By Charlie G ❘ 2008

Who knew that microbes can protect us from disease? This is the conclusion reached after a group of scientists experimented with mice by exposing to common stomach bacteria. The result was that these mice were protected against the development of type 1 diabetes.

These findings support the “hygiene hypothesis,” which refers to the lack of exposure to parasites, bacteria and viruses in developed countries leading to an increased risk of diseases like allergies, asthma and other immune system problems.

bacteria & diabetesMany people don’t know that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs because the immune system cells mistakenly attack the pancreas that produces insulin. In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not fail, but the immune system does.

One wouldn’t think that symptoms such as allergies or asthma have anything to do with diabetes. In fact, all are linked with immune system problems (I myself have both diabetes and allergies, which tells me that the main issue with my body is my immune system).

Some experts believe that the incidence of many allergies and autoimmune diseases has doubled, tripled and even quadrupled in recent decades. Many researchers suspect that modern life is the cause of that increase, which seems to happen mainly in developed countries of Europe and in the U.S. These diseases just start to show up in other countries as they develop.

The immune system fights against invaders with two defensive lines:

  • T1 lymphocytes, white blood cells that directly attack the infected cells, and
  • T2 lymphocytes, white blood cells that produce antibodies that seek to block dangerous microbes that want to invade cells.

At birth, a baby’s immune system basically uses the T2 cell system to stay healthy. But the “Hygiene Hypothesis” suggests that the T1 cell system develops only with practice, either by fighting infections or through encounters with certain harmless microbes. Without this stimulation, the T2 cell system flourishes and the immune system tends to react more frequently with allergic responses.

That means that if a child grows up in an environment full of antibacterial soaps, lotions, cleansers, if s/he is given antibiotics that kill all bacteria, good and bad, of the stomach, and is kept away from the natural dirt, germs and viruses of childhood, that child won’t be able to create a resistance to disease and is vulnerable to develop those diseases later in his life.

That’s what happened to the mice in the study, when they were grown in germ-free environments they lacked beneficial bacteria in the intestines and developed type 1 diabetes. Only when mice were exposed to bacteria normally found in human intestines were they less likely to develop diabetes.

The best environment has a little dirt.

There is a misconception that a healthy home is one that has been disinfected from floor to ceiling. In fact, a healthy home is one that allows a bit of dirt. Otherwise, when you leave this sterile environment and get in contact with other environments (such as a grocery store), your body will overreact or won’t even know what hit it.
That is precisely the reason why children raised on farms have a lower risk of suffering from allergies and asthma.

So if we want to reduce our risk (and that of our children) from getting any kind of immune system disorders, from allergies to diabetes, we must learn to live in harmony with a little dirt.

Some tips on how to do it:

  • Let your child be a child. Let him play outside and get dirty (and do it together from time to time)
  • Do not use antibacterial soap (plain soap and water is all it takes)
  • Serve organic and local, antibiotic free meat
  • Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary
  • Introduce more benign bacteria in the stomach by eating naturally fermented foods

And I wonder: wouldn’t all of the vaccines and shots that we get to our children to “prevent” simple colds or flu and other symptoms also affect our immune systems, making them weaker and without resources to protect us?

What do you think about it?

If you want to read the original article you can find it here:

And here you can find a full list of possible diabetes causes (23 in total!)


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