Exposure To Antibiotics, Asthma & Your Immune System

Asthma and Antibiotics

In this newsletter Jon looks at a study which findings believed to be the first of their kind in the United States that found a link between antibiotics, allergies and asthma in children.

Antibiotics and Asthma Study

A new study presented in Vienna on October 1st, shows a definite link between antibiotics and asthma.

According to the study conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, children who receive antibiotics within their first six months of birth increase their risk of developing allergies to pets, ragweed, grass and dust mites and asthma by the age of 7. Interestingly enough, the study showed that these same children are less susceptible to these effects if they live with at least two pets, namely dogs or cats, in the first year.

For the Henry Ford study, researchers followed 448 children from birth to seven years. The children were evenly divided by gender.

Of the 448 children, 49 percent had received antibiotics in the first six months of life. The most common antibiotic category prescribed was penicillin.

Among the findings:

  • By age 7, children given at least one antibiotic in the first six months were 1.5 times more likely to develop allergies than those who did not receive antibiotics. They were 2.5 times more likely to develop asthma.
  • By age 7, children given at least one antibiotic in the first six months and who lived with fewer than two pets were 1.7 times more likely to develop allergies, and three times more likely to develop asthma.
  • By age 7, children given at least one antibiotic in the first six months and whose mother had a history of allergies were nearly twice as likely to develop allergies.
  • By age 7, children given at least one antibiotic in the first six months and who were breast-fed for more than four months were three times more likely to develop allergies. However, breast-feeding did not influence the risk between antibiotics and asthma.
  • Researchers also say breast-feeding and a mother’s history of allergies add to the risks of allergy for a child taking antibiotics.

The study’s findings are believed to be the first of their kind in the United States that found a link between antibiotics, allergies and asthma in children.

Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and senior research epidemiologist for Henry Ford’s Department of Biostatistics & Research Epidemiology, said, “I’m not suggesting children shouldn’t receive antibiotics, but I believe we need to be more prudent in prescribing them for children at such an early age. In the past, many of them were prescribed unnecessarily, especially for viral infections like colds and the flu when they would have no effect anyway.”

Dr. Johnson theorizes that the use of antibiotics may affect the gastrointestinal tract and alter the development of a child’s immune system.

The increasing use of antibiotics in children from 1977 to the early 1990s has led to what federal health officials call a public health crisis in antibiotic resistance. A national campaign commissioned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sought to promote a more judicious approach for prescribing antibiotics for children.

What Does it Mean?

How wonderful, the medical community (at least some in the community) now feels that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics may not be especially wise and that there may be significant health consequences? There are so many one-liners that come to mind at this point, but I’ll be good and hold my tongue.

That said, let’s look at the key concepts contained in the study.

  • Antibiotics
  • Exposure to “germs” and allergens
  • Breast feeding

Antibiotics

According to the study, children receiving antibiotics in their first six months were up to 3 times more likely to develop asthma. Dr. Johnson theorizes that use of antibiotics may affect the gastrointestinal tract and alter the development of a child’s immune system. Dr. Johnson, and any parent concerned about this issue would be well advised to read Chapter 4 of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors. Beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract are responsible for up to 40% of your immune function; antibiotics destroy virtually all of them – allowing them to be replaced with harmful bacteria. This is called dysbiosis and is a key factor in a number of illnesses, including asthma.

Exposure to germs and allergens

A second concept expressed in this study is that the overuse of antibiotics and disinfectants to prevent exposure to germs actually weakens the immune system. Turning to Chapter 14 of “Miracle Doctors,” we see that this is not theory, but fact. The B-Cells in your immune system are trained to recognize and remember invaders so that defenses can be mounted the next time the invader appears. But if your B-Cells never get exposed to an invader early in life, they are totally unprepared when that invader appears later in life. The bottom line is that exposure to germs is like calisthenics for the immune system. If you live in a sterile environment as an infant, you will have a flabby immune system as you grow up.

Breast Feeding

Now this was very interesting. The study indicated that the combination of exposure to antibiotics combined with breast feeding produced the highest risk for asthma. What’s going on here? Before jumping to conclusions, it would be worth considering:

  • One of the primary benefits of breast feeding is that it builds up beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. But if you are receiving antibiotics at the same time, you are destroying the primary benefit that you are receiving from the breast milk.
  • Mothers who seek antibiotics for their infants are more likely to be eating foods (wheat, corn, dairy, etc.) that are likely to cause allergic responses in their bodies — and in their infants whom they are breastfeeding.
  • The simple fact is that breast feeding without antibiotics does not seem to raise the risk of developing asthma, and provides a range of other benefits — for both child and mother. Breast feeding is still the feeding method of choice

Not in the Study

Three other items not contained in the study, but that definitely relate to the development and reversal of asthma.

  • A strong correlation has been demonstrated between asthma and dehydration. Oftentimes, just getting the child to drink enough water on a daily basis can diminish, or even eliminate, all signs of asthma.
  • Eliminating high allergen foods such as wheat, corn, and dairy from the child’s diet can likewise eliminate all signs of asthma
  • And finally, using digestive enzymes with meals and proteolytic enzymes between meals can eliminate circulating immune complexes (see Chapter 5 of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, which also can eliminate all signs of asthma.

Actually, the use of digestive enzymes and proteolytic enzymes can play a major role in preventing and reversing a number of major illnesses. They are so important to good health that we will devote a series of articles to them in the near future.

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