Allergies are increasing at an alarming rate. In the last 30 years, the number of people suffering from allergies in developed countries has grown from 10 percent to 30 percent. Allergies have become widespread in Western populations, where hay fever, eczema, hives and asthma are all more and more prevalent. Currently, one out of 10 children is asthmatic. Asthma rates in children under the age of five have risen more than 160 percent from 1980-1994 and the mortality rate resulting from this affliction increased 28 percent between those same years.
The reason? According to Dr. Guy Delespesse, a professor at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine, it all boils down to excessive cleanliness. Allergies can be caused by genetics, air quality, processed foods, stress, tobacco use, etc. Yet our limited exposure to bacteria concerns Dr. Delespesse, who is also director of the Laboratory for Allergy Research at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal.
“There is an inverse relationship between the level of hygiene and the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases,” says Dr. Delespesse. “The more sterile the environment a child lives in, the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an immune problem in their lifetime.” Wow. In our efforts to battle the germs to save ourselves from the filth and squalor that has plagued humankind, have we gone too far?