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The Hygiene Hypothesis: With Fewer Germs to Fight Does the Body Attack Itself?

I read Moises Velasquez-Manoff's An Epidemic of Absence in one sitting. This was Michael Crichton with Hookworms.

by
Dr. Peter Weiss

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September 17, 2012 - 7:15 am
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I devour good books, and have no problem putting down a bad one after 30 pages and never picking it up again. If it’s not good, why waste my time? If it’s good, I don’t want to stop. This one is a hell of a read! So was the The Andromeda Strain.

I read Moises Velasquez-Manoff’s  An Epidemic of Absence in one sitting. This was Michael Crichton with Hookworms. The premise is fascinating, although heavy with anecdote and less on peer reviewed clinical data, even with his 307 footnotes. Definitive science should never get in the way of a good read.

I was hooked, pun intended. Remember, I am Western-trained but still consider myself very open minded.

What Velasquez-Mannoff suggests is that maybe we are a little carried away with the pure benefits of hygiene. Does using Purell at every turn really benefit us in the long run, or will we end up dying from a dirty finger nail because of it? This puts credence in what I always believed…”The 10 second rule”. You know, if it’s on the floor less than 10 seconds you can still eat it.

His adventure begins with searching to cure his premature baldness. Okay, I’m a little hard on him here. He’s really looking into an area of medicine that has not been brought to light until now, and he was really looking for a treatment for Irritable Bowel disease and MS. Every action in medicine and in life has an unintended side reaction. We are all intertwined. We, meaning every organism that is in touch within our body. We don’t need to treat everything! Not all bacteria are bad. Our intestines, mouth, and nose are lined with millions of organisms that actually are our allies in keeping us healthy. I think we all know that.

The problem as I see it, which he does not address is deeper. I’ll explain in a moment.

First, physicians have 2 main edicts that we should follow

1) Above all, physician do no harm
2) Alleviate pain and suffering

Our job is not to make people live longer. That’s just a by product of the 2 edicts.

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