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Excessive hygiene can be catastrophic for the immune system


Is it wrong for children to push their nose? From a behavioral standpoint, of course, but the human immune system has a different perspective. The same one from which the use of antibacterial lotions or the underlying treatment of antibiotics does not deserve clear consent.

"I'm telling people:" If you drop food on the floor, pick it up and eat it, "said Matt Richtel, author of the new book on the need for training the immune system, dermatologist Meg Lemon, who specializes in allergies and autoimmune skin diseases." Drag an antibacterial soap . Vaccinate! If a new vaccine appears, run to apply it, I have vaccinated my children against everything, and it's okay to eat dirt, "said another of his advice.

In the Elegant Defense: An extraordinary New Science of the Immune System (elegant defense: an extraordinary new science of the immune system), Rachel analyzes why to maintain good health, this requires interactions with the natural world that soap, antibiotics and advertising has almost been eradicated.

If the defense of the body does not work, the complexity of its evolution, which enabled survival of the species, will find something to do. Although this involves mixing up their own cells with harmful agents and creating an autoimmune disease. Or you have an overreaction to certain elements and create an allergy.

The process that has gone from the time when Homo sapiens avoided some foods that caused death to others or overcome the problems of drinking drinking water up to the time of cooking, cleaning the house and sewerage network is very long. In it, the survival hero was the immune system. It is today disoriented against the environment in which people live.

"We have reduced regular interaction not only with parasites, but also with useful bacteria that help educate and polish the immune system, those who train it," wrote Richtel. "We do not find so many bugs when we are babies, not only because our homes are cleaner, but because our families are less (smaller children bring bacteria to the house), our food and water are cleaner, our milk is sterilized."

This is in correlation, he says, that the percentage of American children with food allergies increased by 50% between 1999 and 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the same period, skin allergies increased by 69%, which means that 12.5% ​​of American children have eczema and other irritations.

The trend is in the world. Skin allergies "have doubled or tripled in industrialized countries over the past three decades, affecting between 15% and 30% of children and 2% and 10% of adults," the study said. "In 2011, one in four children in Europe suffered from allergies, and this number increased." At the same time, inflammatory bowel diseases, lupus, rheumatic problems and celiac disease have increased worldwide.

"We have been nourished with the nutrition of hygiene marketing that started in the nineteenth century," according to a study by the Association of Professionals in the Control of Infections and Epidemiology. In the first half of the 20th century, soap production increased by 44%, along with significant improvements in water supply, waste disposal and sewage systems. In the sixties and seventies of the last century antibiotics and vaccines were introduced as anti-infection agents.

Until then, everything kept balance, but then, at the beginning of the 80s, the market for hygiene products rose by 81%, more as a result of publicity than the health crisis that marked the decade, HIV-AIDS.

According to Gallup's 1998 survey, 66% of adults were worried about viruses and bacteria, and 40% thought that these microorganisms were becoming more and more widespread. 33% of respondents said they need an antibacterial agent for home cleaning and 26% for body and skin protection.

Doctors prescribed antibiotics in excess, for the benefit of the immune system that some people faced with infections that would otherwise kill them. But when the recipe became a trend, healthy microbes began to disappear from the body, while bacteria became resistant to the agents to eliminate them.

"Was it a good part of our practical hygiene, a worthwhile and protective life?" "Yes," Richtel sums up. "Have we exaggerated?" Occasionally, should we shake our nose? Or, to say differently: is it possible that this impulse is part of a primitive strategy to inform the immune system about the extent of microbes in the environment, to give him the task of this vigorous force and train our most eloquent defense? "

Yes, he concluded. Or, at least, maybe. Although for the culture of anathema, for science this is "an incredibly correct question".

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