I recently learnt about (or gained a better understanding of) something called the Hygiene Hypothesis. It seeks to explain why there appears to be an increase in the incidence of allergies in children today.
Background info: your immune system can mount short-term responses or long-term responses to allergens which is helped by things called T helper cells 1 or 2, where T helper cell 2 mediates the short-term/immediate response, while T helper cell 1 mediates the longer-term response. IgE vs. IgG.
And it’s believed that you kind of grow out of the IgE response, and have a shift in your body’s balance towards Th1 cells.
The gist of the hypothesis is that because of better sanitation, delayed exposure and other factors, kids aren’t developing that shift towards Th1 cells, and are retaining more of an immediate IgE response. So what happens is, every time they’re exposed to something potentially dangerous, their body is responding immediately, causing inflammation and anaphylaxis.
They have a low tolerance to what otherwise might be considered “normal” or “baseline”, whereas kids who have been exposed earlier can learn to modulate their response to this natural environmental level of… dirtiness, and shift towards a longer-term more appropriate Th1 cell response.
Medicine aside, what does this have to do with anything?
It got me thinking about the way we react to certain stimuli in our daily lives. If you grew up with a lot of pain and hurt, then perhaps your level of tolerance would be higher to these things than someone else.
Alternatively, if you grew up in a completely insular environment and never failed at anything, then maybe your first failure (and we all WILL fail at some point in our lives) will come as a catastrophic blow to your worldview.
I’m not saying that people should grow up with hurt, or that it’s a good thing, but maybe having exposure and accepting it as a part of life raises your tolerance, and allows you to have a more balanced worldview.
A question I asked in my small group last week was, is there any point in trying to put so much effort into avoiding suffering/pain when it is inevitable?
And the practical upshot:
If we accept that there’s gonna be a bit of hurt and pain in our lives… then maybe we would be better equipped to get by with things that are more important.
Maybe we could roll with the punches, instead of running from the fight.