When Too Clean is a Concern
Did you play in the dirt when you were little?
Did you live in a big family? Did you have a pet?
If you said yes, you’re lucky! That was all good for your immune system.
Designed to fight infection and ward off foreign bodies (allergens), our immune system protects us from what it identifies as potential threats to our health and survival (like bacteria, viruses and parasites). It responds to foreign substances (antigens) by producing antibodies. These antibodies stay in our body, which means they increase in number over the years, (though their proliferation decreases with age). When that same kind of antigen reappears, the antibodies that once fought off that antigen (foreign body)—along with additional reinforcements in the form of new antibodies—fight it off. That’s why you probably only got chickenpox once. You developed immunity.
The wisdom of the body is amazing!
Good Dirt And Bad Dirt
Playing outside, getting covered in mud, sharing a bedroom with siblings who had a cold or the measles seems a bit problematic, but now looking back, but it might have been to our benefit.
Today, our lives are more squeaky clean than ever. As a population, we are less rural and more urban, increasingly hygiene conscious, and very adept at managing the threats of disease with vaccines and antibiotics.
But has our attention to hygienic detail undermined the role of our natural immune system?
Allergies, are on the rise in the developed world, in alarming ways, affecting people of all ages, including children.
The prevalence of food and skin allergies has increased in children under age 18 years from 1997–2011
Allergic conditions are now among the most common medical conditions affecting children in the United States, yet children from the highest income brackets have the highest prevalence rates (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology).
Good Bacteria And Bad Bacteria
The Hygiene Hypothesis is a term coined in the 1980s to explain how exposure to germs in childhood (by living on a farm for example, or in big families) helps create a robust immune system. Germs train our body’s response system—antibodies— to identify ‘good’ bacteria (like dust mites, pollen and some foods) from ‘bad’ bacteria.
Being “too clean” is now cited as one reason for the increase in allergies in children. With the ‘bad ‘ guys missing and little to do, our immune system has turned to fighting the ‘good’ guys to stay busy. It’s on red alert against relatively harmless things like peanuts, cat fur and grass pollens.
“When antibodies aren’t engaged in real fights, they create one.” LeAura Alderson, founder, MyTrainerFitness.com
The Hygiene Hypothesis makes sense in many ways but doesn’t explain everything. We are not all going to have the opportunity to return to rural living, and for public health governments have determined that we need vaccinations and doctors over-prescribe antibiotics, often in response to consumer demand to feel better quicker.
Our comfortable modern urban lifestyle adds its own pressures, bombarding our bodies with pollution and chemically loaded foods. And those wonder drugs and antibiotics that save populations, at a personal level destroy ‘good’ bacteria and undermine our intestinal health.
Our bodies are a complex ecosystem. Generally sturdy and adaptable, today’s exposure to a proliferation of substances, used from head to toe, lived in, driven in and consumed, it’s no surprise there’s a virtual epidemic of over-reactive immune systems manifesting in allergies and other diseases.
“Underemployed antibodies are dangerous, and they weaken the entire system.”
Immune System Makeover
Adapting your home to be hygienic but not sterile, and buying natural products whenever you can are two must dos for an allergy resistant lifestyle.
What you and your children really need is a fabulous immune system.
Like fitness, or anything else, you can get started with simple changes that add up big. Stack the positives daily, and they will begin to crowd out the negatives. Over time, that stack becomes huge defenses to protect our health and wellness.
Get Started by Going Natural
- Reach for honey and ginger for your child’s sore throat instead of an antibiotic.
- Reinforce intestinal flora with probiotics and fermented foods.
- Try recipes like ‘dilly’ carrots and probiotic chocolate ice cream.
Once you get the hang of it you won’t look back.
Here’s how prebiotics and probiotics work from bodyandsoul.
The trillions of ‘good’ bacteria naturally found in the human digestive tract, that restore healthy flora after antibiotics, rebalance the bacteria required for optimal nutrient absorption and support the body’s immune system, protecting it against harmful bacteria.
Enjoy 1-2 daily servings of probiotics from sources such as:
- Kefir or Yoghurt from fermented milk
- Natural (no added vinegar) sauerkraut
- Probiotic Supplements
Found in indigestible food fibres that move through the digestive tract, they feed the good bacteria and work with probiotics to make the gut healthier, more balanced and able to absorb essential nutrients.
Choose one or two servings a day from these:
- Aromatic vegetables including onions, leeks and celery
- Green vegetables
- Wheat bran, rye-based breads, barley, or for gluten-free grains: whole oats, buckwheat and quinoa
So add some of these to your shopping list, and start feeding the good guys and reinforce those troops!
20 Kid-Friendly Fermented Foods, homemademommy.net
A Guide to Good Gut Health, bodyandsoul.com.au
Allergy Statistics, aaaai.org
Have Antibiotics ‘Shut Down’ Your Immune System?, naturalsociety.com
The Hygiene Hypothesis, Wikipedia.com
Too Clean? Fight Against Germs Fuels Allergy Increase, livescience.com
BOOKS on AMAZON:
Allergies: Disease in Disguise : How to Heal Your Allergic Condition Permanently, Naturally, by Carolee Bateson-Koch
Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health: 100 Recipes that Battle Colitis, Candidiasis, Allergies, by Tracy Olgeaty Gensler
Microbiome Diet: 14 Day Microbiome Superfoods Rebalance Your Gut Bacteria With Probiotics, by Anthony Wynne,
Fermentation For Beginners: The Ultimate Guide to Fermenting Foods Quickly and Easily, by Grace Goldenbloom
PRODUCTS on AMAZON:
Align Probiotic Supplement, Capsules, 42 ct., by Align (This is the one we use. Let us know what you prefer).
Optimum Probiotics: Deep Immune System Support – With Patented Probiotic Booster, by Dr. Tobias
Organic Whole Grain Buckwheat Groats, Gluten Free, by Bob’s Red Mill (we love everything Bob’s Red Mill)
Food To Live Organic Red Quinoa (1 Pound), by Food to Live (Red quinoa is our favorite)
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