What’s up with everyone having allergies these days? Up to 50 million Americans, including forty percent of children, have some type of allergy. Allergies account for the loss of an estimated 2 million school days per year and over 4 million missed workdays.
I talked with Dr. Bill Miller this week about allergies and action steps parents can take to help their kids be better equipped to fight off allergies.
He says, one of the reasons we are seeing more allergies today is because we are separating ourselves from vital microbes in the environment. Kids are in school all day and then inside doing homework and watching TV in the afternoon. We douse them with hand sanitizer and sterilize binkies when they fall on the floor – don’t! We need to break these habits and get kids outside! Expose them to nature and dirt.
Many of our behaviors are rote habits with no scientific backing for example, keeping sterile environments – it’s time to reevaluate what we are doing and why.
Dr. Miller says, this information on our relationship with microbes is relatively new. Microbes and the human body are molded together in ways that are astonishing and have been validated scientifically. It is an essential partnership and one that should not be ignored.
The key is to expose babies, kids and adults to these vital bugs at the proper developmental stages. This starts in the womb and applies to every stage of our lives. If we do not get the proper immune stimulation, at the proper time, then our bodies are at an imbalance and we do not react to allergens in the way that humans have previously.
What can we do?
Get dirty! Don’t go overboard with hand sanitizers and being clean. We are not getting fewer microbes this way, we are getting different ones. Roll in the dirt, play with friends, make mud-pies, run barefoot. Don’t wash toys before they are shared (unless a child has a cold). We have made up the idea that everything needs to be sterile and that is just pain useless. (In fact, hand sanitizer has even been scientifically proven to help SPREAD norovirus.)
Get a pet! Roll around with a pet! Have him lick your face and slobber all over you. Share “germs.” Also interesting to note, there is a lower incidence of allergy in households with multiple siblings and birth order plays a role too. We live so differently than our ancestors with single children in single child bedrooms. All of these things play a factor.
Antibiotics: First of all, Dr. Miller says antibiotics are wonder drugs but we have used these drugs to excess. Practicing physicians are under stress to satisfy patients which can mean prescribing antibiotics. Overusing antibiotics is harmful and if they are not necessary then they should not be used. The problem is these are broad spectrum antibiotics. This means if you have strep, you take a broad spectrum antibiotic that will kill that strep pathogen however it will kill other microbial players too putting our microbiome at a deficit and out of balance. Keep them to appropriate minimum.
There have been studies that show if children under the age of two are given five courses or more of antibiotics, they have a higher incidence of allergy and asthma.
We need to use antibiotics in a smarter way and we need to get them out of our food system. Physicians need to resist over prescribing them and patients need to accept that they don’t need an antibiotic if doctors say they don’t. Only use when necessary.
Probiotics and fermented foods: There is some evidence that shows the use of probiotics can improve the symptoms of allergy. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
Dr Bill Miller has been a physician in academic and private practice for over 30 years. He is the author of The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome. He currently serves as a scientific advisor to OmiBiome Therapeutics, a pioneering company in discovering and developing solutions to problems in human fertility and health through management of the human microbiome.
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Twitter feed @billmillermd