Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases

Thursday, September 06, 2012

In the past 150 years, improved sanitation, water treatment, and the use of vaccines and antibiotics have saved countless lives, nearly eradicating diseases that had plagued humanity for thousands of years. But growing evidence suggests that the very steps we took to combat infections have also eliminated organisms that kept our bodies in balance. Science journalist Moises Velasquez-Manoff explains the latest research into the prevalence of allergies and autoimmune disorders, explores new treatments, and looks at the link between autism and a dysfunctional immune system. His book is An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases.


Moises Velasquez-Manoff

Comments [24]

thatgirl from manhattan

RJ from Prospect Hts - The Radiolab parasite/hookworm episode to which you refer is linked, just below the show description, above.

Sep. 06 2012 02:49 PM
Ted from brooklyn

Wait a minute! Homeopathy is nothing like what you are saying. Some of the idea in homeopathy, is that the water molecules have "memory" of the substance. They have to say this because some of the dilution are so dilute there is statistically no chance the a molecule of the original substance exists in the dilution. And then there was this claim that this memory could be endowed over the telephone (do a search for a retracted French study on this). And, as far as I have found out there is no increasing the dosage like the author was describing about oral therapies

Sep. 06 2012 02:01 PM
Henry from Manhattan

No. It’s not like homeopathy at all.

Sep. 06 2012 01:57 PM
John A

Re: suggestion that increased weakness may be a function of improved medical care (-Truth).
Go right ahead. I always thought the people in my rural community were stronger that those of my second home in suburbia. Still there is the inconvenient truth of lifespan. It is indeed longer here than there.

Sep. 06 2012 01:56 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Do people whose immune systems are suppressed by anti-rejection drugs, or even by AIDS, have fewer allergies?

Sep. 06 2012 01:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Liz, the immune system has more than 1 home, incl. the thymus gland & the bone marrow.

Sep. 06 2012 01:50 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Some allergies are a matter of degree. For example, some people don't have allergic reactions to pollen except during very heavy pollen seasons.

Sep. 06 2012 01:48 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Could the apparent predominance of high-income people among those w/gluten intolerance be because people who can afford better medical care are more likely to be diagnosed correctly? Until recently, gluten intolerance & related disorders weren't even recognized, let alone generally accepted as legitimate by most doctors. And of course, the rate of diagnosis of any health problem goes up when it becomes a recognized/defined diagnosis.

Sep. 06 2012 01:44 PM
Ari in NJ from Working in LIC

As a person with celiac disease it worries me a great deal that gluten free diets are the rage they are.
Once I hoped for more awareness but knowledge without wisdom is useless.

For some of us a gluten free diet is a matter of life and death.
Sadly for others it's the 'in' thing and prescribing a gluten free diet when people don't need to be gluten-free is akin to treating a broken ankle with thyroid hormones and will yield similar results.

When I go to a restaurant and inquire about gluten, I need to know I am being taken seriously and fads are never taken seriously.

Sep. 06 2012 01:42 PM

Can you comment on rheumatoid arthritis and how your findings apply. Thanks

Sep. 06 2012 01:41 PM
RJ from prospect hts

RadioLab did a segment on a fellow who had horrible allergies. I don't remember what brought him to hookworms, but he went to Africa where hookworm is prevalent and he literally walked through their feces, where the hookworm were found, and he has essentially been cured of his allergies. He's now selling hookworm online.

Sep. 06 2012 01:39 PM
Henry from Manhattan

Why do some people, like myself, just not have allergies?

Any correlations for people in the developed world who don’t have autoimmune diseases?

Sep. 06 2012 01:39 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I hate to do this, but I have to suggest that this may be part of evolution. Darwin postulated survival of the species, suggesting that species that couldn't adapt would die out. People who had some of these allergies and autoimmune diseases in the past would not have survived to pass them on. It is only because of modern medicine that prolongs their lives and allows them to reproduce that we find increasing cases of allergies and autoimmune disorders.

What does Mr. Velasquez-Manoff have to say about this?

Sep. 06 2012 01:39 PM
Maria from Brooklyn

Speaking of parasitic infections causing unexpected symptoms, wondering what your guest thinks of this:

Sep. 06 2012 01:38 PM
g from staten island

I am a lay person, but how is this for an idea:
Decades ago some people with certain illnesses, for example serious asthma, would not have survived childhood without medicines and modern medical care. Asthmatics might not have lived long enough to have children and pass the gene on to the next generation. Perhaps this happens with allergy and celiac, etc. as well. I'd like the opinion of a medical expert.

Sep. 06 2012 01:36 PM
Jim B

Something about the Neanderthal portion of our genome being responsible for some of our autoimmune diseases?

Sep. 06 2012 01:34 PM
Kat from Brooklyn

Alopecia areata is an associated autoimmune disease with celiac disease.

Sep. 06 2012 01:33 PM
Virginia from Manhattan

For many years, I had severe seasonal allergies. A friend recommended the local honey treatment. I was skeptical, but I religiously consumed one teaspoon of LOCAL honey a day starting in May of 2011. By allergy season 2012, I was symptom-free. I used to spend a lot of money on prescription allergy medicine, but no longer. This is one study big pharma companies won't fund, for obvious vested-interest reasons. (I couldn't locate any in-depth studies via quick internet search). I would love to hear your experts discuss this topic (honey immunotherapy).

Sep. 06 2012 10:16 AM
Liz from Westchester

The GI tract is the 'home' of the immune system, so it would seem logical that a healthy gut would help alleviate the symptoms. I second Dr. Mercola's columns. They are excellent.

It's been my (mostly recent) experience with allergies that they can affect just about everything: causing insomnia, lowered stamina, itchy skin, blood-sugar issues, etc. Would this be possible?

Sep. 06 2012 08:08 AM
paul cahan from passaic, nj

I was given Levaquin 13 years ago, and after 10 days, my body suddenly had out of control inflammation and pain in lower legs (both) AND i had two achilles tendon ruptures. developed chronic pain and tendinitis/tendinosis that is chronic in both achilles tendons. so bad it has put me on disability.
Now I have these spontaneous allergy symptoms, scratchy throat, both hands are swollen all the time, but are 'itchy' when these allergy episodes occur. Is Is there anything I can do about it? Or am I doomed to live a damaged life with more symptoms cropping up as the years go by? If these antibiotics are do damaging, why are they used for common infections instead of a last resort drug for people only in the hospital?

Sep. 06 2012 06:22 AM
Heather from Brooklyn

I too believe I have "cured" my allergies through probiotics. In the past, I had horrible seasonal allergies. The Spring of 2011 was the worst. My sinuses shut down and I was unable to breathe and needed to take prednisone. In the fall of 2011, however, I have been brewing my own kombucha, which is chock full of probiotics. I did not have one day of suffering from allergies this past Spring. Even environmental triggers, like my parents' dog, do not affect me now. I have not changed anything else in my environment, diet, or lifestyle, aside from drinking more kombucha, and, therefore, probiotics. I, too, am surprised that there is not more information out there on the affect of probiotics on allergies.

Sep. 05 2012 10:34 PM
Ellen McCormick

Gary, Check out the website and read some of Dr.Mercola's articles on the digestive tract and diseases related to problems with your digestive tract. They are a wealth of information. Finding the best probiotic is the answer to a road to health these days. With all the Genetically Modified Foods in our food system it's a wonder we have any health at all.

Sep. 05 2012 07:22 PM
Deborah Nitzberg from Washington Heights, NYC

I have basically cured my fairly severe spring and fall hay fever allergies with probiotics. It was not intentional; I was taking the probiotics for a digestive disorder, and sure enough, for the first time in over 45 years I didn't suffer from seasonal allergies, and my eczema cleared up as well. Three years ago, April came around and I wondered why for the first time I didn't have allergies, and the only difference was I had been taking the probiotics for a few months. I did some research and discovered the connection. But I wonder why more research has not been done on this, do the pharmaceutical companies have something to do with it? They would lose a lot of business once this becomes known.

Sep. 05 2012 05:51 PM
Gary from Port Washington

I am curious about what role the digestive tract and "gut" plays in the immune system. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome appears to be an autoimmune dysfunction; what is the speakers opinion on it's possible causes. What are the genetic effects on autoimmune disorders, has this link been studied. Thank you for your respond.

Sep. 05 2012 05:39 PM

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