Thursday, April 30, 2009

Immune System


Reader-friend Shirley from Gluten Free Easily sent me an interesting link to an article that describes how our eradication of lice may cause modern allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders. This is a broad-based statement, but the study shows that mice without louse infestation have overactive immune systems. Similarly, now that most humans are mite, tick, flea, lice and hopefully avian/swine flu free, humans have super sensitive immune systems.

The author says this “hygiene hypothesis” was already found to be true for intestinal parasites. Before people in wealthy parts of the world were able to use antibiotics to get rid of parasites, humans had stronger immune systems to prepare for "dirty" environments. Perhaps this is why my body had such a severe reaction to giardia. If I were exposed to more bad things from a younger age, I may not have had such a serious reaction. This is the same theory of why westerners get more parasites when they travel to countries that do not Lysol everything.

Dr. Steven Singer at Georgetown is taking this idea one step further by suggesting that giardia may actually be helpful (for more information on why parasites exist, read this). Dr. Singer is finding giardia itself does not cause inflammation or irritation, in fact it prevents those symptoms. Mast cells are sent to the intensines in an immune response, and these are what cause the inflammation and irritation. These cells are essential in battling the parasite, but Dr. Singer wonders if these cells can do their work without the discomforting symptoms. If giardia actively prevents inflammation, then Dr. Singer ponders the possibility of giardia playing a role in fighting Crohn’s disease. Does this mean I should want to live with giardia?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16997-freedom-from-lice-may-have-led-to-modern-allergies.html

http://www1.georgetown.edu/college/research/30260.html

4 comments:

  1. Hi, Matt--It's all very interesting, isn't it? While on the one hand, I've always thought we were better off--actually more "protected"--back in the day when we weren't as phobic about dirt and germs, what's in our dirt today is far worse. Remember the old "you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die"? I've read that we were building up our resistance to many evils. But, the dirt and environment of today is chock full of chemicals. And, now we have everyone using Purel, using antitbiotic hand wipes, etc., and bathing all the time; antibiotics are used again and again; and we have these super germs and illnesses not easily resolved. I know I'm mixing "apples and oranges" a bit here. Anyway, the possibility of Giardia helping Crohn's is intriguing, but the answers I always want to see are related to cause. What is the cause? The cause has to be removed for healing to take place, no matter what is used for the healing. So little attention is given to cause ... for a number of reasons. First, allopathic medicine is not focused on causes. It's focused on treatment. Treatment is almost always tied to drugs (Big Pharma). Even doctors who are willing to acknowledge the role that diet can play in cause, and, therefore, resolution of illnesses like Crohn's, say that they don't usually advise dietary changes because they it's "too hard" for people to make these changes. I could go on and on. It makes me crazy. But, thanks for sharing this info. I didn't expect a post from you. I'd just wanted to share the info with you, but it's really great that you pursued it more and are sharing the info. I'd like to hear if your other readers have any input.

    Shirley

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  2. Shirley,

    Good point about dirt actually being "dirty"- at least that tends to be the case in older urban areas where soil is contaminated with lead and cadmium. I wonder if it is a combination of modern diets and chemicals that create most modern disease and digestive disorders.

    At the same time, we are here now and I like what Dr. Singer says about using giardia. It's almost natural for us to get the bug, and if flushing it out of our system will hurt us in the long run, why not see if we can have it stick around naturally?

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  3. I'm pondering it all ... in the mean time, here's an amusing video of a segment on the benefits of germs that I saw on CBS Sunday Morning this week.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4987711n

    Shirley

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  4. Thanks for the video, Shirley. I think I'll send it to my parents so that they can connect with this idea.

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