The Surprising Link Between Babies and Asthma

newborn baby
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A new study has found an interesting link between babies and asthma

With asthma rates on the rise in the United States, many parents, doctors, and researchers alike are troubled by what's actually causing the disorder in so many children. Currently, a whopping 6.8 million children in the United States have asthma, which is almost 10 percent of all children. That's a crazy high number. 

The study

The study noted that it's long been understood that bacteria in the gut of animals later impacted their risk of developing asthma, but researchers weren't sure if that same link also applied to the human animal.

Turns out, it totally does. 

A new study by Science Translational Medicine found that infants who at risk of asthma actually have "transient gut microbial dysbiosis" during the first 100 days of life.

And what the heck is transient gut microbial dysbiosis, you ask? 

An excellent question. From what I can deduce,  transient gut microbial dysbiosis is basically a relationship between the bacteria in your gut when the levels of "good" bacteria aren't high enough. So, in this case, the levels of good bacteria are low enough in these babies that somehow links to their increased risk of developing asthma. So the babies who were at risk for asthma had lower levels of certain bacteria than the other babies. 

The link between babies' bacteria and asthma

According to the study's co-author, although researchers are already aware that there is a link between gut bacteria and asthma, the specific point of this study was to pinpoint what bacterium we are talking about here and how important it is to expose newborns to the right bacteria within the first 100 days of their lives.

 

The four strains of bacteria that were found to be missing from babies who later developed asthma were:

  •  Faecalibacterium
  • Lachnospira
  • Veillonella
  • Rothia (Flvr)

Interestingly enough, when first looking at the link between bacteria and asthma, scientist studied mice and found that giving certain types of bacteria to mice that were previously "germ-free" actually reduced inflammation in their airways, showing that certain types of bacteria could help asthma sufferers.

 

Bacteria is friend and foe

I think it's so fascinating how much our guts--and more specifically, the bacteria in our guts--affects our health. The bacteria that literally outnumber our amount of "human" cells by are what make us us, from our risk of developing asthma to even our moods. One study found that everything about a mother's experience during pregnancy, from antibiotics she takes during pregnancy to if she has a C-section or vaginal birth, actually affects how her baby's gut bacteria is developed from in-utero, birth, and for life. Bacteria is more important than any of us realize and new studies have suggested that gut bacteria could actually be responsible for everything from depression to other serious mental health disorders. 

So what can we take from this study?

Basically, it's a tool to further assess your baby's risk of asthma. If asthma runs in your family, it may be helpful to speak to your care provider about starting you or your newborn on probiotics and by doing everything you can to help start your baby's gut bacteria off right, such as initiating immediate breast-feeding, aiming for a vaginal birth, or possibly even "seeding" your baby's mouth with vaginal bacteria if you have to have a C-section.

 

Sources:

Arrieta, Marie-Claire et al. (2015, September). "Early infancy microbial and metabolic alterations affect risk of childhood asthma." Science Translational Medicine. Accessed October 3, 2015: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/7/307/307ra152. 

Azad, M. (2015). "Impact of maternal intrapartum antibiotics, method of birth and breastfeeding on gut microbiota during the first year of life: a prospective cohort study." An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology." Accessed October 3, 2015: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1471-0528.13601/abstract?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=. 

CDC FastFacts: Asthma. (2015). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed October 3, 2015: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/asthma.htm. 

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