Is cleanliness next to... sickliness?


Well-Known Member
interesting article in NY Times about the possible reasons behind the higher prevalence of autoimmune disease in the wealthier parts of the world.

researchers followed a group of newborns who were genetically at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes in Finland (highest prevalence of Type 1 diabetes in the world), Estonia and right across the border from Finland, in Russia, in a population with a very similar genetic profile to the Finnish, but a very different economic situation.
article said:
The scientists focused on a microbial byproduct called endotoxin, which usually spurs white blood cells into action.
Both communities of microbes produced endotoxin, but not, it turned out, of equal potency. Endotoxin from Russian microbes strongly stimulated human immune cells. And when given to diabetes-prone mice early in life, it lowered their chances of developing the condition. But the Finnish endotoxin was comparatively inert. White blood cells didn’t register its presence, and it failed to protect mice from developing autoimmune diabetes.

These findings are very preliminary, but they support a decades-old (and unfortunately named) idea called the hygiene hypothesis. In order to develop properly, the hypothesis holds — to avoid the hyper-reactive tendencies that underlie autoimmune and allergic disease — the immune system needs a certain type of stimulation early in life. It needs an education.
It turns out it's less about living in a hygienic environment free of pathogens, and more about how early on in life your immune system has to fight these pathogens. When you're infected later in life, the chances of this infection triggering the start of an autoimmune illness are much higher.

This could explain why living in less hygienic surroundings (drinking untreated well water, for example) lowers your chances of developing an immune related illness later in life. (The life expectancy in these countries is generally a lot lower though, so it's not all that straightforward.)


Well-Known Member
Research on the hygiene hypothesis is really intriguing, and I hope to see more. The hypothesis, however, doesn't jibe with my own experience of -- because my mother was ill with ME/CFS and asleep much of the time -- having grown up in a dirty house. I also spent lots of time outside in the dirt and around animals. Too, I drank well water. Unfortunately that water was "treated" with plenty of agricultural chemicals. I would say that my immune system was plenty challenged.
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
yes @Merry this theory doesn't really explain everything I think. they should stop looking at one single thing in each research project. it's all about the interaction between endless tiny details. clean vs. not clean is just not going to give us all the answers imo.

Forum Tips

Support Our Work



Shopping on For HR

Latest Resources