The “Dirty” Secret About Allergies

When I was growing up, I never knew any child with a food allergy. Allergies of any kind seemed rare. Yet now, allergic concerns are frequently encountered. Just a few weeks ago, I was on a flight from Phoenix to Philadelphia. Shortly after the trip began, the flight attendant announced that no nut snacks would be passed out with in-flight beverage service since there was a passenger on the plane with a peanut allergy. After I got over my shock that there might have been any snack at all, I reflected with surprise on the notion that the allergy of this person was so severe that any peanuts anywhere in the cabin was a threat. I had come into contact with thousands of children while growing up both as classmates and friends and I had never ever seen any allergic reactions. We all ate the same foods and there were no dietary rules. What is happening? What is different? After all, just think of it; how many ever had a childhood friend with a gluten allergy?

The answer to this apparent disconnect may lie in the emerging science of the hologenome and our contemporary fastidious cleanliness compared to prior generations. Current research has suggested that the surge of allergic symptoms is related to our attempt to distance ourselves from our ubiquitous microbial companions. This has been dubbed the “hygiene hypothesis”. In theory, as we seek to protect our young from dirt and disease, we are inadvertently causing an imbalance in our vital exposure to microbial companions that are imperative for our optimal health. New research is showing that we live in an exquisitely intimate association with a vast collection of microbial life. This partnership can directly affect our response to allergens. There is epidemiological evidence that supports this new perspective. —> Read More