I recently found myself walking through an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was Called “The Secret World Inside You.” It was a fascinating and eye opening approach to inform the general public on the Microbiome.
It was in depth. They presented multiple studies that uncovered the importance of the gut flora and how it effects us. One specific point and body of research caught my eye.
They brushed on the idea of allergies being influenced by the microbiome. That common allergies to things like mold, pollen, nuts, etc. were majorly influenced by our gut biodiversity.
Allergies On The Rise?
That’s right, common allergies are on the rise in the Western World (1). Each generation is lending itself to more and more severe allergies. Some people are so allergic to random things that they have to lock themselves up in an “allergy free” zone. It’s become so bad that some are even allergic to their spouses or significant others.
What’s happening here? How can we be getting more allergic to things? Is it something in our genetic code?
Well, there is some solid correlative evidence that would point us back to the gut. Let’s talk about some of the influencing factors.
The Gut Flora
Most of our gut flora stabilizes and reaches its zenith by the age of 3 (2). At that point your gut flora has been established. At this age your immune system has been dramatically impacted by your gut flora.
What I mean by that is your gut flora influences your immune system. Research has found that your gut flora “trains” your immune system (1). The bacteria within your gut at an early age will teach your white blood cells and immune system in general as to what is good and what is bad.
Over these first three years of life your immune system has been greatly influenced to attack what it deems as evil. Often times, if your gut flora are poor the bodies defenses are not trained properly. Because of this you attack harmless food particles or pollen that introduce themselves (2).
Factors That Influence Gut Flora
Sadly, there are major factors that influence gut flora in those first three years of life. In several recent studies evidence was found that shows Ceasarian birth causes major allergies to things like milk and eggs (2).
As much as C-section can be a life saving procedure it is often done unnecessarily in our current society. The major issue with C-Section birth is that the child doesn’t pass through the mother’s birth canal.
The birth canal is the babies first introduction to bacteria. Before that point, in the womb, the child is in a completely sterile environment. After the child exits the womb the mother’s birth canal supplies the child with the majority of their initial bacteria (2).
After that point, other factors include, the mother’s microbial composition, breastfeeding, perinatal exposure, host genetics, gestational age, and use of antibiotics within the first few years of life.
Allergies Effected By the Microbiome
Science is uncovering some pretty crazy ways that the gut flora effects the immune systems attack on foreign particles in your body. Some of the major allergies are absolutely bizarre.
One of the allergy symptoms that I thought was most profound included Asthma. There was a study done in 2011 that found a correlation with an increase in the risk of Asthma and C.diff colonization when a baby was born through C-section (3).
Another study in Canada revealed that a low diversity of gut flora had a direct impact on the prevalence of food allergies in children (4). There was a direct correlation between low gut flora diversity and a child having food allergies.
You can see that these studies are making direct connections. We should be too. When having a child or raising a child we must do everything in our power to harbor good gut bacteria.
After that point, we need to, as adults, cultivate the best gut bacteria that we can. Our health desperately depends on it.
What is one thing you’re doing to improve the health of your gut flora? Write it down in the comments below.