Published on January 12th, 2013 | by Brian Gendron
The porta-potty may BOOST your immune system. Here’s how.
When was the last time you had the misfortune of using a porta-potty? Sometimes the experience is fine, but as we all know, it can also be pretty bad. And sure, there are worse things in life, but still…. Anyone who has visited a location with no plumbing, worked on a construction site, or attended a large concert knows it all too well. And to boot, it seems as though, until recently, soap and water outside were nonexistent. The whole situation is an OCD nightmare!
Fortunately, we are born with a built in mechanism that protects us from PPE (porta-potty exposure). Research shows that our bodies automatically respond to disgusting ‘stuff’ with a preventative boost in immune system functioning. If your brain perceives the porta-potty to be a vomitous, vile threat, it will set in motion a precautionary chain of events aimed at warding off infectious predators.
It turns out that “disgust” is one of evolution’s greatest wonders, probably stemming from distaste, which is a less complex concept found in many non-human animals. The ability to taste bitter compounds is one method used for avoiding potentially poisonous grub. Those animals that can detect toxins in food (which often taste bitter) are more likely to survive and pass on their genes to subsequent generations. Those who cannot detect are more likely to eat the hazardous cuisine and suffer the potentially fatal consequences.
Today, our immune systems are activated at the slightest perception of something gross, because it signifies potential infection or disease. Moreover, our detective skills are extremely fine-tuned; studies have demonstrated that willing participants who simply look at photos of disgusting stimuli experience a boost in immune system activity. Meanwhile, no change is observed in control participants.
This evidence suggests that our brain is highly sensitive and evolved to maximize our chances of survival. Not only are we motivated to avoid potential hazards, we are also equipped with preventative measures when avoidance is difficult. It’s possible that one can elicit these changes at the mere thought of something disgusting. But then again, we wouldn’t want to do that because we have evolved a motivation to avoid the disgusting, even in thought, right? That seems like a conundrum.
Keep in mind, despite nature’s preventative immune response to the porta-potty, yes, you should still wash your hands. Assuming there’s soap and water, of course.