You may have noticed, that these days, more and more children are presenting with severe food allergies, than let’s say 30-50 years ago. Why do we think that is? Scientists have looked at several possible culprits, such as how our food is full of preservatives and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), or whether or not children were formula-fed or breast-fed at infancy.
A new study conducted by the University of Chicago may shine some light on this modern-day enigma of rapidly increasing food allergies in the US. Did you know that food allergy incidence is estimated to have increased by a whopping 50% between 1997 and 2007? That’s HUGE!
The study scientists decided to focus on the gut, and what may have changed in recent years, as far as the bacteria that should naturally and normally live in our intestines and stomach. Here is an excerpt of the study summary, as written by Rick Paulas of KCET (full link and credits: click here)
A very quick summary of the study: Scientists took a group of mice with peanut allergies and gave them the gut bacteria Clostridia, a bacteria found commonly in humans. After administering it, they found that the mice no longer had food allergies. Hooray!
To understand more about this study, I called up the lead researcher, immunologist Dr. Cathryn Nagler. She’s spent the past decade studying how our bodies develop food allergies, including trying to analyze why we’re able to eat anything at all.
“All the food that comes into your body is a potentially foreign material,” says Nagler. “I’ve been looking at why we’re not allergic to all of the foods we eat.”
In an attempt to further probe that question, Nagler and her colleagues authored a 2004 study that concluded the removal of gut bacteria in mice led to the development of food allergies. (They removed the bacteria by administering antibiotics, something to keep in mind for later.) With that conclusion out of the way, they began working on reversing the process by re-introducing bacteria. After a few tries, they found one that worked: Clostridia.
“When I say Clostridia, I’m talking about a big class of bacteria,” says Nadler. “It may include hundreds, maybe thousands of members. There’s so much we don’t know about the gut. It’s not like I can say I’d like to test X-Y-Z. You only test what you can isolate. We were lucky because we were able to isolate the Clostridia’s unique property of forming spores.”
Once introduced to the mice, the Clostridia acts as a barrier to keep the allergens in peanut proteins from entering their bloodstream. The allergens are still there, but they’re not able to produce the allergic reaction. Hence: No more food allergies. So, how long until this result provides benefits for humans?
“There’s much, much, much more work to be done,” says Nagler. “Next, we want to look at children with food allergies. And then it has to be developed in a safe drug format, and that’s going to take some time.”
But one thing we don’t have to wait for is what this study suggests about the possible culprit behind food allergies: Our antibiotics-happy culture.
“We don’t want to say this is a cause and effect relationship, but we do want to raise the concern,” says Nagler. “An infectious disease specialist made the point that most kids in the U.S. receive two or three courses of antibiotics in infancy. Most of the treatments they receive are for viral infections, meaning, they’re getting a treatment that serves no purpose.”
What they’re getting instead is the alteration and elimination of the bacteria that may keep allergens at bay. And that’s just one of the problems that are associated with the overuse of antibiotics.
“There’s a lot of reasons to cut back,” says Nagler. “Not only food allergies, but so-called Diseases of Western Lifestyle seem to be increasing with the increasing use of antibiotics. There’s also antibiotic resistance. It’s not controversial to say that we need to be more judicious in our use of antibiotics.”
Many of us who incorporate usage of essential oils in our daily life have come to the realization that we, as a society and individually, are totally over-medicated and not living a life of wellness. Antibiotics, for example, are over-prescribed and over-used, and as a result of course, our bodies are becoming more and more immune to these drugs. We are becoming resistant to very powerful anitbiotic medications, and the drugs just keep getting stronger to keep up. Another side-effect of antibiotics is that they also get rid of the “GOOD BACTERIA” in your gut, which is of course not desirable.
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*Disclaimer: The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
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