Antibiotics and Asthma-Allergies

This brief newsletter is a follow-up to our November edition in which we discussed young children and middle ear infections (otitis media).

Chiropractors have been saying for years that the overuse of antibiotics is damaging to a child’s developing immune system, and a recent study has found exactly that. The study, which was published in the January edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that children who underwent one course of antibiotics prior to age 6 months had a 40% greater chance of developing childhood asthma and allergies. If they underwent two courses of antibiotics, then they had a 70% greater chance of developing childhood asthma and allergies. I reference this study because the first line of treatment in allopathic medicine for otitis media is antibiotics. This study also included children whose parents had no history of asthma so as to further remove the possibility of genetic predisposition. Those children without a family history of asthma were actually found to have a higher incidence of asthma after exposure to antibiotics than other groups. The authors found that “the adverse effect of antibiotics on asthma risk was particularly strong in children with no parental history of asthma, which should encourage physicians to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use in low-risk children with no genetic predisposition to asthma.”ii

The authors attribute these effects to the hygiene hypothesis, which states, “a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of the immune system.”[i] In shorter words, children must have exposure to normal environmental organisms in order to properly develop the immune system, which is something holistic practitioners have been saying for years. Literally, children that play in the dirt are healthier than those that do not.

The author’s statement is as follows:

“One important mechanism to support the hygiene hypothesis is that microbial exposure, particularly in the intestinal tract, is necessary for postnatal transition to a balanced immune response in healthy children.”
[ii]

The researchers hypothesized that exposure to broad-based antibiotics (i.e. penicillin) had a higher associated incidence of childhood asthma and allergies than narrow-spectrum antibiotics due to greater destruction of normal flora (good bacteria). Broad spectrum antibiotic use destroys the normal gut flora, which is essential to properly develop the immune system.

In a basic explanation of the model, children older than 2-3 months, but younger than 6 months, have an immune system that is very immature and easily stimulated. There is an abundance of T-helper 2 cells whose main job is to stimulate the production of antibodies. Exposure to intestinal flora stimulates immune system maturation away from the T-helper 2 dominated system to a more balanced system with mature T-helper 1 cells (think macrophages, white blood cells that destroy pathogenic bacteria). Antibiotics interfere with this maturation process by removing one of its key triggers.

Interestingly enough, vaccinations only work on the T-helper 2 system, which further delays immune system maturation by promoting the wrong pathways. A connection between vaccines and allergies? Now there’s a study I’d like to see.

In closing, the body is an innate, self-healing organism. There is no drug, no cream, no salve, no tonic, no lotion or potion that can heal the body. Only a body that has its innate intelligence optimally expressed can heal at its fullest. Try putting Neosporin on a steak you cut in half, slapping a band-aid on it and seeing if it heals back together. Trust me, it won’t. Chiropractic works to find the cause of disease and correcting that cause so that your body functions optimally and heals itself.

You can find the link to the study I reference above at the end of this newsletter.

If you’d like more information, please come in for a consultation. My door is always open.

Yours in health and wellness,

Dr. Dan Myerowitz
Myerowitz Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic
291 Main Rd
Holden, ME 04429

[i] Strachan DP (August 2000). “Family size, infection and atopy: the first decade of the “hygiene hypothesis””. Thorax 55 Suppl 1: S2–10. doi:10.1136/thorax.55.suppl_1.S2. PMID 10943631. PMC 1765943

[ii] Risnes, Belanger, Bracken, Risnes, and Murk. Antibiotic Exposure by 6 Months and Asthma and Allergy at 6 Years: Findings in a Cohort of 1,401 US Children. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/12/28/aje.kwq400.full.pdf+html

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