I think it was the spring of 1991, I found myself rubbing my itching and sore eyes, having a runny nose with even occasional respiratory problems with my wind pipe. All of a sudden and for no obivious reason, I had become allergic to the world: pollum, the typical domestic animals, a good half of all fruit, all nuts , etc. Blimey.
Not realizing how serious my allergy was, my family decided to get a dog. It was a stubborn fella, a true alpha of his pack no questions asked. After three months of this new joint venture, suffering more and more from the typical symptoms of allergy, but other stuff too like fever during the nights with aching joints and muscle, it was clear something had to be done. Seeking confirmation to what I had been going through, a set of tests was ran on me and I was diagnosed a level 3 out of 5 (5 meaning more or less life in a sealed container, I recon).
After the allergy test results came out, it was clear that either one of us had to leave. With my 12-13 year track reacord as a fixed act in the house band, it wasn’t me. (Sorry buddy! – I hope you had arrived a couple of years earlier and maybe you could have saved me from this burden.) With the dog gone, my allergy however stayed. While not being a total show stopper, it naturally changed my life significantly. Thinking back, who knows, maybe it even affected my growth. I will get back to this a little later in this story.
Those days, allergy was perceived among common people as a fixed genetic condition – you were either born with or without it. However, there were already talks in public about the increased use of antibacterial detergents and their possible link to the growing numbers of people suffering from allergy. The scientific theory was called the Hygiene hypothesis or even Lost friends theory – sounds kind of sad, yet coming to to think of it from immune system balance perspective, it’s brilliantly self-explanatory.
Now, a couple a decades later, we have started to see even wider health implications around us caused by increased hygiene. All in all, it seems that in addition to allergy many autoimmune diseases, like IDB, Crohn’s, or even hypothyroidism are also drawn to the equation with convincing hard evidence to say that reduced biodiversity directly related to increased number of allergy and autoimmune problems. The theories suggest that with limited exposure to narrowing range of bacteria our immune system ends up being imbalanced, resulting in the system starting to work against itself.
Furthermore, we are not talking about physical matters alone. It has been discovered that getting a nice bacteria bath is good for your mental health too as it can both prevent but also cure people from depression. More precisely, the white lab coat people have figured out that microbes affect our brain by causing the immune cells to dump out cytokines that on their behalf stimulate nerves to cause certain neurons to release serotonin – a chemical involved with prefrontal cortex (part of our braing regulating mood among other things). Lack of serotonin is believed to cause depression. ..and this is only some parts what we know at the moment.
Sounds pretty profound, doesn’t it?
When it comes to conclusions and action, to me at least the solution is a beauty in its simplicity: go out and get into the nature! No pills, no magic bracelets, no exclusive and expensive treatment – just get get back to where our anchesters came from! If you need a more conceptualized treatment to cure you, have a shinrin-yoku (forest bathing in English!) as the Japanese call it. Really, forrest baths – how marvelous – you could not expect anything less from the zen thirsty Japanese! Don’t see dirt as something out from this world -it is an essential part of our ecosystem. Embrace it!
Personally, it has become increasingly important to spend time in the wild. This means getting lost for a few days in the sticks, like simple day trips of back country skiing in Lapland (Yes, why would you get yourself all the way up there to ski on tracks?) Despite the physical strain involved being on the move for many consecutive days, I am charged with energy, determination, and just overall feel really inspired about life. I usually end up bringing back a lot of dirty laudry and a couple of fresh but lamentably still bad ideas.
For some time I was just fascinated and focused on why all the new ideas incubated in the nature. To put a finger on something for now, let’s just mention slow thinking and hypo transient state at this point. (These terms, maybe in the premise of innovation, deserve their own blog.) However, I have gradually started to paint in more holistic and less categorized or labelled picture and simply put I just feel good inside out because of more natural environment.
Without a doubt, food plays a significant role in our well being; we are what we eat. Getting your five a day should not be shocking news to anyone being able separate a carrot from a sausage, but still some people seem surprisingly alienated from fresh, unprocessed food.
There is however a great deal of controversial debate on different aspects of food. With media feeding our appetite to keeps things simple and above all convenient and easy, people drawn to resonate with the most extreme statements. With catchy headlines about bio, conservatives, gluten, sugar, raw, lactose, high protein, low calorie, some evolutionary approach or whatever, it’s not hard to start being a fanatic over a new miracle diet.
In fact with all this noise, it’s difficult to build solid and unquestionable understanding on food. Even if I consider myself to be a sensible person that believes is logical thinking, sometimes I find it hard to digest the established scientific truth. This is mainly because of the possible bias generated from money, power, and politics. If you need examples, look no further than the Finnish dairy co-op Valio and the milk propaganda they have been able to churn out for decades.
Furthermore, one challenge is also the limited amount of variables in a typical scientific study. This practical limitation enables studies to look at only fragments of the big picture. Finally, we are all individuals and we react differently to different things. There are high hopes regarding the last point on bio banks, but I don’t think I have heard them mention once since the financial crises started.
Still keeping our focus on food, my own personal guess is that we should get a little dirty in what we eat too. This means less processed food simply due to conservatives, but also the high temperatures being used to make sure the products stay “fresh” long enough to be picked up from the shelf.
In fact, the extreme temperatures reaching as much as 150 Celsius in food processing means that we humans are eating dead food, totally wiped clean from microbes, no other animal with choice would even care to look at. Comically, it seems that domestic animal food has higher quality standards than what we people eat – have a look at the baby food for example that stays edible in room temperature for ages – now, I don’t know a single cat that would eat those and why would we? (If I ever have kids myself, maybe I will know better then.) Or don’t you find it disturbing that todays “fresh” milk doesn’t seem to go sour even in two weeks after the to-be-consumed-by date?
Sure, the dairy industry will tell you all about the necessity of pasteurization to kill all dangerous bacteria. Still, I personally don’t find it hard at all to believe that untreated milk, directly for a farm will give you a hefty shot of bacteria your immune system needs to stay balanced and even cure some with health issues. Sure, there is a risk of something that could take you to bed for a couple of days, but I would be at least willing to accept that.
Granted, we also have to give credit to mainstream science. Our life expectancy has been in steady incline, much thanks to mainstream nutrition research and development. In this mixed bag of conflicting outcomes, I guess you just have to find your own truth. One of my heros, Jack LaLanne, also know for his wisdom packed one-liners once said “If it’s man made, don’t eat it.“
..oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you about what happened to my allergy: I got rid of all of it by persistently exposing myself to the allergens by myself (not advised for someone with really dangerous allergy symptoms!). Yes, it took some time and effort, but it was surely worth every single itching throat along the way. Who knows, maybe that one year when I rode motocross helped to give me that extra edge needed to curb my allergies? It’s not a coincidence, they are called dirt bikes, you know.