Can you be “too clean” for your health? Apparently so, based on our recent warning about antibacterial soaps, toothpastes and cosmetics containing the broad spectrum antimicrobial and synthetic compound triclosan.
Exposure to these harmful chemicals increases the risk that antibiotics will have no effect on whatever disease you’re using them to treat, creating superbugs, a growing worldwide health problem born partly out of convenience.
Mounting research shows that being too clean may raise your child’s risks of Type 1 diabetes, a serious condition in which the body’s own immune system eliminates the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, and other autoimmune and allergic diseases.
Understanding the hygiene hypothesis
This biological phenomenon, known as the hygiene hypothesis, occurs when the body’s immune response is reversed due to the continuing exposure to antibacterial chemicals, disinfectants, bottled water and antibiotics meant to make our lives easier and cleaner.
The hygiene hypothesis, first proposed by epidemiologist David Stratchan some 25 years ago, concludes that in the quest for cleanliness, people can become “too clean,” thus limiting the body’s ability to develop natural immunities to disease.
Early signs of the hygiene hypothesis were linked to problems with hay fever, eczema and cleanliness. The size of one’s family also mattered: The more siblings that children had, the greater their exposure to “beneficial” germs that helped their bodies develop their immunity to diseases naturally.
The reach of type 1 diabetes
In fact, the rate of autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes has escalated so dramatically, the European Union is funding the Diabimmune project to test the real reach of the hygiene hypothesis.
The numbers tell the story. The rate of Type 1 diabetes in the U.S. (23.7 per 100,000 children) is less than half the rate of Finland (57.6 per 100,000), one of the world’s wealthiest countries, albeit with far less pollution and a longer average life expectancy.
Some scientists believe the lack of exposure of a specific form of gut bacteria to some viral or bacteria infections may be triggering this escalation of Type 1 diabetes.
The health damage Type 1 diabetes can cause when it’s not controlled can be devastating. Among the conditions linked to Type 1 diabetes:
- Nerve damage
- Circulation problems
- Kidney damage and eventual failure
- Retinopathy leading to a loss of vision
Can probiotics help?
Can probiotics given to children at an early age prevent the harmful effects of the hygiene hypothesis? Maybe.
One goal of the Diabimmune project is to develop preventative therapies through vaccines or probiotics, if it identifies specific bacteria that can be treated.
Some experts believe “the harmless manipulation of the early environment of the gut (and gut-associated immune responses), for example by the use of probiotics, is well within our means,” according to Diapedia, a peer-reviewed database dedicated to diabetes research.
With four different strains of bacteria, no GMOs and some 10 billion bacteria in every dose, the EndoMune Advanced Junior probiotic may be a safe and easy way to help your kids avoid the health problems associated with being “too clean.”