Asthma Epidemic Explained

Asthma – An Epidemic Explained

So much has been written in scientific journals recently about how the loss of microbes in the gut, especially earlier in life, affects the immune system. For example, researcher Marsha Wills-Karp, at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, recently revealed how early life exposure to antibiotics is associated with a substantial increased risk for the development of asthma.

Asthma has become an epidemic in America, affecting 1 in 12 Americans and totaling around $60 billion in direct medical costs, as well as lost work and school days, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

When we are exposed to antibiotics, which may well be a necessary medical treatment, the intervention isn’t really a targeted assault on a particular offending organism. Rather, these days doctors prescribe “broad spectrum” antibiotics that are effective in wiping out a vast array of organisms, well beyond the offending agent, and this may include some of the good guys as well.

One of the important functions of the “good bacteria,” often called the probiotic organisms, is to naturally limit the overgrowth of potentially damaging bacterial species. Kill off the good guys, and the bad guys can move in. This is what we see, for instance, with clostridium difficile diarrhea. An antibiotic associated illness that kills around 30,000 Americans each year.

Another well-described function of various helpful bacteria is to modulate the immune system. Knock down their numbers and the immune system gets wonky – much as we see in asthma.

In fact, it is this mechanism that may explain a new report in the journal Science Translational Medicine in which researchers found that low or undetectable levels of four types of bacteria in children at 3 months closely predicted who would likely develop asthma, and even skin allergies, by the time they reached their first birthday. Likely the names of these organisms, Lachnospira, Veillonella, Faecalibacterium and Rothia,  won’t be familiar to most of you, but you may know that low levels of Faecalibacterium have been correlated with inflammatory bowel disease.

The study confirms how important it is to protect the gut bacteria early in life. As Dr. Stuart Turvey, co-author of the report stated:

What I think is important and not so surprising to pediatricians was how important the very early life is… and our study emphasizes that in that first 100 days the structure of the gut microbiome seems to be very important in influencing the immune responses that cause or protect us from asthma.

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  • MadWorld
  • Mary

    I suspect I was on antibiotics as a youngster. I know I had my tonsils out pretty young-before age 7 I know. I also suspect most drugs on the market will kill off gut bacteria besides antibiotics.
    I know metformin depletes B12. That might be related to bacteria die off.

  • Shend

    I have seen many children who were given topical steroids end up with Asthma within 6 months or so. Parents should never use them on their child.

  • Bernie

    Is it possible to reverse asthma by strengthening the microbiome?

    • maria

      My asthma – which appeared to have induced by swimming in a chlorinated pool – cleared up when I went on a paleo diet. I was never exposed to antibiotics when I was young, but was in middle age when my health became poor. My health has become good again on the paleo diet.

    • M Lebow, PhD

      in theory it should but also should eat a well-balanced diet, green leafy b-vitamin veggies and make sure to add the raw garlic. Processed foods mess up the microbiome too.

  • Jennifer Walsey

    This is so true! Happened to my son. I was a first time mom, with a new doctor who loaded him with antibiotics early on. Even for a cold. He was comstany on the nebulizer! He got a whole lot of other symptoms too. Depression, OCD, anxiety, joint pain, obesity, skin rashes, nausea, psychotic behavior. Took years to find a doctor who could help! 2 years ago he stopped eating grain, dairy, sugar, processed foods and he is completely better! I mean all symptoms gone. I never would have believed it. I am on a mission to let other parents know the power of food. No Child or family should have to suffer as he did.

  • John Brailsford

    Stay off the antibiotics unless specifically needed for particular disease. I put on over 60lbs following a back operation where I automatically received antibiotics. The result was high blood pressure and potential heart problems. All since rectified with fasting, pro and prebiotics.

    • David Perlmutter

      Good point John. Antibiotics play a very important role when they are required, but our frequent overuse of this valuable health tool has troubling side effects.

    • John Brailsford

      I just started putting on weight. Same lifestyle, same diet. I

  • Jessica Lynn

    Dr. Perlmutter, I was wondering what your thoughts are on Candida as a disease/disorder. I am new to this life style and loving it. I got through the carb withdrawal and am now full of energy, inspiration, clarity and what I feel is even stronger metal acumenity. I feel like a changed person. I have always struggled with yeast infections etc which have now subsided. I have heard that though this method of eating my eczema/ mild psoriasis might clear up. What are you overall thoughts on Candida in general, and do you think following your plan will help my overall health, skin, etc. thanks so much. You’re a genius!
    Jessica Lynn

  • Michael Simmons

    I recently found out I have asthma and now I have pneumonia and I’m taking antibiotics is there a natural cure for this? After I get through of my antibodies and allow my lungs to rest I have to go for a lung function tests.