Thursday, January 30, 2014

Searcher: Hygiene Hypothesis

In the readings for this week, specifically chapter 5 of “Medical Anthropology,” the chapter examines the extent that a child’s environment has on the future outcome of his/ her life. Traits such as potential height, onset of puberty, and birth weight were studied in relation to the child’s upbringing. The effectiveness of the immune system is another important aspect of health that is heavily influenced during the stages of childhood. It has been found that the rates of autoimmune disorders and allergies are higher in developed countries than those in non-developed countries1. This trend has led researchers to develop the hygiene hypothesis. The hypothesis states that the high rates of immunological disorders in areas of high health standards are caused by a lack of exposure to microorganisms and infectious agents. Due to the low exposure, the immune system does not properly develop and difficulties in differentiating between harmless and pathogenic/ harmful agents increase2. Similar to the health topics detailed in chapter 5, immunological development is shaped during childhood where abnormalities during maturation can remain into adulthood- even through the adaptive immune response. This explains why people who suffer from asthma, allergies, Celiac’s disease, etc. carry it during the entirety of their life (although symptoms in some cases may diminish over time). It has been proposed that lifestyle changes can be made to reduce the chances of a child developing immunological disorders. These include having a natural childbirth, breastfeeding, having a pet in the house3, and allotting more time spent outside to increase contact with symbiotic microorganisms.

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