RESEARCH discovers exposure to a wide variety of natural bacteria has been found to help children develop a healthy immune system.
Researchers say we can prevent childhood allergies and asthma by altering the stomach bacteria in their first few months of life.
More exposure to a wide variety of natural bacteria has been found to help children develop a healthy immune system.
These include being breastfed, growing up around dogs, farm animals and being born naturally, as opposed to by caesarean section. Which was recently reported to lead to obesity.
But as our children have had less exposure to the natural world, allergies and asthma have become extremely common, the experts said, reports Daily Mail.
Asthma and allergies are triggered by having a ‘hyperactive’ immune system that overreacts to the presence of any foreign body.
The system erupts in an inflammatory response at the slightest presence of an allergen.
But having been exposed to certain bacteria early in life ensures the immune system does not go haywire in the presence of allergens such as nuts, pet hair or pollen.
Healthier babies are born with more of three particular types of common bacteria – while those likely to go on to develop allergies and asthma have lower levels of these.
By creating cocktails of friendly bacteria in children at risk that mimic those with healthy mixtures these ailments could be stopped in their tracks, they said.
Allergies and asthma are usually only noticed after the age of four – raising the possibility that the conditions could be stopped before they develop.
The scientists, publishing in Nature Medicine, found that particular patterns of germs found in the stomachs of one month old infants meant they had three times higher risk of developing common allergic reactions by 24 months and asthma by four.
Dr Susan Lynch, a professor of medicine at University of California at San Francisco said she believes the discovery represents an opportunity to develop new treatments that could stave off allergies and asthma before they become established.
Dr Lynch said: ‘If we are to prevent disease development, we need to intervene early.
‘Currently, children are typically six or seven years old when they are diagnosed with asthma, which has no cure and has to be managed through medication.
‘But if the genesis of the disease is visible as a disruption of gut microbiota in the very earliest stages of postnatal life, it raises an exciting question: could we re-engineer the community of microbes in at-risk infants to prevent allergic asthma from developing?’.
She added: ‘Humans have co-evolved with microbes and as a result we rely on their genomes for certain critical functions. We believe this is particularly true during the earliest stages of human development.
‘But lifestyles have changed dramatically over the past several decades: We’ve significantly reduced our exposure to these environmental microbes our bodies rely on. Having a dog track the external environment into the home may be just one way to improve the breadth of microbes babies are exposed to in very early life.’
Children more likely to develop asthma and allergies produced a certain kind of antibody, called IgE which is known to trigger inflammation – which is triggered by the presence of an allergen.
Senior co-author Christine Cole Johnson, chair of public health sciences, said: ‘We have been working for over a decade, trying to figure out why some children get asthma and allergies and some don’t. said co-senior author Christine Cole Johnson, PhD, MPH, who is chair of public health sciences in the Henry Ford Health System.
‘It seems that the microbial communities within the body could be the keystone to understanding this and a number of different immune diseases.’
To study the germs in babies’ guts, the researchers studied stool samples of infants beginning in 2003, and kept them frozen for years.
Dr Johnson said: ‘We went back to the freezers and pulled out the stool samples and shipped them over to UCSF, where the Lynch lab was able to use new genetic technology to examine them for the entire microbial community that had been there in these infants.
‘Technology has really changed – you couldn’t have done that 10 years ago.’
Dr Homer Boushey, a co-author, said: ‘Asthma has doubled in prevalence in modern “westernized” societies about every 20 years for the past 60 or 70 years, so an effective strategy for prevention is becoming an urgent need for public health.
‘By focusing on the differences in microbial functions – in their metabolic products and their effects on immune function – this kind of study helps define the pathway we’ll need to follow to prevent this disease.’
A few easy-to-find foods, to help increase the number of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract.
- Aromatic vegetables including onions, leeks and celery
- Green vegetables (Broccoli, Kale, cabbage, and cauliflower)
- Wheat bran, rye-based breads, barley and whole oats
- Soy beans
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