Why are Allergies More Common Today?

"Protecting" ourselves from germs and microbes, such as those among animals, by using vaccinations, disinfectants and sanitizers, could actually prevent the immune system from building up natural tolerance. This, in turn, could contribute to the growing allergy epidemic.

“Protecting” ourselves from germs and microbes, such as those among animals, by using vaccinations, disinfectants and sanitizers, could actually prevent the immune system from building up natural tolerance. This, in turn, could contribute to the growing allergy epidemic.

I have so many patients ask me, “Why are allergies more common today than before?” I mention in my book, Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution, that there is supportive research for The Hygiene Hypothesis — the argument that Western civilizations, with their “cleaner” environments, have actually brought about the increase in allergies. Due to the more common use of antibiotics, the widespread use of vaccinations to eradicate infectious diseases, the prevalence of disinfectants and sanitizing products, and urban life in general, people are less exposed to microbes.

The Sunday New York Times published an article on Nov. 11, 2013: “A Cure For the Allergy Epidemic?” The article essentially points out that the Amish people of Indiana have a much lower rate of allergic diseases than the rest of the population in the United States. They live on farms and their children begin farming chores at a very young age. This seems to be important; because the children are exposed to microbes from the farm animals at an early age,  their immune system builds a response to counter these microbes. This shifts the immune system away from allergic inflammation.

The research on The Hygiene Hypothesis is interesting, but for now it’s not very practical for those of us who don’t live on a farm. The other impractical option — not vaccinating your children against potentially dangerous infections — also doesn’t make sense. The best option for your patients who suffer from allergic diseases, such as allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma, is allergen immunotherapy. Numerous studies show that allergen immunotherapy shifts the immune response to a non-allergic pathway through changes in T-cells, and produces IgG blocking antibodies. In contrast, medications such as antihistamines or asthma inhalers don’t change the immune system response. Medications only treat the symptoms.

To help your allergy patients, you need to first do some simple detective work — talk to them and give them an allergy skin test — to determine their specific allergies. Once you have secured a definitive diagnosis, you can offer appropriate treatment options: subcutaneous (SCIT – allergy shots) or sublingual (SLIT – allergy drops)  immunotherapy to reverse the root cause of their symptoms for the long-term.

In the future, prebiotics or probiotics may be an option for preventing the development of allergic diseases, but for now immunotherapy is the most practical and effective treatment available. It can make a real difference in your patients’ lives.

– Dr. Dean Mitchell

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