Antibiotics: Are They to Blame for an Increase in Food Allergies?

Do you or someone in your family have food allergies? Then this study will interest you. Scientists discovered that by altering the gut bacteria of mice with anti-biotics they could confer peanut allergy in the mice. Then they re-colonized the mice’s guts with a common mammal gut bacteria and reversed the peanut allergy. All by changing the bacteria in their guts! You can see the study here.

The type and quantity of bacteria in our gut have an integral role in our health. Called our microbiome, it has a place in digestion, immune function and now it looks like food allergies.

This study looks importantly to the use of antibiotics and their effect on the human microbiome, especially in children, and the probable effect on food allergies. Food allergies have risen by 50% from 1997-2011. Antibiotic use has further become commonplace which has led to increasing cases of antibiotic resistance. It is estimated that 50% of antibiotic prescriptions may be unnecessary and prescribing rates are higher in children (under 10 years) than in adults. The long-term effects of antibiotics are unknown, but as this study points out they may have played an important part in the increase in food allergies.

A healthy microbiome plays a major role in our health.

So what can we do in order to build a healthy microbiome?

  • Reduce the consumption of antibiotics and other medications like NSAID’s (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs aka Advil) and antacids. Consider not using birth control pills as a contraceptive as they also destroy gut bacteria.
  • Reduce stress. This is a big one and cannot be underestimated.
  • Don’t use products with antibacterial agents, like cleaning products and hand sanitizers.
  • Eat a diverse diet made up of whole unprocessed foods, lots of fibrous vegetables, fermented foods and cultured foods. Much of this can be found at health food stores like Whole Foods, Earth Fare and now online through Thrive Market.
  • Add fermented foods to your diet. Kefir is an easy fermented dairy option that is similar to yogurt, but more beneficial. You can also learn to make your own fermented foods using your favorite vegetables with Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.
  • Consider adding probiotics in supplement form, just be careful to avoid those with allergens like dairy, gluten, soy or corn.
  • Go outside frequently. It has a positive effect on our gut bacteria.
  • Cultivate a wholesome attitude towards microbes (germs). They are a part of our environment and should not be feared or eradicated.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. It is a straightforward case of more of this and less of that. Start making small changes in your lifestyle and dietary habits to support a healthy gut: use antibiotics judiciously, avoid antibacterial products and feed your gut bacteria with nutritious whole foods.

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