Should you eat your bogies? They could be good for your immune system

Should you eat your bogies? Picking your nose and eating food off the floor ‘give your immune system something to do’ in a sterilised world, claims expert

  • Dr Meg Lemon, a dermatologist in Denver, says she tells people to eat bogies
  • In a book by journalist Matt Richtel he reveals allergies are on the rise in the US
  • Exposing the body to a range of germs could strengthen the immune system 

People should pick their noses and eat the bogies to boost their immune system, according to an expert.

Exposing the body to a range of germs could help to boost its natural defences and make people more resilient to infections and allergies, research has suggested.

And as society becomes cleaner and more antiseptic it may be down to people to take matters into their own hands.

Denver dermatologist Dr Meg Lemon said people should pick their nose and eat it ‘to give their immune system something to do’, because Western life is now so sterilised people don’t get exposed to enough germs naturally (stock image)

‘I tell people, when they drop food on the floor, please pick it up and eat it,’ Dr Meg Lemon tells science author Matt Richtel in his new book ‘An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System’.

In an excerpt published in the New York Times, for which Mr Richtel is a journalist, Dr Lemon said: ‘Get rid of the antibacterial soap. Immunize!

‘If a new vaccine comes out, run and get it. I immunized the living hell out of my children. And it’s O.K. if they eat dirt.’

‘You should not only pick your nose, you should eat it,’ she added. 

Based in Denver, Colorado, Dr Lemon is a dermatologist certified by the American Board of Dermatology.

Her advice supports the theme of the excerpt of Mr Richtel’s book, which suggests modern immune systems are becoming overly sensitive to once-harmless germs.

He points to research which has in the past shown children are more likely to develop allergies such as hay fever if they have fewer siblings.

The reasoning, according to a study in the British Medical journal in 1989, is that catching infections from older siblings bolstered young children’s immunity.

Those who didn’t have older brothers and sisters bringing home bacteria and viruses they picked up outside had sheltered, less battle-hardened immune systems.


Excess mucus signals there is inflammation, most likely due to an allergy or infection.

Inflammation irritates the nasal lining and dilates the blood vessels there – leading to a runny nose.

What usually happens is the cilia (tiny hair-like structures inside the nose) sweep mucus away towards the back of the throat and we swallow it without realising.

But in cold weather, these cells act more slowly, or even become paralysed, which is why your nose runs.

However clear, runny mucus is a good sign because it means your nasal passages aren’t fighting off a cold.

It also means the water, antibodies, enzymes and protein and dissolved salts that make up mucus, can get on with their job – keeping your nasal passages moist. 

Source: Dr Sarah Brewer, GP 

And those were the ones who developed allergies.

Over time, families have become smaller as people have fewer children and Western societies are increasingly focused on keeping their homes, bodies, food, water and milk clean and sterilised.

At the same time, the prevalence of allergies has risen.

In the US in 2011 there were 50 per cent more children with food allergies than in 1997, Mr Richtel writes.

And, during the same period, there was a 69 per cent increase in skin allergies.

He also warns that overprescribing antibiotics may have contributed to the effect because they can destroy healthy bacteria if given when they’re not needed.

Overuse of antibiotics also allows bacteria to mutate to become more deadly and more difficult to treat.

Mr Richtel admits many advances in hygiene have been useful for society and improved the health and lives of modern people.

But he suggests the immune system could still benefit from training to make it better at fighting infection – and picking your nose or eating dirty food could be a way to do that.

‘Our immune system needs a job,’ Dr. Lemon added.

‘We evolved over millions of years to have our immune systems under constant assault. Now they don’t have anything to do.’

‘An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System’ by Matt Richtel is published by William Morrow.