Web Zap*Germs Archive

May 25, 2004

Antibiotics Causing Asthma & Allergies? Eat More Probiotic-filled Yogurt, Fruit & Veggies!

Doesn't it seem like someone in every family is allergic to mold spores, or asthmatic, or both (that's us!)? Some fascinating research on mice by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School suggests antibiotics are messing with our immune systems and heightening allergic reactions in the lungs. The solution just may be: probiotic products (like Danactive or Bio-K Plus and that familiar duo, raw fruits & vegetables.

If confirmed in human studies, UM researcher Gary Huffnagle believes his research findings could help explain why chronic inflammatory diseases, like asthma and allergies, have been increasing rapidly over the last 40 years -- a time period that corresponds with widespread use of antibiotics.

It's possible, he thinks, that 1) a bad mixture of intestinal bacteria (likely triggered by taking antibiotics), plus 2) an unhealthy diet, combined with 3) a fresh inhalation of mold, pollen or other irritating spores, may be enough to make the body overly sensitive to these allergens and bring about asthma.

Here are comments by Hufnagle, printed in an Infection Today article:
"We know from laboratory experiments that dietary antioxidants called polyphenols, which are found in fruits and vegetables, can limit fungal growth and that a diet high in saturated fats and sugars slows the recovery of normal gut microflora," Huffnagle adds. "The Mediterranean diet is rich in sources of polyphenols, so it's intriguing that Mediterranean-diet countries have lower rates of allergies, asthma and other inflammatory diseases than Western-diet countries like the United States, Canada and England.

"If we can determine exactly how microflora in the GI tract affect the immune system, it may be possible one day to prevent or treat allergies and inflammatory diseases with diet changes or probiotics - dietary supplements of 'healthy' bacteria designed to restore the normal balance of microbes in the gut," Huffnagle adds. "In the medical community, probiotic therapy is becoming an area of increasing interest."

Until then, Huffnagle emphasizes that if you take a typical antibiotic regimen (e.g., 10 or more days), it's especially important to maintain a healthy low-sugar diet, with lots of raw fruits and vegetables. This will help restore the normal mix of microflora within the intestinal tract.


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