]
Here are a few more ways to fight your cold:
While it might not be necessary to add picking your nose to your daily health routine, witnessing a pick from your child every once in awhile might be offering more benefits than you thought. At the very least, the research on mucus and its benefits shows us that our bodies have almost everything they need to survive as long as we take care of our bodies and feed it properly.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified health provider with any questions about your oral health, medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.
[i] Frenkel E, Ribbeck K. Salivary Mucins Protect Surfaces from Colonization by Cariogenic Bacteria. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2014;81(1):332-338. doi:10.1128/aem.02573-14.
[ii] Jaslow R. Eating boogers may boost immunity, scientist suspects. Cbsnewscom. 2013. Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/eating-boogers-may-boost-immunity-scientist-suspects/. Accessed May 15, 2017.
[iii] Huang CB, Altimova Y, Myers TM, Ebersole JL. Short- and medium-chain fatty acids exhibit antimicrobial activity for oral microorganisms. Archives of oral biology. 2011;56(7):650-654. doi:10.1016/j.archoralbio.2011.01.011.
[iv] Grotto D. 7 Foods to Fight Cavities « Food and Fitness. WebMD. 2013. Available at: http://blogs.webmd.com/food-and-nutrition/2013/05/7-foods-to-fight-cavities.html. Accessed May 15, 2017.
[v] Which foods cause tooth decay? – Health questions – NHS Choices. Nhsuk. 2017. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/which-foods-and-drinks-containing-sugar-cause-tooth-decay.aspx?CategoryID=51&. Accessed May 15, 2017.
[vi] Klein S. The Best And Worst Foods For A Cold. The Huffington Post. 2012. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-klein/foods-for-cold_b_1885300.html?slideshow=true#gallery/250779/4. Accessed May 15, 2017.
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