Thursday, April 30, 2009
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?