Have you heard of the "five-second rule?" You might know it as anywhere from the one-second rule to the 10-second rule depending on local and interpersonal customs. You drop food on the floor and quickly pick it up and eat it? Don’t lie. Of course you have.
According to studies, only 50% of men confess to using the five-second rule as opposed to a whopping 70% of women. I wouldn’t say that's consistent with my personal experience, but all hail science!
Over the last few years, there's actually been a remarkable amount of analysis on this topic, with most of the results pointing to the fact that bacteria can be transferred almost immediately. Further studies have shown the texture of food and choice of floor covering play a role in the speed of bacterial transfer.
So, should it be the zero-second rule?
In this case, perhaps the question no one is asking is actually most important. Should we be avoiding the ingestion of bacteria and other germs altogether?
The results of the Human Microbiome Project are so astounding that it brings this question into acute relevance. If you haven't heard about it, this infographic should help, or this brief overview:
1. More than 99% of all microbes are mutually beneficial, significantly aiding our digestion and metabolism.
2. Natural exposure and immunity to microbes reduces our risk factors for chronic disease
3. Our physical, social and even mental distinctions are all a function of both our human and microbial characteristics.
This new information, in the context of a country with a massive chronic disease problem and an obsessive approach to cleanliness, demands serious consideration. The only medical organizations really educating on this information are functional medicine conferences, so we all might want to get a second opinion.
There are certainly easier and safer ways to improve one's microbiome than eating ‘dirty’ food. Some examples would be opening a window, spending time outside, getting a pet, or just avoiding antibiotics for non-emergency conditions.
So, what about the five-second rule?
Perhaps a good place to start in finding real sustainable answer is with a little bit of humility and forgiveness. From there, proceed with common sense. A kale chip dropped in the living room is fine, put you don’t need to slurp up your green smoothie from the carpet.
Stressing out about either is likely worse in the long run, as stress significantly affects immune function. Let’s not mess with raw poultry and I think we’re good.
If nothing else, respect for the holistic nature of our interaction with everything around us is crucial, and now you’ll always have something interesting to say when you next invoke the five-second rule.