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Environmental influences

In recent decades, the lifestyle (e.g. diet and hygiene) in the Western industrialized nations has changed dramatically. Along with these changes, the number of infectious diseases has been drastically reduced. At the same time, however, the number of chronic inflammatory diseases (CID), allergies and autoimmune disorders has conspicuously increased.

More and more scientists are seeking to determine what impact certain changes in our lifestyles have on the increasing incidence of inflammatory diseases. One way to understand the relationship better is through epidemiology. In this field of study, the relationship between, for example, diseases and the environment, or nutrition, can be analyzed on the basis of large studies of populations.

Surprising correlations: Bacteria may protect against inflammation 

Much of the epidemiological data suggests that a relationship exists between the exposure to bacteria and chronic inflammation. For instance, while the number of different infectious diseases has indeed declined sharply since the 60s, the number of inflammatory diseases has, however, markedly risen. Other connections show, for example, that children with older siblings, children who go to day care / nursery schools or children who grow up on farms suffer less often from inflammatory diseases such as asthma or allergies. 

Especially infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract seem to have a protective effect against CID. In addition, research findings show that certain intestinal parasites can reduce the chance of relapse in multiple sclerosis. Therefore, the microbiome (the whole of all microorganisms in the gut / intestinal flora) and its research have gained in importance in recent years. Several researchers even suggest that a selective change in the composition of intestinal microflora could have a certain potential as a treatment method.

Influences of modern lifestyle

In addition to microbes and infections, however, other factors are suspected, which can influence the development of chronic inflammation. Studies have been able to show that smokers have an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease.

But also many other occurences in our modern lives, such as eating habits, exhaust fumes and chemicals with which we come into daily contact, are presumed to foster chronic inflammation.

 

More informations:

Review: Infection, inflammation, and chronic diseases: consequences of a modern lifestyle.

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