Gut Bacteria Could Predict Asthma In Kids
Written by: Joanne Beccarelli
Wheezing. Gasping for breath. Panic!
These are the things that most asthmatics experience and dread above all else. But when a child is the patient, these terrifying moments are felt by both the asthmatic and the parent who feels utterly helpless.
I have been that parent. The first and worst time was with my 18 month old son, propelling me to become his breathing and respiratory 1st responder, armed with a stethoscope, nebulizers and inhalers. Those personal experiences are why this new information is very exciting to share for those beginning the parenting journey.
Some Awesome News For Parents Of Asthmatics
In a recent study, researchers identified 4 types of gut bacteria in young children – faecalibacterium, lachnospira, veillonella and rothia – that can predict who will develop asthma and who won’t. Since the prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the 1980s and currently affects 10% of children in the United States and over 230 million people worldwide, this is very important news.
Testing stool samples of over 300 babies beginning at 3 months and monitoring their health for their first 5 years led to the new discovery. It was confirmed that the microbiome of the gut is important for predicting – and possibly treating – asthma for young children.
According to a senior author on the paper, microbiologist Brett Finlay of the University of British Columbia (UBC), “There are all these smoking guns to indicate that the microbiota may be involved [in asthma], but there were [previously] no experiments to prove it.”
What Does This Mean?
With a definitive link to gut health and the identification of the bacterial strains that affect the progression of asthma, this information suggests a few possible actions.
1. New potential to develop a probiotic treatment.
Most promising is that, in theory, a probiotic containing the needed bacterial strains could be developed to help correct low levels in infants, preventing or halting the onset of asthma.
The one caveat is that, according to the researchers, the first 100 days of life is the specific window of opportunity for these benefits to take hold, since the causal relationship between protection from the bacteria and potential asthma development then diminishes after that time.
Simply speaking, this means that the gut microbiome needs to be balanced early in life in order for this method to be most effective.
2. New reasons for natural childbirth, breastfeeding and fewer antibiotics.
Another important aspect of the research is the identification of all the ways babies get naturally exposed to the necessary bacteria and why that exposure is sometimes missing. A few common practices are immediately implicated when it is missing.
First, the increased trends for C-section births removes a baby’s first exposure to bacterias from the mother that would be passed on during a vaginal birth. In addition, mothers that opt to forgo breastfeeding lose another opportunity to share microbes that contribute to gut health.
Finally, use of antibiotics during pregnancy or after delivery could also kill off beneficial bacteria that might help the newborn by contributing to its developing immune system.
3. Early detection of risk for developing asthma.
The simplest benefit of this discovery is simply to provide early identification of children with higher risk of developing asthma. With development of a diagnostic test that provides the information about risk, doctors and parents can more closely monitor children.
New information that helps you understand some of the reasons behind changing health trends is always welcome, however, knowing what you can DO is that much better.
Parents-to-be have the best opportunity to make changes right now and should talk to their obstetricians about this study and actions you can take. Include in your discussion your concerns about antibiotics during pregnancy. In addition, discuss the potential for C-section deliveries and possible uses of a new technique called seeding, where birth-canal fluid is shared with a baby to provide some of the bacteria that would be provided in a vaginal delivery.
Also, breastfeed your newborn if possible to share your immunity with your baby. To learn more about breastfeeding and to get support where you live, contact La Leche League.
Finally, continue to talk with your obstetrician and pediatrician about this study and any further developments. This information and more could really make a difference for your child’s life as well as your own.
Science Translational Medicine
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Joanne Beccarelli is a holistic health coach, juicing junkie, writer, soon to be cookbook author and recovered emotional eater. Inspired by many great voices in the health-thru-food revolution, Joanne found her way out of hiding in shame (losing almost 100 lbs in the process) and stepped away from the corporate world. She now dedicates every day to helping others who are overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed, find awareness, fulfilment and better health.
Joanne has a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell/T. Colin Campbell Foundation, and became a Certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is also a member of American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP), and the International Association of Health Coaches (IAHC).
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