Tag Archives: immune

Moms: Could there be such a thing as “too clean”?

iStock_000016947232LargeIf you are a parent, you undoubtedly know that children are magnets for germs. Literally- magnets. I’m sure that there is scientific evidence of this somewhere. I haven’t found it yet, but when I do, trust me- there will be a blog post about it.

Despite the obvious- yet unsubstantiated- theory of child/dirt magnetism, we all have that mom friend who has undoubtedly been recruited by the government to eliminate germs. And she is awesome at it. Her child is mid-cough, and a container of hand sanitizer magically appears out of her back pocket. Milk spilled from a glass hasn’t even hit the floor before her third arm appears with a mop. YOUR child is about to sneeze, and as you pretend to search for the tissue in your pocket that you should probably have ready, Super Mom produces a travel pack of baby wipes out of nowhere and comes to the rescue. You walk into her house and marvel at the lack of crumbs/ dust/ dog hair/ Cheerios imbedded in the carpet, and think “My God, this woman is amazing!”

We all love our germ-defying mom friends. They are the epitome of “Super Moms,” and give us something to strive for. But now, science is here to make the rest of us feel a little bit better about the crumbs/ dust/ dog hair/ Cheerios imbedded in our OWN carpets. Scientific research suggests that “exceptionally clean living environments” may be linked to a weakened immune system and food allergies in children.

Research studies showed that mice living in sterile environments lacked a certain gut bacteria, called Clostridia, that can protect against food allergies. The solution? Provide them with this bacteria (think mouse probiotics), and the sensitization to food allergens can be reversed. While this was a study in mice, other research studies have suggested that the use of disinfecting products, anti-microbial soap, and antibiotics can change the composition of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts.

So, when you start to feel inadequate as Super Mom wields her secret-weapon-germ-cleaning-abilities, maybe you can feel a little better about your toddler picking his nose while playing in the dirt. After all, you’re just trying to help boost his immune system- right?


Sleep your way to a cancer-fighting immune system

Little girl and puppy sleepingA good night’s sleep may be more important than you think! New research suggests that interrupted sleep can affect the immune system’s ability to fight off early stage cancers. Tumors in mice that experienced poor quality and intermittent sleep grew faster and invaded surrounding tissues more aggressively than tumors in control mice.

But don’t worry- it’s not all bad news. Although the results of this study weren’t exactly encouraging for the 70 million Americans suffering from sleep problems, researchers were able to identify specific cells in the immune system that drive tumor growth- and this could ultimately help a lot of people.

This is a case where animal studies were really important. Tumor growth can be affected by many different factors, so in controlled research environments, extra precautions can be taken to make sure that only specific variables are introduced. And in this situation, when the only variable in the study was sleep, the results of the study are especially relevant.

Could treatments for cancer patients have a higher success rate if the patients are well-rested? Are patients suffering from insomnia due to chronic pain at a higher risk for developing cancer? Can sleeping with a TV or radio on disrupt your sleep enough to cause health problems? Until we know… try to catch some extra zzz’s tonight, it can’t hurt!