An allergic threesome
People with allergies are more likely to also have eczema and hay fever (allergic rhinitis)--sometimes referred to as the allergic triad. Children are at higher risk for developing these conditions if one or both parents have allergies.
Gut health and allergies
About 80% of the immune system is located in the gut. Here, the body is exposed to different substances that "challenge" the immune system. It's thought that beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics) help prime the immune system to respond appropriately to foreign invaders and not to react to things that it shouldn't. Misdirected immune responses could show up as allergic conditions or as autoimmune disorders.
Earlier research by the authors of the new trial showed that pregnant women and babies up to two years old who supplemented with a probiotic decreased the child's risk of eczema at two and four years.
The new study looked at these same children at age six to see if the effect on eczema prevention persisted. The researchers also tested the children's sensitivity to common allergens and assessed the presence of asthma, wheeze, and runny nose.
Since different probiotics target different parts of the body, the study compared the effects two probiotic strains, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium animalis (subspecies lactis), with placebo.
The prevalence of eczema was significantly lower among children taking the Lactobacillus supplement compared with Bifidobacterium and placebo, and eczema severity improved significantly in the Lactobacillus group compared with placebo.
Allergic sensitization followed a similar pattern, with no change in the Bifidobacterium group and significant improvements in the Lactobacillus group compared with placebo.
- Lactobacillus seemed to confer protection against the development of inhalant allergies (such as dust mites, grass pollen, and animal dander) but had no effect on food allergies.
Neither probiotic had an effect on asthma, wheeze, or runny nose.
"A long-term effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus against atopic sensitization at six years suggests that this probiotic had immunomodulatory effects during the first two years of life which have persisted to the sixth year," concluded the researchers.
Stop allergies before they start
Try these tips to cut your child's risk of developing allergies:
Breast-feed your baby. Breast-feeding helps protect babies from many infections that the nursing mother has come into contact with, boosting baby's natural immune defenses. Several studies have also linked breast-feeding with protection from asthma, eczema, and food allergies.
Feed them fish. Babies who are given fish before nine months of age are 24% less likely to develop eczema than babies introduced to it later.
Give probiotics a try. Check with a practitioner who's knowledgeable about natural therapeutics for a specific recommendation.
(Clin Exp Allergy 2013;43:1048-57)