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more proofs of the importance of your microbiome and the fact that we are too clean:  thumb-sucking and nail-biting

Why Thumb-sucking and Nail-biting Can Actually Improve One’s Microbiome & Immune System

Patrick Jayne and Thomas According to the HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS, your MICROBIOME is the most important part of your Immune System.  A failure to be exposed to “critters” in early life greatly improves your chances of developing things like ASTHMA, ALLERGIES, and any number of other problems, including AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES.  This month’s issue of the medical journal Pediatrics ran a fascinating study on this subject called Thumb-Sucking, Nail-Biting, and Atopic Sensitization, Asthma, and Hay Fever

Researchers quizzed parents to see if their children (over 1,000 children born in 1972-73 were part of New Zealand’s  Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study) were thumb-suckers or nail-biters (approximately 1/3 were) when they were young.  They then looked at medical records to see what sort of problems these individuals were prone to as adults.  After controlling for pets, parents with allergies, breast-feeding, and numerous other factors, the authors concluded that, “Children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails are less likely to have atopic sensitization [allergies] in childhood and adulthood.”

How does the Hygiene Hypothesis work?  Babies are born relatively sterile.  Their first environmental bacterial exposure comes from MOTHER’S VAGINA & MOTHER’S MILK (as well as skin-to-skin contact with family members).  Without exposure to a wide array of bacteria and other microorganisms from a young age, the Immune System — 80% of which RESIDES IN THE GUT — is much more likely to view non-pathological organisms as a threat.  This ramps up the Immune System to the point that people (both children and adults) start reacting against things they should not react to; mounting Immune System responses against dust, pollen, animal dander, etc, etc, etc.  The end result is increased amounts of eczema (atopy), asthma and allergy. 

Are we too clean as a people — as a nation?  For many of us, the answer is a resounding yes (HERE).  There are any number of articles floating around the world wide web of people who are “curing” allergies, eczema, dandruff, as well as a wide array of SKIN PROBLEMS simply by bathing / showering way less frequently, for a much shorter duration, and / or not using soap or shampoo when they do bathe. 

This concept of “over-cleanliness” affects you on the inside as well, and is a big reason why giving your children / babies antibiotics can destroy their health — potentially for the rest of their lives (HERE).  It also helps explain why the absurd numbers of VACCINES being given today — particularly worthless vaccines such as those for the FLU — not to mention the DRAMATICALLY INCREASING NUMBERS of vaccines on the horizon, while certainly helping contain short-term childhood illnesses (measles, mumps, WHOOPING COUGH, etc, etc) are unfortunately trading them for long term CHRONIC DEGENERATIVE INFLAMMATORY DISEASES.  Allow me to show you some interesting studies on Atopic Sensitization as it relates to the Hygiene Hypothesis.

  • Let’s hit Atopic Sensitivity as it pertains to Vaccines first.  A 2009 study (Allergic Disease and Atopic Sensitization in Children in Relation to Measles Vaccination and Measles Infection) that was published in the journal Pediatrics came to some rather amazing conclusions.  After comparing the rate of allergies in nearly 15,000 children who contracted the measles to children who did not (these are the same 15,000 you’ll see in the next study), the authors determined that, “In the whole group of children, atopic sensitization was inversely associated with measles infection…..   …..inverse associations were observed between measles infection and “any allergic symptom” and “any diagnosis of allergy by a physician.””  In other words, Measles is protective against Atopic Sensitization.
  • In the April, 2006 journal Allergy (Allergic Diseases and Atopic Sensitization in Children Related to Farming…), children who grew up on farms were compared to children who did not.  After looking at at almost 15,000 children from the same general parts of Europe, researchers concluded that, “The prevalence of allergic diseases has increased rapidly in recent decades, particularly in children.  Growing up on a farm was found to have a protective effect against all outcomes studied, both self-reported, such as rhinoconjunctivitis, wheezing, atopic eczema and asthma and sensitization.  This study indicates that growing up on a farm…..  may confer protection from both sensitization and allergic diseases in childhood.”
  • This is not surprising after looking at a study that came out two years later, in August of 2008. Researchers published their study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology called Prenatal Exposure to a Farm Environment Modifies Atopic Sensitization at Birth.  This study of almost 1,000 Austrian, Finnish, French, German, and Swiss women / babies, compared the cord blood from those who lived on farms to those who did not.  “Previous cross-sectional surveys have suggested that maternal exposure to animal sheds during pregnancy exerted a protective effect on atopic sensitization in children lasting until school age.  There was an inverse relationship between maternal exposure to animal sheds and cord blood IgE levels against seasonal allergens.  Maternal exposure during pregnancy influences atopic sensitization patterns in cord blood. The (microbial) context of allergen contact possibly modifies the risk of atopic sensitization.
  • Probably no study shows the Hygiene Hypotheseis clearer than The Role of Atopic Sensitization in Flexural Eczema: Findings from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, which was published in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  Researchers compared rates of asthma, eczema, and allergies in people from third world nations, to those in Westernized nations.  Although people from the third world might have any number of other health-related problems, “The age- and sex-adjusted odds ratios for a positive association between eczema and atopy [had] a significantly stronger association in affluent compared with nonaffluent countries. The combined population attributable fraction for atopy in flexural eczema was 27.9% for affluent and 1.2% for nonaffluent-country centers.”  This is more than a 2,300% difference!
  • Not quite three years ago, the Dermatology Times published an article called Probiotics May Decrease Atopic Sensitization, which dealt with a study from the journal Pediatrics.  In their article the authors stated, “When administered prenatally and postnatally, probiotics significantly reduced the risk of atopic sensitization.  Probiotics effectively reduced total immunoglobin E.”   Interesting to be sure, but pay very close attention to this next sentence.  “Administration of Lactobacillus acidophilus was associated with increased risk of atopic sensitization compared to other strains, researchers noted.”   This  helps explain why people can actually develop DYSBIOSIS from taking too much of one strain of good bacteria, including acidophilus (HERE and HERE).   It’s also why people with a really messed up Gut might have to look into FMT in order to improve their health.

What to do next?  THIS POST gives a few pointers on things to do in order to normalize your immune system.  By “normalize,” I mean normalize.  We see lots of articles on supplements or diets that claim to “boost” one’s Immune System.  In some cases, this is well and good.  However, never forget that it is an overactive Immune System that attacks things it should not, including your own body.  It’s why TREGS (T-Regulatory Cells, previously known as T-Suppressor Cells) are such a critical part of a properly-functioning Immune System.


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