Obsession: creating a sterile environment in the home increases the risk of children developing allergies and autoimmune illnesses, a new report claims.
Excessive cleanliness which creates a sterile environment has led to soaring rise in allergies, a new report has shown.
Allergies have become widespread in developed countries - with hay fever, eczema, hives and asthma increasingly prevalent.
According to Dr Guy Delespesse, director of the Laboratory for Allergy Research at the University of Montreal, the hike in allergies is due to our obsession with cleanliness.
Allergies can be caused by a range of factors - family history, air pollution, processed foods, stress, smoking - yet our limited exposure to bacteria is also to blame.
Dr Delespesse said: 'There is an inverse relationship between the level of hygiene and the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases.
'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.'
In 1980, 10 per cent of the Western population suffered from allergies. Today, it is 30 per cent. In 2010, one in 10 children is said to be asthmatic, and the mortality rate has increased 28 per cent between 1980 and 1994.
Healthy advice: allergy expert Dr Guy Delespasse warns that our immune system is turning against us 'It's not just the prevalence but the gravity of the cases,' says Dr. Delespesse. 'Regions in which the sanitary conditions have remained stable have also maintained a constant level of allergies and inflammatory diseases.
'Allergies and other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis are the result of our immune system turning against us.'
Although hygiene does reduce our exposure to harmful bacteria it also limits our exposure to beneficial microorganisms. As a result, the bacterial flora of our digestive system isn't as rich and diversified as it used to be.
Dr Delespesse recommended probiotics to enrich our intestinal flora. Probiotics are intestinal bacteria that have a beneficial impact on health. They've been used for decades to make yoghurt.
He said: 'Consuming probiotics during pregnancy could help reduce allergies in the child. They are not a miracle remedy, yet they are one of many elements that improve our diet and our health."