Health By Nature…Where Clean Meets Green!


Going With the Gut May Prevent Allergy, Asthma

 

Good Bacteria May Help a Child’s Immune System

By Neil Osterweil

WebMD Medical News

Reviewed by Dr. Tonja Wynn Hampton

April 5, 2001 — A new Finnish study

 

Researchers say they seem to have cut in half a baby’s risk of developing allergic conditions early in life by giving a beneficial bacteria to expectant mothers and their newborns who were predisposed to eczema, hay fever, and asthma.

“Our new insight might provide an opportunity to devise strategies against allergy, the pandemic that affects almost half the population in more-developed countries,” write Marko Kalliomäki, MD, and colleagues in the April 7 issue of the medical journal The Lancet.

The researchers recruited near-term pregnant women who had a family history of allergic diseases — such as asthma, hay fever, or atopic eczema (a type of reactive skin rash) — into a clinical trial in which they and their infants would receive either placebo capsules or capsules containing a potentially beneficial type of bacteria called Lactobacillus GG.

Lactobacilli normally are found in the healthy gut in humans but may be missing or present only in reduced numbers in children born in developed countries, where attention to strict hygiene and smaller family sizes mean that infants are less likely to be exposed to the bacteria once common in the environment.

Some researchers speculate that alarming increases in allergies and asthma over the last few decades may be due to an overactive immune system in the first months of life — a result of children not having enough “good” bacteria like lactobacilli to keep the immune system in check. Such germs prevent the immune system from going into alarm mode when it detects an otherwise harmless intruder, such as pollen, dust, or a specific food, such as peanuts.

“Why is allergy becoming more of a problem? Everyone knows this; the incidence of asthma has gone up, the incidence of atopic eczema has gone up, it’s becoming a huge problem. The prevailing theory is that we’re too clean,” says Sherwood Gorbach, MD, professor of community health and medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, who was co-discoverer of Lactobacillus GG (the “G”s stand for Gorbach and Goldin).

Researchers have been investigating whether giving a mixture of “good” bacteria, known as probiotics, would prevent overactivity of the immature immune system.

“There’s been a series of studies [the Finnish group has] published over the last five or six years showing that infants taking probiotics have decreased milk allergies and they have fewer skin complications,” notes Barry Goldin, PhD, professor of family medicine and community health at Tufts University School of Medicine, Gorbach’s colleague, and the other “G” in GG, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

In the current study, Kalliomäki and colleagues gave women placebo capsules or capsules containing Lactobacillus GG to take from two to four weeks before their anticipated delivery dates. After birth, they either took the capsules themselves and passed the bacteria to their infants through breast milk, or gave their infants the bacteria diluted in water. The capsules were given until the infants were 6 months old. Researchers then followed the children until the age of 2 years and determined which had developed allergic diseases The researchers found that 46 of the 132 children who were enrolled in the study had atopic eczema at age 2; six of these children had all the signs of asthma, and one had evidence of hay fever.

Of the 46 children, 15 had received Lactobacillus GG capsules, and 31 had received placebo. In other words, kids who were given the probiotics were only half as likely to have common allergic diseases as those who received the placebo.

“These figures are remarkable and, if confirmed in other studies and applicable to other allergic diseases, probiotics would represent an important therapeutic advance,” writes Simon H Murch, MD, PhD, from the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology at Royal Free and University College School of Medicine in London, in an editorial accompanying the Finnish study.

In an interview with WebMD, Murch notes, “most people in the field recognize that children today are getting very different infection exposures. I think most of the interest prior to this was in relation to infection exposures in an older age group. What this study suggests is that the very first exposure of the immune system may also be important.”

He cautions that more testing needs to be done and the safety of probiotics in infancy be confirmed before the idea of “allergy-proofing” infants with probiotics becomes routine.

 

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Tips For Optimal Digestive Health

digestive.jpgWhen working towards optimal health, the digestive system is part of the body that often gets overlooked.  Not only is a healthy digestive system important for comfort (who enjoys gas and bloating, after all?), but it also affects immunity and one’s overall health.

A fiber-rich diet is essential.  Whole grains, fruits & vegetables can deliver a healthy dose to encourage regularity.  A diet high in fiber also reduces the risks to some cancers, type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease.  The FDA recommends daily intake of 25g of fiber, but most Americans don’t even consume half of that amount.  A good fiber supplement can be very beneficial, and there are many different forms, like tablets derived from whole food sources, unflavored powder mix-ins  or crunchy toppings.  Look for a supplement that delivers both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Digestive enzymes can also alleviate digestion issues like gas and bloating.  Many store-bought digestive aids use animal-based enzymes.  Others utilize plant-based enzymes that facilitate digestion of all food groups, including foods less easily processed like dairy, beans, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli).  Folks who steer clear of a particular food group because of digestive issues may find relief by using such a dietary supplement, and can enjoy a wider variety of foods as a result.

Probiotics have become the buzzword in health and wellness lately.  Foods such as cheeses and yogurt now have varieties with higher content of this beneficial bacteria.  What the brands don’t want you to figure out is that the amounts contained in a single serving are often negligible and insignificant.  Two of the most beneficial bacteria that live and work in the colon are bifidus and acidophilus. A probiotic capsule contains  live flora, but if it is encapsulated in an inferior structure, it cannot be guaranteed to be delivered live to the intestine (which is the only way it will be effective).

Prebiotics work well in tandem with probiotics; they essentially *feed* this friendly bacteria, encouraging them to grow and multiply, creating an abundant and balanced population of intestinal microflora.

Despite good dietary habits, adequate water intake and an exercise regimen, one may experience irregularity or constipation from time to time.  Although there are many  drugstore aids available, there are also safe and effective herbal  aids.  A gentle, natural laxative supplement containing senna leaf can alleviate an irregular bowel.  Herbs such as peppermint and ginger can relieve an upset stomach, and can also soothe a stomach suffering from motion sickness, mild nausea and acid indigestion.  Some herbal stomach aids can also be crushed and made into a calming tea.

By eating a diet rich in good fiber, drinking lots of clean, pure water, getting significant exercise and supplementing where needed, one can maintain optimal digestive health, contributing to overall wellness.