Smithsonian.com— April 2013 [?] —The Unintended (and Deadly) Consequences of Living in the Industrialized World
Think about it this way: At birth, our immune cells make up an aggressive army with no sense of who its enemies are. But the more bad guys the immune system is exposed to during life’s early years, the more discerning it gets. “The immune system is programmed within the first two years of life,” says Knip. “With less early infection, the immune system has too little to do, so it starts looking for other targets.”
Sometimes the immune system overreacts to things it should simply ignore, like cat dander, eggs, peanuts or pollen. Those are allergies. And sometimes the immune system turns on the body itself, attacking the cells we need to produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or hair follicles (alopecia) or even targeting the central nervous system (multiple sclerosis). Those are autoimmune disorders.
Both appear to be mostly modern phenomena. A century ago, more people lived on farms or in the countryside. Antibiotics hadn’t been invented yet. Families were larger, and children spent more time outside. Water came straight from wells, lakes and rivers. Kids running barefoot picked up parasites like hookworms. All these circumstances gave young immune systems a workout, keeping allergy and autoimmune diseases at bay.
So clean living is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, if you are really dying from a bacterial infection, you can get an amazing load of fungus-produced antibiotic protection simply by eating forest dirt. Another fact well-known in the past, and suppressed in our ultra-commercial present.
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