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Why Are Allergies Increasing?

“Regions in which the sanitary conditions have remained stable have also maintained a constant level of allergies and inflammatory diseases. It’s not just the prevalence but the gravity of the cases,” says Dr. Delespesse. “Allergies and other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis are the result of our immune system turning against us.”

Why does this happen?  It’s what researchers call the “hygiene hypothesis,” in which the millions of bacteria and viruses that enter the body along with ‘dirt’ spur the development of a healthy immune system–remove that and it throws our immune systems seriously out of whack. “The bacteria in our digestive system are essential to digestion and also serve to educate our immune system. They teach it how to react to strange substances. This remains a key in the development of a child’s immune system,” says Dr. Delespesse.

Although hygiene does reduce our exposure to harmful bacteria it also limits our exposure to beneficial microorganisms. As a result, the bacterial flora of our digestive system isn’t as rich and diversified as it used to be. Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, and author of the book, “Why Dirt Is Good” (Kaplan), says that when kids put things in their mouths, for example, “Not only does it allow for “practice” of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.” She deplores the current fetish for the hundreds of antibacterial products that convey a false sense of security and may actually foster the development of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria.

Dr. Delespesse recommends probiotics to enrich our intestinal flora. Probiotics are intestinal bacteria that have a beneficial impact on health. They’ve been used for decades to make yogurt. Probiotics have a proven effect on treating diarrhea, and studies are increasingly concluding similar benefits for the immune system and allergies.

Read more: Allergies, Children, Conditions, Eating for Health, Health, Natural Remedies

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

200 comments

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1:15AM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

Excessive cleanliness??? No, it's due to PARASITES and INADEQUATE HYGIENE. Read The Cure of All Diseases by Hulda Regehr Clark.

9:48PM PDT on May 12, 2013

Thanks.

9:40PM PDT on May 12, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

7:22AM PDT on May 5, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

6:17PM PST on Nov 14, 2012

good question

2:21PM PST on Nov 14, 2012

I love to have a clean house, especially my kitchen and food preparing area, but I believe all those anti bacterial products cause many health problems. Anti bacterial products kill all bacteria, bad and beneficial ones, they even cause nerve damage on hands over time.
Anti bacterial products kill only 99% of bacteria and the rest of bacteria mutate, that means they change and there is no product that would ever kill them of.
I clean with certified organic product that is full of living enzymes or if I run out I clean with bicarbonate and vinegar.

8:38AM PST on Nov 14, 2012

Pretty counter-intuitive.

7:44AM PST on Nov 14, 2012

thanks for sharing

8:31PM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Thank you for article.

8:30PM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Thank you for article.

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Over a year and a half ago, I tore my rotator cuff in 4 places, doing a 30 day Bikram Yoga Challenge…

"I don't want no peace.I want equal rights,and justice."(peter tosh,r.i.p.)

Practice makes perfek.

This took awhile good tips though, thank you.

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