The greater prevalence of asthma, allergies and other chronic inflammatory disorders among people of lower socioeconomic status might be due in part to their reduced exposure to the microbes that thrive in rural environments, according to a new scientific paper.
The article, published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Immunology, argues that people living in urban centers who have less access to green spaces may be more apt to have chronic inflammation, a condition caused by immune system dysfunction.
When our immune systems are working properly, they trigger inflammation to fight off dangerous infections, but the inflammation disappears when the infection is gone. However, a breakdown in immune system function can cause a low level of inflammation to persist indefinitely. Such chronic inflammation can cause a host of health disorders.
"Chronic inflammation can lead to all kinds of problems from irritable bowel syndrome to asthma to allergies and even depression," said Christopher Lowry, an associate professor in the University of Colorado Boulder's Department of Integrative Physiology and a co-author of the paper. "The rise of chronic inflammation and these associated disorders, especially among people living in the cities of developed countries, is troubling."
The two other article co-authors are Graham Rook of UCL (University College London) and Charles Raison of the University of Arizona.
Some scientists have hypothesized that the increase of chronic inflammation in wealthier Western countries is connected to lifestyles that have essentially become too clean. The so-called "hygiene hypothesis" is based on the notion that some microbes and infections interact with the immune system to suppress inflammation and that eliminating exposure to those things could compromise your health.
But the idea that picking up more germs could boost our immune system function does not at first seem to hold up w
|Contact: Christopher Lowry|
University of Colorado at Boulder