Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sick of hearing about the "hygiene hypothesis"

I just saw another article on this and have to share my thoughts on the topic. In case you don't know, some scientists theorize that children have food allergies (and other autoimmune disorders) because our society is too clean and kids aren't exposed to the same diseases/germs/dirt/etc. that they used to be so their immune systems have started to react more to benign things like food. Now, I don't really have a problem with this theory, except that it doesn't actually apply in our situation. Ainsley had her allergies from the moment she was born -- I can easily prove this by pulling out pictures of her as a tiny infant with eczema covering her face. No amount of me rolling her in the dirt would have prevented her allergies, because they were there from the moment she was born.

The other problem I have with the hypothesis is that it causes some people to suggest that those of us with children suffering from food allergies must have caused this in our children by bathing the kids in Lysol or covered them with antibacterial gel or something. I can assure you that I did nothing of the sort and that my kids are just as dirty as the rest of them.

All that said, I do have a theory, related to the hygiene hypothesis, as to why Ainsley may have food allergies. I have read several studies that suggest that children born by c-section are much more likely than their peers to have food allergies. The theory is that exposure to beneficial bacteria during the birth process prepares a baby's digestive tract for outside life. C-section babies miss out on that and therefore their systems are more likely to overreact to harmless substances. Now, this I can buy. Of course, this theory makes me feel bad for having a c-section with Ainsley (but what was I to do? She was upside down (breech), for goodness sake.) Although I will never know for sure whether the c-section caused Ainsley's allergies, I did buy into this theory enough that I purposefully tried to avoid having a c-section with Leighton. I was successful in that endeavor, and so far so good in terms of Leighton's allergy status.

4 comments:

Rebecca said...

Well I have to agree with you on hte hygiene hypothesis. My son had eczema all over his body starting at 4 months old! He now has numerous food allergies, dairy, peanuts, eggs, and the list goes on! He was not born by c-section, but an interesting thought... he popped out in less than 15 minutes! So maybe the beneficial bacteria did not come into play also, it didn't have time! :) Thanks for the blog!

Amelia said...

My home is far from sterile and I plenty of people held my son when he was a baby. I don't know if he had his allergies from birth (no eczema), but he did have asthma from age 1. He wasn't a c-section baby, and unlike Rebecca's son, he took his time getting out. Personally, I think the problem comes in how our foods are processed these days and that now that we know the problem we are more aware of it.

Jamie Kaufmann said...

i've heard the c-section theory and also had c-section with my highly milk allergic son. but my FIL is a high risk OBGYN and he does not think this would be a factor. i can't remember why not...but he didn't buy it.

i guiltily blame not refrigerating liquid antibiotics when miles was a baby...that needed refrigerated. i don't know, it's the only thing i could think of....

so glad to find you!!!

Heather said...

Hi, Just left another comment regarding banana bread... yum and thank you for that... Just wanted to also add that I had two vaginal births and the first is allergy free and the second is deathly allergic to Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts and Sesame, same as yours! We have learned the hard way about his allergies. He has also outgrown allergies to Soy, Oat and Barley as well. So.... don't worry about and blame yourself regarding the C-section. My sister had two of those and neither of her daughters has any food allergies. My son with allergies was not only born vaginally but I breast fed him for the entire first year... that is supposed to help avoid allergies, but not in his case. As for the hygiene theory - "they" don't have ANY idea why this is really happening and any theory can be disputed by lots of examples. But I don't think they are suggesting that individual parents are keeping our houses too clean and that is why our kids get allergies. I think they are saying that society as a whole has eliminated all other allergens so those of us who are naturally predisposed to have immune deficiencies will become allergic to foods in the absence of those other mysterious and absent allergens... I think that this theory was created by someone who does not have food allergies... it is far fetched.