About 600,000 New Zealanders have asthma which is about 1 in 4 people. This makes it the most predominant chronic health condition in New Zealand. It is also the leading cause of hospitalisation of our children and young people.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory tract – an exaggerated production of the arachidonic acid derived eicosanoids, leukotrienes, (immune system messengers) – implicated as chemical triggers of inflammation. It stands to reason that anything that can cause inflammation in the body could influence asthma – this can include food, stress, and your environment.
International research has noted that Asthma rates have doubled across the civilized world since 1980. They have been looking into this, and in 1989, one of the researchers has suggested the “Hygiene Hypothesis” which many others have also looked into over the last two decades.
Simply put, the Hygiene Hypothesis is the theory that naturally occurring infections somehow immunize the body against the development of asthma, allergic diseases and autoimmune disease. If the body sees a lot of these natural infections, the immune system is skewed away from allergy and autoimmune disease. If it doesn’t, and it gets too many antibiotics in the first year of life, and, in essence, its environment is “too clean”, then the immune system moves towards allergy.
This theory came from the observation that children who are second or later in the family, and those who attend day care get fewer allergic diseases. Circumstances that seem to be protective against Asthma are – early day care, animal exposure (debate about cats or dogs), farm living, many siblings and bacterial exposure. Things that move the body towards asthma include obesity, dust mite exposure and tobacco smoke.
International research has made specific suggestions:
Specific medical management of Asthma
For more information on Asthma visit the Asthma Foundation.
Asthma and the Hygiene Hypothesis PDF (??KB)
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