Hookworms as the new Claritin, Smoking & Allergies
Discover.com piece on helminths and Jasper. I thought the reader comments were pretty interesting.
More interesting, actually, is their article on the Dutch scientists (of course) who have found that smoking can actually decrease respiratory allergies. This is particularly interesting for two reasons. Fact: Heavy smoking causes lung cancer. Yet, the huge decrease in smoking among the population (think between 1960–1990s) has coincided with a broad hygienification (I might have made that word up) of the U.S. Smoking is also known to lower a person’s immune system generally. In addition, smoking has had a proven anti-inflammatory effect on Ulcerative Colitis, so much so that some people develop UC after quitting. It’s interesting to think that in combination, perhaps both a decrease in smoking and a simultaneous increase in hyper-hygiene (anti-bacteria everything, not letting kids play in and/or eat the dirt) has resulted in the absolute explosion of allergies and asthma, as well as the gamut of other autoimmune diseases like IBD, MS, Lupus, etc.
I of course do not advocate picking up a smoking habit to fight allergies, or IBD for that matter. But it’s an interesting anomaly to think about. I know many of my friends who have allergies or asthma blame their parents’ smoking habits for causing their bad reactions. What seems likely, in this case, is that they were already auto-immune prone from living in hygienic environment, and the smoking was reacted to as an allergen thanks to their over-charged immune response. Smoke has been a presence in homes and dwellings throughout human history–when humans had a more natural body-ecology and a resulting balanced immune system, I doubt smoke would have resulted in this response. It’s hard to imagine cavemen sitting around a fire complaining about their asthma or allergies. “Ug! I told you to smoke roast that buffalo meat OUTSIDE! Ugh, and please wipe the blood and guts off your hands BEFORE you engorge yourself!”
Of course, this is all just musings on my part. To be taken lightly.