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4. Unhealthy hygiene > Imbalance of the Immune System

Imbalance of the Immune System

The wonder with all of these diseases is not so much that they happen, but that severe forms afflict only a few percent of us. As with cancer and diabetes, we’re dealing with an extremely complex genetic system in a species that has done an awful lot of evolving recently, in an environment that is fundamentally foreign with respect to most of our history. The question, “Why are there genes for arthritis?” is as misplaced as asking, “Why are there soldiers who fire on their own?” They don’t mean to; it just happens.

Let’s consider the complexity first. All organisms face a bewildering array of microscopic enemies. Belligerent bacteria, vile viruses, and pesky parasites confront the immune system with different challenges that must be met in cavities as different as the throat, intestines, joints, and sexual organs. It meets these challenges with immediate mechanisms such as coughs and sneezes, and an innate system that does things such as drilling holes in any bacteria that turn up where they should not be. Then it kicks in the so-called adaptive immune response, which has many layers and modalities depending on the specific needs. There is so much to coordinate that it is almost unavoidable that things will go wrong occasionally.


  

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