Am I Too Clean?
Is it conceivable to believe that an individual can be too clean for their own good?
Maybe. We know that immune system has an adaptive capability that matures and becomes more savvy as the challenges mounted by invading germs continue over a lifetime and the body prevails. This has been cast as a potential mutually beneficial relationship for the body and thankfully the invading germs in a theory proposed to explain the rising trend of allergy and immune system mediated diseases called the ‘hygiene hypothesis’. This theory maintains that living in very clean and hygienic environments robs one of the ample exposure to microbial organisms which are beneficial for the maturation and cutting edge ability to distinguish invaders from what belongs to the body. A disorderly maturation may then arise and predispose individuals to varying levels of abnormal immune responses which manifest in various allergy mediated disease forms.
What explanations exist?
Needless to say, this is still a theory and not validated as a scientific fact yet. Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health observed a pattern corroborating another aspect of this theory, more amenable to scientific scrutiny. They examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) for the period 2003-2006. Two common environmental toxins, Triclosan and Bisphenol A both of which have known effects on the delicate balance of the immune and hormonal systems respectively in the body were looked for in patients aged 6 and older who also had diseases attributable to immune dysregulation e.g, Hay fever. Their findings published online in November 2010, showed a relationship between having high levels of this Triclosan in the body and immune dysfunction associated disease. Triclosan, is an antimicrobial agent and is ubiquitous in the home environment. Diapers, antibacterial soaps, and toothpaste are some household items that contain this product. The higher levels of Triclosan seen in this patients may have sufficiently altered the population and type of microbes that these individuals would have been normally exposed to and therefore led to maldevelopment of the immune system and allergy related disease states.
Does this apply?
This writer has personally observed trends not subjected to scientific testing at any level yet and not valid for general application, in children of first generation West African immigrants born in the USA who go on to develop varying levels of allergy symptoms which are mediated at some level by immune dysregulation. The parents demonstrate no such problems and a cautious assumption may be to say their earlier childhood exposures in the developing world to different microbial agents in childhood may have fostered a proper maturation and development of their immune systems. This perhaps fostered the innate ability of the immune system to distinguish self from non-self and keep the focus on the invading germs.