Could cleaning your house be doing you more harm than good? 

Are you intolerant to certain foods or are you allergic to certain foods? Do you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome? 

There is a growing population of individuals developing food sensitivities, allergies and IBS. There are various speculations for the causes, with diet, medical practice and hygiene being high up on the list. It is believed that the new cleaning practices we have all adopted over the past 20 or so years is playing an enormous role. We sterilize everything, cleaning with 100% antibacterial products. Thus, reducing our exposure to environmental bacteria. This has been referred to as the ‘hygiene hypothesis’. You might be wondering what's so bad about this, who wants to be exposed to bacteria. However inadequate contact with environmental bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms has been shown to be causing the development in allergies. This germ-free living is believed to have altered our composition of gut microbiota and as a result disturbed our immune tolerance. 

"inadequate contact with environmental bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms has been shown to be causing the development in allergies"

More research is showing that reduced exposure to various bacteria in early childhood is a major risk factor. One study from The American journal of gastroenterology identified that crowded living in Asia increased their exposure to bacteria and resulted in reduced prevalence of IBS compared to western living. It is believed that exposure to microbes through the gastrointestinal tract has a very powerful role in shaping our immune function. It has shown to reduce the development of food intolerances, allergies, respiratory and atopic conditions. 

So when you were told as a child to stop rolling in the dirt, don’t eat the sand and don’t touch those handles because they are dirty, well maybe we were doing ourselves a good thing and should have continued. 

Probiotics play an enormous role in reducing food symptoms or development of intolerance and allergies. Supplementation of probiotics can rebalance the microbial environment in our gut. This has shown to control and improve our immune system, reduce inflammation and improve digestion. Probiotics can interact with the immune system, increase the plasma levels of various important antibodies including IgA, children with allergies have been seen to have lower levels of IgA. Other less expensive methods to consume ‘Good Bacteria’ is through sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. They can often contain nearly as much bacteria as your probiotics. Sauerkraut can be made at home very easily and stored in your fridge for an extended period of time. If you love the taste like I do you can add to nearly everything including your morning poached eggs, your lunchtime salad or to your stir-fry’s.  Kombucha is also becoming extremely popular. My local farmers market on the Gold Coast has a few different flavored kombuchas, my favourite always being ginger. 

Sarah Stewart