If you are obsessed with keeping your home or workplace clean and tidy, you may be doing more harm than good when it comes to your health.
Excessive cleanliness has led to a soaring rise in allergies such as hay fever, eczema, hives and asthma in developed countries, a new Canadian study has found.
The University of Montreal's Dr Guy Delespesse, who conducted the study, said although allergies can be caused by family medical history, pollen, smoking, foods and stress, our limited exposure to bacteria is also contributing.
"There is an inverse relationship between the level of hygiene and the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases," Dr Delespesse said in a media release.
"The more sterile the environment a child lives in, the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an immune problem in their lifetime."
The study found that in the last 30 years, the number of allergy sufferers rose from 10 to 30 percent of the Western population.
But how can excessive cleanliness have a bad impact on our health? Dr Delespesse says the fact is that bacteria assist in growing our immune system.
"The bacteria in our digestive system are essential to digestion and also serve to educate our immune system. They teach it how to react to strange substances. This remains a key in the development of a child's immune system," he said.
Dr Delespesse says the trend of excessive cleaning is mainly having an effect on unborn babies and children with one in 10 diagnosed as asthmatic.
He recommends probiotics to enrich our intestinal flora, particularly for pregnant women.
"Consuming probiotics during pregnancy could help reduce allergies in the child," says Dr Delespesse. "They are not a miracle remedy, yet they are one of many elements that improve our diet and our health."
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