Being too clean may contribute to allergies

Who would have guessed that being too clean could be a problem?


Owen Wiseman

04 September 2018

Is there a difference between vaginal delivery or by caesarean section?

Most of the current literature implies that infants have a sterile gastrointestinal tract seeing as they have no need to process food…however some preterm infants have already shown a microbial community in their gastrointestinal tract after birth. 

The mother’s blood circulates and provides the infant with nutrients, helps to carry away the waste, and also provides immunological protection. When infants are delivered vaginally, they are exposed to the microflora of the vagina which can acquaint them to a host of different organisms and kick start their immune system. This also encourages the development of a diverse gut microbiome which is proving to be critical to the overall health of an individual. 

Babies delivered by caesarean section

Those delivered by C-section (caesarean section) do not receive exposure to these microbes, and have been shown to have an abnormal development of the microbiota in their guts. However, research conducted on preterm infants has shown that the mode of delivery does not impact the long-term development of the gut microbiome.

How does this relate to allergies?

The placenta acts as a barrier, filtering out most bacteria and viruses before they can reach the developing fetus. When the mother is exposed to certain pathogens, she develops antibodies which assist in providing a faster and more powerful response next time the bug comes knocking. These antibodies can be passed from mother to child. 

Certain foods like peanuts and plants such as ragweed contain agents known as allergens. When the body is exposed to these allergens, they identify them as harmless. Individuals develop allergies when the body has an inappropriate response to an otherwise harmless agent. These allergens are then tagged and every exposure that follows causes an allergic reaction which can be so severe that it can result in death. 

Those delivered by C-section were shown to have a moderate risk increase for developing food allergies, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and the potential to be hospitalized due to asthma. All of the research coming out made scientists pause and consider which populations would be exposed to the highest levels of microbes and how their immune system develops. 

Enter the children of farmers – stage right!

The dust on farms contain a high density of microbial agents and causes the body to ramp up production of a protective protein that suppresses the inflammatory immune response. This research demonstrated the importance of an enzyme known as A20 that can be found in the mucous membranes. It was shown to play a significant role in training the body not to overreact to innocuous microbes and was less active in those with asthma. This provides support that preventing children from getting the least bit dirty could actually be detrimental to their health down the line.

Are there ways to stay clean but encourage the development of a working immune system?

Many of the cleaning products on the market tout their anti-microbial benefits and how they can kill 99.9% of microbes. While this is brilliant in a surgical setting or operating room, if humans were never exposed to microbes, then there is no way to mount a defense should they invade the body. 

Sun Tzu was the author of The Art of War, arguably one of the most famous works of military stratagem ever written. He relays the proverb, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”. This statement could not be more appropriate than describing the function of the human immune system. 

Using homemade cleaners can also help you avoid allergies and exposure to harsh chemicals. A simple blend of vinegar and water at a 1:1 ratio creates an easy all-purpose cleaner and can be combined with essential oils that carry their own host of benefits. 

What can essential oils do for me?

Essential oils are often created via a steam distillation of the herb or plant. Many of the common herbs used in cooking carry protective anti-microbial benefits. Before the invention of the refrigerator, meats had to be preserved and protected from all of the nasty microbes that wanted a taste as well, or a free ride into the unsuspecting human. Thyme, rosemary, garlic, chives…the list goes on and may cause your mouth to water at the same time. An in vitro study demonstrated that certain herbs protected against certain microbes. For example, mint (Mentha piperita) has protective effects against species such as E. coli, S. aureus, and C. albicans, some very common and well-known microbes. The oils have also been shown to boost the immune system and reduce any potential overreaction to allergens or relatively harmless microorganisms.

So adding the spices to your arsenal and essential oils such as those from Aromaforce line can help you ward off illness and allergies without the harsh chemicals or sterility that accompany many of the cleaning products on the market.