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August 2nd, 2010
05:44 PM ET

What bacteria has to say about allergies

Why food allergies are on the rise is still a mystery. One idea is that in Western countries, ramped-up hygiene efforts have made it so children do not get as much exposure to different bacteria that would have helped stave off illnesses such as allergies and inflammatory bowel disease.

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared the gut bacteria from 15 children in Florence, Italy, with gut bacteria in 14 children in a rural African village in Burkina Faso. The variety of flora in these two groups was substantially different, they found.

"In the developed world we have lost a lot of ancestral bacteria," said Dr. Paolo Lionetti, of the department of pediatrics at Meyer Children Hospital at the University of Florence.

The children in the African village have dietary habits similar to those of humans about 10,000 years ago when the species first discovered agriculture. The European diet, on the other hand, contains more sugar, animal fat, and calorie-dense foods. These factors may result in less biodiversity in the organisms found inside the gut of European children, the authors wrote.

One might speculate that all this may have something to do with the rise in allergies in industrialized countries, said Lionetti.

But this is just one part of the story. Here's a broader look at food allergies on the rise.


soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. ADULTS HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES TOO

    This to to all the misinformed out there: MANY PEOPLE have food allergies, not just children. You can also develop it later in life. It is absolutely worth it to get a food allergy panel done. It cost about 100 bucks or so to test about 95 common foods that you could be allergic to. EVERY PERSON SHOOULD GET THIS DONE. If your regular doctor refuses ( because they want to pump you full of drugs instead of finding the source of your problems) go to a naturopath or any lab even.

    Food allergies affect you in many ways. Irritable bowel issues, skin issues like eczema and acne, depression, anxiety, and many other issues. Do not be fooled.

    I myself developed it later in life and I feel 10 times better knowing the foods I need to avoid. Plus I am saving tons of money and threw away many pill bottles. It is soooo worth it. Get food allergy tested.

    August 2, 2010 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shannon

      Where did you get this done for only $100?

      August 3, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse |
    • ADULTS HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES TOO

      Hi Shannon,

      I went to a Lab through a Naturopathic doctor. It is all done through the blood. Either your 'regular' doctor can do it or a Naturopath. It really made a big difference for me and I know it has helped others too.

      August 3, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • Reply

      Definitely, definitely YES...get tested.

      August 3, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse |
    • jenstate

      Regardless of the cause, there are many children experiencing anaphylaxis and their parents are living with worry. I find it interesting that doctors are now using immunotherapy to treat these severe allergies, giving tiny doses of the offending item and increasing it slowly over time so the body builds an immunity to it. Hmmm, this is based on the "like cures like" philosophy of homeopathy. So now main stream medicine is using homeopathy to "cure" allergies. You can read about the philosophy here: http://biovedawellness.com/holistic-services/homeopathy/

      August 6, 2010 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
  2. Mo Lavigne

    The word "bacteria" is plural – should read "Bacteria have to say". I'm surprised at the lack of editing.

    August 3, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Melone

    Blood tests for food allergies are not considered to be reliable, actually. It's better to do a food-elimination diet and monitor your symptoms. I really think it can be difficult to pinpoint all allergies, and a blood test is probably not going to find it, because you won't have high levels of antibodies to the food, unless you've very recently eaten it. Also, you may be allergic without producing antibodies that will show up on the tests. Furthermore, you may be allergic to things like food additives, preservatives, etc.

    I've paid the $100+ to have the panel done and it didn't show any allergies. Later, I read that it's not very reliable to just randomly have your blood tested for allergies. Also, you could have a sensitivity to something general (such as foods "high in fructose" or "foods containing yeast") that might not show up in the tests.

    On another note, I wonder how much the chlorine and other chemicals in our water supply contributes to this lack of flora in our digestive tracts.

    August 3, 2010 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Not true. I did the food elimination AND the blood test and they both corroborated what I suspected. I cannot tolerate almonds. Throat closes up and hives. Blood test shows its high and I ate a small amount of almonds too which is enough proof for me. I don't need a frickin disbelieving doctor to tell me when my throat is closing up! He can drop dead. I wont touch almonds again.

      August 3, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
    • Reply

      I agree about that also. Testing missed a lot of mine before it ever found them. That makes it worse because you go back to things that you thought were ok, but they aren't. It took many years for me to figure mine out, but the things I am allergic to are in just about everything. But, that was my complaint...food makes me sick. And most food does make me sick. Very difficult for me to find food that doesn't make me sick.

      August 3, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
  4. Mickey

    Here's a theory that might explain the vast difference in gut cultures between the 2 populations: raw milk. It's almost ironic that so many people are on board to expose their children to what they consider to be a healthy amount of bacteria to give their immune system a boost, yet not many people don't realize that they milk we drink gets sterilized before hitting the grocery store shelves. Ironic still, now people are buying yogurt with bacteria in it, and taking acidophilus capsules with the hopes of obtaining a healthy bacteria population. Why does this have to even be a concern to the masses? Again, just a theory here, but maybe the rise of allergies can be pointed to one major difference between what developed countries consume that under developed countries don't: pasteurized milk. The pasteurization of milk kills ALL the bacteria, even the bacteria that a gut would welcome. The government deems raw, unpasteurized milk not fit for human consumption, but perhaps we should take a step back here and remember that the human population grew and thrived long before we adopted this method. Perhaps we are eliminating what we really need in our obsessive desire to be clean and sanitary.

    August 3, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Erin

    ......and another theory – giving broad spectrum antibiotics to babies and toddlers (e.g., for ear infections) that disrupt the normal acquisition of different bacteria in their gut. I'll bet the kids in the African village had no exposure to antibiotics.

    August 4, 2010 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. smilinggreenmom

    I am so glad that more people in the medical field are taking an interest in bacteria and how it can be linked to food allergies. Our little boy has suffered from severe eczema caused by food allergies and food intolerance that no one could help us with. His allergist continued to increase doses of steroids in our toddler until his body became so weak and lethargic that a children's hospital informed us that he was steroid dependent and that he needed weaned off NOW! So after they successfully weaned him off (thank God) we began to give him a children's chewable probiotic called Belly Boost – let me just tell you that this healthy bacteria has changed our little boy's life! He immediately began to improve and has hardly had any eczema in over a year of taking these and can tolerate so many more foods than we could have imagined. The best thing is that he is a healthy boy now and we are truly grateful! I am praying for continued studies on food allergies!

    August 7, 2010 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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    my girlfriend got eczema and this is a nasty and itchy skin disease","

    October 18, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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    eczema infected skin are not very good looking at all and they are quite annoying .

    November 8, 2010 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.