Allergies, Asthma and the Hygiene Hypothesis

Leading medical researchers have offered the “hygiene hypothesis” to explain the rising number of diagnosed allergy and asthma cases. The theory maintains that modern living environments are simply too clean and germ free. Exceptionally clean environments deprive children of the number and types of germs necessary to train a human immune system to recognize the difference between harmful and harmless irritants.

Health studies have revealed that people living on farms have fewer allergy related diseases, giving credence to the hygiene hypothesis. Farm animals expose residents to significantly higher levels of endotoxin, a component of germs. Endotoxins decrease allergic inflammation by stimulating immune responses. Research findings also indicate that the development of allergies and asthma may be more complex than the hygiene hypothesis suggests.

Pharmaceutical Medications

Some researchers have suggested that the use of antibiotics, acetaminophen, Tylenol and other drugs may also contribute to the rapid increase in asthma and related diseases. There is a striking parallel between the increased use of antibiotics and the incidence of such diseases. The use of antibiotics during the early years of childhood negatively impact bacterial flora and the disease fighting ability of the immune system.

Lifestyle Factors

Other experts believe that lifestyle choices such as changes in diet and exercise are to blame for the increase of allergies and other chronic diseases. Obesity, in particular, is often cited as a contributing factor to asthma and chronic disease cases. Other researchers have pointed out that the rise in asthma cases may be connected to inadequate levels of vitamin D. It is generally agreed that children aren’t getting a sufficient amount of sunshine to maximize vitamin D levels.

Clean Environments and Disease

Immunobiochemistry scientists are endeavoring to understand the inflammatory mechanisms that underlie the hygiene hypothesis. Making sense of the relationship between respiratory viruses and allergic diseases such as asthma may hold the key. To this end, researchers are investigating the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a viral pathogen encountered by most infants. It is well known, for example, that infants who contract RSV pneumonia are more likely to develop childhood asthma. It seems that RSV is associated with a molecule known as the F protein. Interestingly, this particular protein has the ability to flip a vital switch in the immune system.

Under the best of circumstances, humans host a tremendous population of bacteria. These bacteria serve the purpose of educating the immune system of a developing child, allowing the TLR4 switch to be activated. When this bacterial education mechanism is lacking or weak, the link between RSV and the immune infection defense system, known as T-cells, just might initiate the onset of asthma rather than protect the child from infection. Although the exact relationship between bacteria and the human immune system remains a mystery, Researchers seem to be closing in on the answers they desire.

Sofie had an allergic reaction to peanuts as a small child. Her mom, Katalin, diligently took Sofie to the allergist every year for testing. Year after year, the same diagnosis and the same outcome, which also meant the same TOTAL AVOIDANCE of peanuts. In 2018, life changed for this family. Sofie began OIT with Dr. Chacko and she is now eating 7 peanut m&ms a day!

If you don’t have a child with food allergies let me explain what this means. This family can eat at restaurants without the fear and anxiety of cross contamination, Katalin doesn’t have to worry everyday when her child goes to school that she may accidentally come in contact with peanuts and get that dreaded call, and Sofie has the freedom to be a kid and live without the nagging chore of reading every ingredient in her food. This is what OIT success looks like.

Thank you Katalin and Sofie for allowing us to be a part of your journey!

Rohan began his battle with allergies early in life. He would experience terrible eczema when breastfeeding, so his family began an elimination diet. For 6 or 7 years, avoidance and yearly allergy testing was the answer for this family. No milk, no eggs, and no nuts. For Birthday parties his parents would pack Rohan some applesauce and a brownie so that he could at least feel as if he was taking part in the traditional cake festivities. Once Rohan’s family found Dr. Chacko he blazed through the egg challenge and milk challenge. He has conquered peanut OIT and now he’s onto the rest of the tree nuts. This 10 year old boy is loving life, and his dad says, even put on a little weight with all the new foods he can enjoy! Way to go Rohan, we couldn’t be more proud.

Lakhbir had the terrifying experience of rushing her four year old son, Ronil to the hospital after he ate a snickers bar which caused an anaphylactic reaction. From that day forward, the family carried multiple epipens. They avoided peanuts and read the fine print on everything. This caused years of angst for the entire family, until they heard news of a classmate taking part in OIT with Dr. Chacko. Within weeks, they too, found themselves beginning their own OIT journey with Dr. Chacko. Ronil is eating up to five peanuts a day now. Lakhbir tells us that life is just easier, Birthday parties are easier, and Ronil is allowed to go on playdates (which he never was before). So what’s next for Ronil? OIT with cashews, so that he and his family can one day enjoy delicious traditional Indian food. /p>

There are so many ways in which a child with food allergies can feel ostracized. Treats at school for good behavior, sleepovers at a friends house, and birthday cakes are only a few things that these children aren’t able to enjoy or take part in because of the allergy itself or the fear surrounding it. Erika decided it was time to tackle that fear head on.

Her daughter, Annabel began OIT with Dr. Chacko in June of 2018. Annabel is now consuming eggs, milk, and peanuts. FOOD is no longer surrounded by FEAR for this family. Erika said this has opened up her daughter’s world entirely. Annabel was able to take part in her very first sleepover this year, and we couldn’t be any happier!

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