The Link Between Gut Bacteria and Children Developing Allergies

The Link Between Gut Bacteria and Children Developing Allergies

The probability that a child will develop an allergy is being proven to be largely related to their microbiome – the bugs that live on us and in us. Research from the University of California, San Francisco shows that if an infant’s beneficial microbes, more commonly understood as ‘gut flora’, are disturbed in the first few weeks of their life, they have a higher chance of developing allergies and asthma .

According to Professor Robin Green, Head of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Pretoria and speaker at the recent Cipla SA Respiratory Symposium, while it might be disturbing to think about it, we as humans have tiny microscopic bugs known as the microbiome in and all over us, including our skin, gut and airways. “We have at least ten times more bugs than human cells.

There is a particular type of ‘healthy microbiome’ or ‘healthy bacteria’ that a new born baby will get from their mother when born naturally via the vagina, which unfortunately cannot be passed onto the infant when born via caesarean section, he explains. “This microbiome is also supported via breast milk during breastfeeding. This is why it is incredibly beneficial for babies to be born vaginally and be breastfed, whenever possible, bearing in mind there are emergency situations where the baby has to be delivered via caesarean.

When the baby has the right type of microbiome in their intestines, they are better protected against developing allergies and other chronic disorders, such as asthma, he says. “This healthy microbiome interacts with the immune system and help to switch off inflammation in the body.

If an infant does not have a high prevalence of the healthy microbiome and they are then exposed to bad bugs via the airways, they have a higher chance of developing chronic consequences such as asthma, later on in life, he says.

These ‘healthy microbiomes’ are also produced and sold as probiotics, he says. “These are normal bugs that should be living in all of us, but sometimes there is a shortage of these due to various factors, such as not having been born vaginally, not being breastfed or being given antibiotics in the first few months of our lives. As a result, there is a lot of research and interest in probiotic supplements for preventing allergic conditions.