Friday, April 16, 2010

not enough germs

So there's this new theory floating around amongst microbiologists about the cause of autoimmune disease (and allergies): we are overly hygienic. We're too clean. We don't have enough germs and parasites living in our body, so we are out of balance. It's an interesting theory, and I will certainly entertain the idea (although I'm not about to swallow a pound of tapeworms).

The part I disagree with is *why* we have an imbalance. Autoimmune diseases are most rampant in "developed" (a.k.a industrialized, or Westernized) countries. The microbiologists posit that what those countries all have in common is lots of hand washing, caution about germs,etc. and they think that's the issue: Kids don't play in the dirt enough, we wash our hands too often, etc.

Let me just say- I ate plenty of dirt as a kid. I played in a sandbox (where the cat sometimes pooped). We had recess at school twice a day, and no one washed their hands after. We shared a water fountain through my senior year. As soon as we got home, our parents sent us outside to play. I went to summer camp where we used a latrine. I am sure I ran into *plenty* of germs. And my mom was not hysterical about wiping them off me. And yet, I've still got not one, but 4 autoimmune conditions.

However, I will still entertain the idea that I don't have enough parasites, or microorganisms in my system because I also had *plenty* of exposure to antibiotics. And that is what I think is causing the imbalance, not soap.

Sadly, doctors were, at least in 1992, when i first got sick with lupus (but didn't yet have a diagnosis), indiscriminately giving out antibiotics, and i had 4 rounds of them in a row while they were trying to figure out what was wrong with me- and every single batch of them made me sicker. Full body rashes, vomiting, and escalation of the lupus.

I've taken them for bronchitis a bunch of times, I took them when I got my wisdom teeth cut out. I think it's pretty safe to say I've taken antibiotics between 12 and 20 times in my life, and I'm probably not unusual in that respect.

So if you're looking for a culprit, look past the bar of soap, which I will continue to use (though not antibacterial soap, just plain old normal burt's bees chemical-free soap- because I don't want e coli, thanks!), and look in the medicine cabinet.

Yes, antibiotics save lives, but there's such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Now, tell us how to rebalance our systems. will probiotics do the trick, or do we need something more gross?
Can I just go back to the playground?

PS would someone please study the connection between allergies and autoimmunity? Please?
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