Immune-System Ailments Now an 'Epidemic'

Doctors blame sterile homes, diet, obesity for making us sick
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2008 7:46 PM CST
Portrait of Allison Koeninger at her mother's house in Dallas, Texas, November 5, 2005. Koeninger, an archivist at the University of Dallas, suffers from lupus, for which there is no cure.   (KRT Photos)
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(Newser) – Allergies and immune-system ailments like asthma, lupus, and MS are on the rise—and scientists increasingly blame modern life, the Washington Post reports. Many point to sterile conditions in the US and Western Europe, but pollution, diet, and obesity may also play a role. "We have dramatically changed our lives in the last 50 years," one allergist said.

Some doctors are giving kids allergy-causing foods and even worms to strengthen their immune systems. Others see holes in the hygiene theory, leading some researchers to blame genes as well. Whatever the causes, one UK allergist called it "an epidemic. We're talking about millions of people and huge implications, both for health costs and quality of life."