The rate of children with allergies has gone through the roof. Almost every classroom in Australia will have at least one child with one or more food allergies.
But why the increase in children with allergies? There are many factors involved when it comes to the development of food allergies. But one of the most overlooked contributors is gut health.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about how healing the gut can help address allergies in children.
Why are there so many children with allergies these days?
The rate of children with allergies is skyrocketing. It’s the fastest-growing health problem in Australia, and the most common health concern among children. Researchers estimate that the number of people with allergies is going to increase by 70% over the next 30 years.
Allergies are a fairly new problem. It is a complex issue with many factors involved, but we know that diet and lifestyle must contribute to the increasing rates. One way that they can do this is by affecting gut health.
How gut health affects children with allergies
So why does gut health play an important role in allergies? To understand this, we need to look at what food allergies are.
Simply put, allergies occur when the immune system is confused. When it comes to food allergies, this means reacting to a food even though that food is safe for the body.
There are many contributing factors that lead to this confusion. How the food is grown, how it is processed and how we selectively breed food all play a role. But another factor is gut health.
The gut and the immune system are closely linked, so when one is impaired, the other is affected. Now the research is starting to demonstrate how gut health has an impact on the increased prevalence of allergies.
The five layers of food allergies
When we take an in-depth look at food allergies, there are 5 layers involved. Modern medicine only really addresses two of these layers, which is why there aren’t a lot of answers when it comes to allergies.
Layer 1 – Diet. This is the food and drink that we put into the gut.
Layer 2 – Enzymes. This is the ability of the gut to produce enzymes that break down food. This is particularly important when it comes to food intolerances.
Layer 3 – Bacteria. This is the balance of bacteria or microbes within the gut.
Layer 4 – Barrier. This is the gut lining that creates a barrier between the gut and the rest of the body.
Layer 5 – Immune System. This is how the immune system responds to food.
When modern medicine looks at allergies, they really only address #1 and #5. Your doctor will suggest removing the allergens from the diet, and they may prescribe medication that alters the immune response. However, this approach means that the middle 3 layers are completely overlooked.
When it comes to children with allergies, bacteria and barrier are the most overlooked factors. By focusing on these, we can start to build up allergic tolerance and start to reduce their symptoms.
Allergies and the gut barrier
The gut lining is designed to keep enzymes, bacteria and partially digested food separate from the bloodstream and the tissues of the body.
However, when this lining is damaged, problems arise. This damage is known as ‘increased intestinal permeability’, or leaky gut.
If food is not completely broken down before it enters the bloodstream, the immune system is alerted. It doesn’t recognise the food, so it attacks. This causes inflammation, but it also teaches the immune system that some foods are the ‘enemy’.
Research has found that leaky gut is implicated in food allergies. One small study that looked at intestinal permeability found that all subjects with food allergies had increased permeability.
If you have children with allergies, healing the gut lining is a key step.
Allergies and gut bacteria
The bacteria in our gut has a massive impact on overall wellbeing. A healthy balance of microbes is the goal. But unfortunately, our modern diet and lifestyle are not microbe-friendly!
The influence of gut bacteria extends to the development of allergies. Research shows that the composition and diversity of microbes can influence allergic tolerance.
The greater the diversity in the gut, the higher the allergic tolerance. This can reduce the chance of development of allergies.
However, this also extends to those who already have allergies. Alteration in normal gut flora has been found to play a role in developing food allergies. But rebalancing gut microbes can alleviate allergies and restore tolerance.
So to alleviate allergies, you want to start by working on balancing the gut bacteria. This is not a quick fix, but it is empowering to know our choices can have a beneficial effect!
Working on balancing gut microbes also has long-term benefits. By addressing it now, we can help to improve not only our children’s health, but also generations to come.
The hygiene hypothesis
There is no one known cause of allergies, which means there is no clear one-size-fits-all treatment. However, the strongest argument for an underlying cause is the hygiene hypothesis.
This theory states that a lack of childhood exposure to microbes increases susceptibility to allergies.
As a society, we are obsessed with hygiene. However, this interferes with the normal development of the immune system.
The immune system learns to respond via exposure to microbes. But nowadays, our kids are exposed to fewer microbes than our generation was. The way that they are birthed, fed and raised is much more sanitised. This means that their immune systems don’t get a chance to build, develop and learn how to respond appropriately.
This also ties in with the development of the microbiome. If children aren’t exposed to different microbes, they will have a much lower diversity of microbes in the gut.
What factors can contribute to gut health issues in kids?
There are many factors that can contribute to leaky gut, dysbiosis and other gut health issues in kids. These can reduce exposure to microbes, encourage the growth of pathogenic microbes or kill off good microbes.
Some of the most common include:
- Birth by C-section
- Formula-fed or reduced period of breastfeeding
- Medication use such as antibiotics. This can include indirect exposure via the environment or via mum
- A diet that is high in processed foods and sugar and/or low in fibre
- Spending less time outdoors
- Toxins and chemicals including antibacterial products, pesticides and pollution
If your child has been exposed to any of these, there is no need to judge yourself! We are lucky to have modern medical options such as C-sections and antibiotics.
But if you have children with allergies or want to prevent them from developing, working on gut health is paramount. That means minimising these factors as much as possible and building their tolerance.
Want to find out how to improve your child’s allergies and transform their gut health?
Come along to my free Masterclass:
3 Proven Ways To Transform Your Kid’s GUT HEALTH to Improve Behaviour, Immunity, Allergies and Fussy Eating.
This is more than just a one-off masterclass! You will be invited to our Transform Your Kid’s Gut Health Facebook group where you can ask questions, get support and access valuable bonus trainings in the lead up to the masterclass. All for FREE!