The increased incidence of allergies in children underlies one of the major healthcare issues of our day. From an immunological understanding, there are two simple points about this issue to keep in mind.
First, allergens are a type of antigen (something that promotes an immune response), but allergens themselves are not very toxic. The problem is the body’s over-reaction to allergens. A very important point to understand is that the immune system is divided: 1. It fights noncellular things like allergens, and, 2. it fights cellular things like cancer cells, bacteria, and parasites. Also, there’s information in the immune system that controls the direction it takes.
Birth and the Beginning of Your Immune System
Here’s the most interesting part of the immune system story: The placenta, implanted in the uterus, is not tissue from the mother’s body. It comes from the embryo, and, importantly, the embryo is genetically different than the mother. This presents a biological puzzle: Since our immune system is designed to kill foreign cells, how can someone get pregnant?
When a woman becomes pregnant, the placenta secretes what are called cytokines, substances that create in the mother’s immune system a bunch of immune cells called Th2 helper cells. These Th2 cells are designed to fight allergens—they shut off the part of the immune system in the mother that fights cells, bacteria, or parasites—which is how the mother’s immune system tolerates the implant.
However, when the baby is born, the baby’s immune system is also filled with Th2 cells, which prevent a Th1 immune response. So, in a normal birth, the child’s body comes out filled with Th2 helper cells. That is, in a normal situation, the baby comes through the birth canal, nurses with the mother, and picks up bacteria from this environment. This helps form the baby’s microbiome. This microbiome will direct the development of the baby’s immune system and switch the baby’s immune system from Th2 (type 2) to Th1 (type 1).
The Challenge of Artificial Environments
Despite this natural process, in today’s world we have created such a clean environment that babies often don’t receive the benefits of normal environmental exposure, which switches the immune system to Th1. This means the infant stays in type 2 stage for a longer period of time. (This notion is called the “hygiene hypothesis.”) If an allergen shows up while the baby is in type 2 stage, the immune system makes an antibody called IgG, or Immunoglobulin G, and the child will then not be allergic to this allergen.
So, babies are naturally born with type 2, which prevents the rejection of the placenta by the mother. Normally then, the baby should immediately get exposed to all kinds of things in a natural environment, especially through breastfeeding, and thus be inoculated with bacteria. This would switch the system at that point to type 1 to make a normal antibody response.
Therefore, the increase in babies having an allergic response to allergens is not because of allergens—it’s because the babies are not given enough chance to have an infection! Since our society’s mode of parenting is: “Keep it clean! Sterilize everything! Wash it down with germicide,” and things like that, we’ve created a situation that foments allergies. The inoculation effect from being exposed to a natural environment is why children who grow up with pets are healthier than those who don’t: Even if you spray Lysol on everything around the house, you’re likely not going to spray the pet, and so the pet is an inoculation device.
The pet will carry things that the child can pick up and then develop an immune response to them naturally. Therefore, it’s really important to recognize that in order for a child’s immune system to be healthy, it must be exposed to bacteria and things like that in nature. It’s OK if the child gets a little sick—that’s the immune system working.
Immune System Evolution
It’s important to remember that the immune system is an evolutionary device. It’s not completely formed when we’re born. It’s still evolving. The tendency is for people to inoculate their children with vaccines. And the problem is that when we inject a vaccine, loaded with all kinds of adjuvants and preservatives, into a baby whose immune system is still evolving, we push the immune system, and keep it from evolving properly.
The body must come in contact with an infection in order for it to create its own immune activation. What people don’t understand is the immune activation is due to the tonsils that are in the throat. People think tonsils are there to fight infections, but that’s wrong. The tonsils don’t fight infection, they invite infection! They’re nature’s way of creating an immune response. The tonsils make a recording of everything in the environment that passes by them, which is why infants reflexively stick everything they can into their mouths. This is the intelligent design of the system—the babies are creating an oral vaccine.
By the time a child is 10 years old he or she has tasted everything in the environment. At around the age of 10, the immune system starts to slow itself down from the hyper-growth state it’s been in. The thymus gland, the immune system’s center of education, starts to get smaller.
The relevance is this: If we protect children too much before the time the immune system starts to slow down at age 10, we reduce their ability to make immune responses. So, I’m not saying, “Vaccines: no.” I’m saying, “Oral vaccines: yes.” ?
—This article, originally titled “Immunity,” by Bruce H Lipton, PhD, All rights reserved, posted on Wed, March 1, 2017, and accessed on 1 October 2019 at https://www.brucelipton.com/blog/immunity, was slightly revised and edited by permission for print publication by editors at Well Being Journal.
Bruce H Lipton, PhD (developmental cell biology, University of Virginia, 1971) taught anatomy and other courses at medical schools, including University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, and received the “Best Science Book” award in 2006 for his seminal book The Biology of Belief, and is also the author of numerous books and research articles. His most recent book is The Honeymoon Effect (Hay House, 2013). He lectures around the world, has numerous instructional videos on You Tube, and publishes a free monthly newsletter available at https://www.brucelipton.com.