Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton
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Kids Who Get Dirty Have Better Immune Systems
by Barbara Minton
Fifty percent of Americans aged six to fifty-nine are sensitive to at least one allergen, according to results from a nationally conducted survey by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1988 to 1994, up two to five times from rates found in a similar survey completed in 1980. When the study was released, the researchers were surprised by the increase, but that number has continued to climb steadily since this survey was completed.
The apparent reason for these steadily increasing rates is the more sterile lifestyle we live today. The body's immune system is formed in reaction to foreign, generally harmless substances such as dirt, animal dander, pollen, mold, and particular foods. The more our lifestyle protects us from encounters with such substances, the greater the chance for a reaction when they are finally encountered.
Exposure to farm animals or pets at an early age could help children avoid developing allergies, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This study found that children without pets are more likely to develop allergy related diseases than children with frequent exposure to animals during the first years of their lives.
This study also found that in the past, when families tended to be larger, children had fewer allergies. Today's children, raised in smaller families, have fewer siblings and are therefore exposed to fewer germs.
Being too clean can impair the skin's ability to heal, according to scientists at the University of California's School of Medicine. Normal bacteria that live on the skin of active children, children with pets, and kids who live on farms trigger a pathway that prevents inflammation when they get hurt. This pathway leads to a modulated immune response that reduces redness and swelling, and quickens healing.
Other studies have shown that rats and mice living in sewers and on farms have stronger immune systems than lab rats that live in a clean environment.
The increase in the number of children with food allergies is startling. Thirty years ago, food allergies were extremely rare. Today more than 5 million U.S. children suffer from life-threatening food allergies. The number of children with peanut allergy alone has doubled in five years, and the number continues to grow. Peanut allergies were virtually unknown a few years ago, when peanuts were a popular snack at circuses and carnivals, and the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was the staple of the childhood diet.
For the past several years, theories have been purposed regarding the
effects of our sanitized world on our immune systems. However, the
development of more and more products for use in the cleaning of our
environments has continued. We have been taught by advertisers that the goal
of every housekeeper should be a house that is completely germ free and
sterile. And we have been taught that parents whose children are dirty from
play are negligent. We have bought into the idea that no matter how many
toxic ingredients are contained in household and personal care products,
they should be used with ever greater frequency in our homes and on our
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Although it had been thought that the Th1 system required periodic
infections during childhood in order for it to stay sturdy, researchers now
argue that the main problem is that children and their environments have
become squeaky clean. They suspect that children need contact not with
disease-causing microbes, but with bacteria in soil and untreated water,
particularly with organisms called mycobacteria, to give their Th1 systems a
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About the Author:
Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.
See other articles by the Barbara Minton here:
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