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Several studies show that lack of frequent infections appears to cause allergic disease such as asthma, and allergic nasal symptoms such as hay fever.

Allergy means that when you are exposed to a food, pollen or particle from something that was once a plant or animal, your body makes a certain protein called an antibody that attaches to that protein which cause certain white blood cells to release chemicals that cause redness, itching and swelling such as asthma, stuffy nose, itchy eyes or skin, hives, shortness of breath or shock.

Until recently, doctors didn't understand why some people develop allergies, while others do not. The latest theory is that humans were made to get infections and develop an immune system that kills germs and worms. However, we're such a clean society and we wash our hands so often and sterilize our food so well with cooking that our immune systems are not activated and don't work as hard as they did in the old days. The theory is that some people don't have enough infections, so their immunity that looks for a way to practice. Their bodies produce antibodies that attach to and kill dead things such as pollens, dust mites, animal dander and so forth.

Students at the Italian Air Force Academy were checked to see which ones had lots of infections. Doctors checked them for toxoplasmosis, a common bacteria from animals; helicobacter, a very common germ spread from person to person and animals to persons to cause stomach ulcers; and hepatitis A that you can get from infected foods. Students that have never had infections with these three intestinal agents were there times more likely to suffer allergies, and the greater the exposure to these three bacteria, the more likely they were to be allergic. The authors feel that when you get these germs in your intestines, the cells lining the intestines produce antibodies that prevent allergy.

If the authors are correct, doctors will prevent allergy by infecting babies with germs that grow in the intestines to stimulate the intestinal immune system, so it won't feel neglected and have to go out and attack dead things like pollen, dust mites, and animal dander.

1) British Medical Journal February 12, 2000.

2) OS VonEhrenstein, E VonMutius, S Illi, L Baumann, O Bohm, R VonKries. Reduced risk of hay fever and asthma among children of farmers. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 2000, Vol 30, Iss 2, pp 187-193.

3) J Riedler, W Eder, G Oberfeld, M Schreuer. Austrian children living on a farm have less hay fever, asthma and allergic sensitization. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 2000, Vol 30, Iss 2, pp 194-200. Conclusion Possible explanations for the lower prevalence of hay fever, asthma and allergic sensitization in children living on a farm might be the development of immunotolerance or the stimulation of TH1 cells and suppression of TH2 cells by increased exposure of farm children to microbial antigens in the stables or farmhouses.

4) M Kilpelainen, EO Terho, H Helenius, M Koskenvuo. Farm environment in childhood prevents the development of allergies. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 2000, Vol 30, Iss 2, pp 201-208. Childhood farm environment seems to have a protective effect against allergic rhinitis and/or conjunctivitis, and more weakly against asthma and wheezing irrespective of family size. Environmental exposure to immune modulating agents, such as environmental mycobacteria and actinomycetes, favouring manifestation of a nonatopic phenotype could explain the finding.

5) J Elms, LJ Allan, I Pengelly, D Fishwick, PN Beckett, AD Curran. Colophony: an in vitro model for the induction of sensitization. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 2000, Vol 30, Iss 2, pp 209-213.

Checked 8/9/05

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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