Friday, 30 November 2012

Personal hygiene

Many of us know, or at least suspect that raising children in an over-sterile environment may be harmful. It may reduce important environmental exposures which build immunity by forcing the young immune system to do its job. It’s not a new idea either.

My father used to tell a story about a child in his street who was never allowed to get dirty and would always bring his own knife and fork if invited round to tea or to a birthday party. Of course he was also the least healthy kid in the street. Dad would finish this story with.

You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.

Stories like this don’t establish cause and effect, but research does suggest that our levels of personal hygiene are not necessarily healthy.

Research indicates that some of the products we use to avoid germs, such as antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, and laundry detergents, may contribute to the development of conditions like asthma and allergies.  According to the FDA, the hygiene hypothesis “suggests that the critical post-natal period of immune response is derailed by the extremely clean household environments often found in the developed world.”

According to a new study by Dr. Erin Rees Clayton and her colleagues at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, young people with overexposure to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may be at greater risk for suffering from allergies

The picture may be even more complex than we have assumed, in that exposure to low doses of toxins may be beneficial too. For example, Professor Edward Calabrese and his work on hormesis

It is conjectured that low doses of toxins or other stressors might activate the repair mechanisms of the body. The repair process fixes not only the damage caused by the toxin, but also other low-level damage that might have accumulated before without triggering the repair mechanism.

In other words, low doses of toxins could be beneficial because they trigger repair processes. This is a controversial field due in part to its inevitable associations with homeopathy, but check out the video below.

Note what Calabrese says from about 01:50. He takes the assumption by Big Medicine that toxins have no safe lower dose and compares it with the rejection of the homeopathy - where it is claimed that super-low doses of certain substance can have a therapeutic step. 

Whatever one's beliefs about homeopathy, this is surely an interesting argument.


Anonymous said...

Without leccy yesterday, surprisingly peaceful and set me wondering if those nutters who claim low-level EM fields influence us are actually on to something.

Appropos toxins I understand that if one is planning to poison someone it is best to do it in one good dose, gingerly building up the dose often builds immunity. Arsenic is a good example. Just putting a practical slant on things....

A K Haart said...

Roger - I've often wondered about EM fields. It would be interesting to know where your peaceful feeling came from.

Caravan life feels peaceful. Although we have electricity in the van, most of it is 12 volt. Maybe an aluminium caravan shields you from EM fields too.

James Higham said...

The picture may be even more complex than we have assumed, in that exposure to low doses of toxins may be beneficial too.

Immunity theory.

Demetrius said...

It may all depend. The USGS did some research on Atrazine effects on fish and frog reproduction endocrine systems. They were surprised to find the worst damage was caused by low levels and more resistance found at high levels. Also reactions are not equal, there is a range from minor, through moderate to potentially terminal. At the worst level all bets are off.

A K Haart said...

James - yes, it may be that we can't live well in a clean and sterile environment.

Demetrius - yes, my reading of this work is that it is very complex indeed and the effect varies from toxin to toxin. It probably varies between individuals too - as it does for cigarette smoke.

Sam Vega said...

That video has Ms Beets interviewing Dr. Calabrese. We've been had.

A K Haart said...

Sam - if it was funded by Brussels, I'd be suspicious.

Peter MacFarlane said...

Well something must be causing the extraordinarily-increased incidence of allergies and such like.

I guess the hygiene mania is as good a culprit as any; it certainly explains my oft-repeated comment that only people who can afford to have allergies tend to have allergies - they are the exact one who will expend huge amounts of time, energy, and cash, making their homes super-super-super clean.

btw it's not big Pharma who say there is no safe lower dose of anything - despite all its faults, the Pharma industry is largely run by scientists; most of them have heard of hormesis and know that "the dose makes the poison".

The ones who obsess about "no safe limit" are the EPA and the Greens.

A K Haart said...

Peter - yes, big Pharma understands dose very well, but as you say, the environmental lobby have no real interest in realistic safe limits.