By Karen Dente, M.D.
Some researchers don´t give up on providing evidence to bolster their theories, as is the case with cancer researcher Mel Greaves, in the UK, who has been obsessed over 30 years with looking into the causes of childhood leukemia, a cancer of the blood in which the white blood cells multiply out of control exponentially.
A recent study published in Nature Cancer Reviews confirms the theory that too much hygiene and a lack of stimulation of the immune system in early childhood, before the end of the first year of life, is likely a major risk factor for developing leukemia during childhood. The immune system requires two so-called hits, infections, to be primed and mature and reach a normal function before it reaches adulthood. There is something to be said about children going through childhood diseases. I am somewhat concerned that even for childhood diseases considered normal for children to go through back in my day, like something mild like chicken pox, we now have vaccines and children are exposed to ever fewer diseases during childhood. This, compounded with a lack of exposure to dirt, and an increasing number of children born to caesarean sections, is also a risk factor for developing asthma and allergies later in life in those predisposed genetically with a family risk for allergies. Kids growing up in closer proximity to farm animals are known to have fewer risk for allergies.
Here is an article in the Observer on Mel Greaves´ recent approach to preventing leukemia, that includes development of a special bug cocktail, a probiotic booster that he says can be given in a yoghurt to help ensure a healthy mix of bugs in the gut of children to prevent mutations that can lead to acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the blood cancer he thinks can be prevented by early priming of the immune system.
As in any imbalance of the gut microbiome, avoiding treating childhood respiratory infections indiscriminately with antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, is a good protection against development of gut dysbiosis, and a precaution to maintaining a healthy intestinal microbial ecosystem into adulthood.
It is good to see research I wrote about for the lay press over a decade ago confirmed. Here is the article written for the German readers among you, that was published in the newspaper Die Welt quoting the same scientist in the UK on this subject. It states that children in day care had more infections in the first year of their life due to exposure to bugs from other children, and fewer risk for developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This is in line with the theory that early priming from infections of the maturing immune system is necessary for healthy functioning.