Intestinal Bacteria and Allergies in Small Children

This study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2001;108(4):516-20), looked at infants and small children from two European countries, Sweden and Estonia, analyzing their stools and keeping a record of the bacteria populating their intestinal tracts.

Over a period of time, researchers tracked those children in the group who developed allergies and concluded that the onset of allergies in children was preceded by a prevalence of unhealthy bacteria. In contrast, the children who did not develop allergies had a greater concentration of healthy bacterial species populating their intestinal tracts.

Our intestines are host to a wide variety of bacteria, estimated to number in the trillions. Some of these bacterial species are ‘healthy’ in that they help us digest food, assimilate nutrients and they even produce some of the vitamins we need. Other ‘unhealthy’ bacteria can interfere with proper digestive function and lead to a breakdown of the intestinal lining and a condition sometimes defined as ‘leaky gut’. This can have far-reaching effects on the immune system and overall health.

Babies receive their first exposure to bacteria that will populate their intestines through motherĂ­s milk. Other sources include yogurt and other fermented foods. Unhealthy bacteria sometimes become entrenched as a result of a diet that is high in sugar and processed foods, or as a result of repeated or long-term antibiotics.

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