Although medical experts might not always agree on the root causes of allergies or on the reason why one person has a tendency towards allergic reactions while another doesn’t; one thing they do agree on is the steady rise in allergies over recent years. As a life-long hay-fever sufferer I have noticed that these days there are a selection of over-the-counter remedies that were unavailable when I was growing up. Supply is meeting demand. And demand is clearly growing. Some theories as to why our defence mechanisms are letting us down are outlined below.
A quick rummage under the kitchen sink will probably confirm our obsession with cleanliness. However, researchers believe that a certain level of dirt is good. How can our children develop their immune systems if they aren’t exposed to any germs? In an article in New Scientist in July 1998, Garry Hamilton wrote about “the gentle side of germs” and warned that being over-clean could result in an increase in allergies.
Another way in which we are preventing our immune systems from developing is by over-vaccinating our children. Childhood diseases that were commonplace are now being eradicated. Many believe that we should reserve vaccines for serious illnesses and should allow children to fall prey to the milder ones. This would help to strengthen their immune systems so that they will be better able to cope with threats later in life.
Because of changes in lifestyles people are eating more and more processed food. Freezer- to-microwave ready-made meals dominate supermarket shelves. This food is heavy on calorie content but lacking in the valuable nutrients that our bodies need. Our immune systems need a balanced diet, rich in vitamins and minerals and fresh fruit and vegetables. Sadly, the soils that our plants are grown in are losing their mineral content too so the few vegetables that do find their way into our diet are not as nutritious as they once were.
The pace at which we lead our lives is speeding up and resulting in higher levels of stress. Work-life balance is usually heavily weighted on the work side. Rest, fresh air and exercise are being sacrificed to pressures of overtime and longer working days. Young people feel under pressure to achieve high powered jobs and material goods. Most doctors agree that stress is one of the main causes of allergies so it is hardly surprising that the figures of sufferers are rising so dramatically.
So, if you have become allergy sufferer what should you do? First of all go to see your GP and ask for an allergy test so that they can determine what it is you are allergic to. Then try avoiding the cause of the allergy. If that doesn’t work, try some remedies or go one step further and change some aspects of your 21st Century lifestyle.