Several weeks ago, we found out that Farm Princess is severely allergic to peanuts. The doctor mentioned that more and more people are becoming allergic to peanuts, and I asked him why that is. He said that there are two thoughts on this subject:
1. It is because of the way we process nuts in our country (I will cover this in another post)
2. It is because of the Hygiene Hypothesis
What is the Hygiene Hypothesis? It’s the belief that a lack of exposure to bacteria, microorganisms, infectious diseases, parasites, probiotics and healthy gut flora in early childhood suppresses the immune system and creates a greater chance of allergies and asthma.
The doctor described it like this: our immune system has two sides to it, the side that fights off disease, and the side that fights off allergies and asthma. It’s like a scale. When one side is tipped down (because it is not being used), the other side tips way up.
Our culture is afraid of disease.
- We give vaccinations to our kids for many illnesses that our parents generation never got. (Think: chicken pox vaccine, rotavirus vaccine, etc.) We want to make sure that our kids are not getting sick!
- We’ve even got vaccinations for the flu, because people don’t want to be inconvenienced by the flu!
- Hand sanitizer is everywhere: in mom’s purse, at the school, at the day care center in the kitchen, in public restrooms.
- Antibacterial soaps are everywhere: honestly, it’s hard to find a soap that isn’t antibacterial these days.
- Our foods are sterile. Milk is pasteurized. Nuts are pasteurized. Bagged salads are soaked or rinsed in chlorine bleach. There’s talk of radiating eggs to lessen the exposure of salmonella (which is created by the environment the commercial layers are raised in, but never mind that!).
We’ve tipped the disease side of our immune systems WAY down, so that the asthma/allergy side goes WAY up. That’s the Hygiene Hypothesis, in a nut shell (pun intended ).
I could write an entire post about how people mess with food in order to make it cheaper and easier (i.e. feeding leftover beer grains to cows) and then create problems in the food (the cows getting sick, then people getting sick from their milk) and then create new rules and procedures to fix the problems they created (pasteurization for all milk) and then create brand new problems (greater risk of asthma & allergies). Man creates the problem, the "solution," the new problems, and then has to come up with a solution to those new problems (asthma inhalers and allergy meds). It’s an industry, and it comes down to money, money, money. If we left well-enough alone (let cows graze on fresh grass so that they wouldn’t get sick and people wouldn’t get sick from their milk and we wouldn’t need to pasteurize), everything would be fine and dandy!
The solution, in my opinion? Some healthy exposures to microorganisms, bacteria, and yes, even disease!
- Drink raw milk. Or at the very least non-homogenized milk (sold in glass bottles at our health food store).
- Don’t use hand sanitizer. Wash your hands, but don’t squirt that stuff on your hands (or your children’s hands) multiple times per day.
- Don’t use antibacterial soaps (they create super bugs that are antibiotic resistant, anyways–don’t use them!).
- Don’t be afraid of a little cold or the flu. You’re making your body stronger.
- Play in the dirt. Garden in the dirt. Don’t be afraid of kids eating dirt.
- Eat lots of yogurt! Full fat yogurt without added sugars, etc.
- Take a good pro-biotic.
Check out these sites for further reading on this topic: