According to the CDC, 1 in 12 children in America suffers from asthma. That translates to approximately 6 million children. To be clear, asthma is a serious problem not only because asthmatic attacks can be life-threatening, but in the long-term, asthma has been associated with permanent lung damage.
Treatment of asthma in children typically involves inhalers of one sort or another. There are inhaled steroid medications that help to prevent asthma attacks, and so-called “rescue inhalers” that are utilized when the quick relief of symptoms is required.
But, as so often is the focus of my blogs, I think it’s important to first ask questions related to what may be causing a particular problem, in this case asthma, as opposed to simply focusing on treatments. In other words, how might the idea of preventive medicine factor into this discussion?
Asthma is the world’s most common respiratory disorder, and, studies have found, is often associated with increased rates of mortality and decreased quality of life. Thus, it’s obvious that keeping asthma at bay is in our collective best interests. Continue reading
As we all know, allergic diseases, particularly in childhood, are becoming more and more common. It’s not just that we are becoming more aware of allergic diseases, think of the frequent announcements on airplanes about peanut allergies, or food allergy questions by the waiter at dinner. No, the reality of the situation is that, by and large, allergies are simply far more common than they used to be.
So, why is this happening? Let’s take a step back and recognize that the intestines, oddly enough, actually play an important role in determining our immune responsiveness. Specifically, we now understand that the gut lining itself actually plays an important role in regulating immune function. Permeability, or leakiness, of the gut lining is associated with alteration in immune function as well as changes to the set point of inflammation. Continue reading
Eczema is becoming a fairly common problem in young children. This condition is characterized by frequent outbreaks of reddened, inflamed skin with significant itching. But beyond the discomfort, it is now recognized that when children are diagnosed with eczema, they have a much greater risk of other immune issues, like persistent inflammation of the nose and eyes, as well as full-blown asthma.
It’s now become clear that the level of inflammation in the human body is determined, to a significant degree, but the health and diversity of the bacteria living in the gut. In fact, an astounding 70% of the immune cells in our bodies are clustered around the intestines!
So it’s no surprise that researchers have begun looking at ways to modify the gut bacteria in children in hopes of balancing inflammation and the immune system, specifically as this relates to eczema. Continue reading
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.
By: Austin Perlmutter, MD, Medical Student, Miller School of Medicine
As the top cause of pediatric hospitalizations, emergency room visits and missed school days, asthma is anything but a trivial problem for American children. Yet this issue also pushes deep into our adult population. The CDC’s data shows that 9.3% of American children and 8% of American adults live with this debilitating condition.
Research on asthma has mainly focused on how to minimize exposure to environmental irritants, and how to properly subdue the airway’s reactivity with steroids and other drugs.
This largely pharmaceutical-based research makes us better at lowering the inflammation that occurs in asthma, leading to fewer exacerbations for our patients. However, it doesn’t explain how we get asthma, or how to prevent or reverse it. Yet science has finally started to catch up. For the first time, we’re beginning to understand how important diet and lifestyle are to prevention and treatment of this condition.
Doubling in incidence over the past 30 years, and increasing an astonishing four-fold amongst adolescents, childhood obesity is now an epidemic in America. Make no mistake about it, this isn’t just a cosmetic issue. These children have a profoundly increased risk for a variety of associated medical problems including asthma, diabetes, and even high blood pressure, not to mention the fact that they will likely end up as obese adults with a higher risk for dieases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, cancer, osteoarthritis and heart disease.
Clearly, the diets of our children have changed – radically. It makes perfect sense, from a biological perspective, to blame the dramatic rise in carbohydrate and sugar consumption for these issues. That’s why we’re all over the idea of promoting a higher “good” fat and low-carb diet for adults and children alike, but there’s another factor to consider. Continue reading