Hmmm. It seems washing dirty dishes by hand may curb food allergies in children.
The finding, from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies, published in the journal Pediatrics, studied 1,029 Swedish children ages 7 and 8.
The study asked about asthma, eczema, and rhinoconjunctivitis.
Results indicate hand-washing dishes directly correlates to a reduced risk of allergic disease development. But wait, there’s more. There was a significant risk reduction in a dose-response pattern if the children were also served fermented food and if the family bought food directly from farms.
The research addresses the so-called “hygiene hypothesis” .
Scientists from the study said: “If your environment is very hygienic, too hygienic where there is very little bacteria that naturally would have been there [because you got rid of it], that then you become predisposed to having food allergies or other types of allergies.”
The thought is that while hand-washing dishes wouldn’t produce nearly as bacteria-free results as would using the dishwasher, being exposed to those natural bacteria would prevent a predisposition to certain allergies.
By studying the hygiene hypothesis, scientists in the study are observing how bacteria in a person’s gut changes over time – and its relationship to food allergies also changes. It’s imperative for families to consider the threshold they’d cross to keep a strictly hygienic home.
For instance, frequently using antibacterial soap could potentially spur a child’s allergies, since natural bacteria are being eliminated.
The balance is different for each family. There is evidence this study brings up that hand washing is helpful, but if you’re not spending as much time with the kids, is that really what you want to do when we don’t know for sure that that is going to make them avoid food allergies?
As the study results concluded, “In families who use hand dishwashing, allergic diseases in children are less common than in children from families who use machine dishwashing. We speculate that a less-efficient dishwashing method may induce tolerance via increased microbial exposure.”