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Your Child

Pre-teen Football Linked to Brain Changes in NFL Players

2:00

The start of a new school year also brings after-school sports programs. Late summer and fall is prime football season for many middle and high schools. In some states, it’s a hallowed tradition that boys and girls look forward to participating in whether it’s running down the field or cheering on the team.

While school football doesn’t typically offer the same ferocious body beating and brain –rattling that are seen in the National Football League (NFL), a new study shows that brain development can still be affected by playing football at a young age.

The study looked at the possible connection between a greater risk of altered brain development in NFL players who started playing football before the age of twelve as opposed to those players who began playing later in life.  The study is the first to show a link between early repetitive head trauma and future structural brain variations.

The study was small but interesting. It included a review of 40 former NFL players between the ages of 40 and 65 who played over 12 years of structured football with a minimum of 2 years at the NFL level.

One half of the players took up football prior to the age of 12 and half started at age 12 or later. The number of concussions suffered was very similar between the two groups. All of these players had a minimum of six months of memory and cognitive issues.

"To examine brain development in these players, we used an advanced technique called diffusor tensor imaging (DTI), a type of magnetic resonance imaging that specifically looks at the movement of water molecules along white matter tracts, which are the super-highways within the brain for relaying commands and information," study author Dr. Inga Koerte, professor of neurobiological research at the University of Munich and visiting professor at Harvard University, said in a press release.

The researches believe their findings add to the growing amount of scientific evidence that shows the brain may be especially vulnerable to injury between the ages of 10 and 12.

"Therefore, this development process may be disrupted by repeated head impacts in childhood possibly leading to lasting changes in brain structure," said study author Julie Stamm, currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Despite finding a link to the brain development window where kids are more likely to suffer brain injury by repeated head impacts, the small size of the study means the results may not necessarily apply to non-professionals.

"The results of this study do not confirm a cause and effect relationship, only that there is an association between younger age of first exposure to tackle football and abnormal brain imaging patterns later in life," said study author Martha Shenton, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Because of the intense publicity about and the findings of many studies on the short and long-term dangers of concussions, many school sports programs are looking at changing how they allow students to play in games associated with head injuries.  Where it was once common for coaches to let players continue playing after a particularly rough tackle or head butting, they are more likely now to insist that a field medical professional examine the child. Some schools are also implementing no tackle policies to protect very young players.

While traditional football isn’t likely to become extinct, parents and coaches can educate themselves about brain injuries and learn how to best protect young players from the chances of long and short-term disabilities.

Source: Brett Smith,  http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113407634/pre-teen-football-linked-to-more-severe-brain-changes-in-nfl-players-081115/

 

 

Your Child

Study: Exercise, Once Again, Improves Kid’s Learning Skills

2:00

While the debate on whether to bring back recess to school curriculums continues across the U.S., a small study from the Netherlands once again shows that adding exercise to a child’s school day can improve their learning skills.

Researchers worked with 500 children in second and third grade, giving half of them traditional lessons while the rest received instruction supplemented with physical activity designed to reinforce math and language lessons.

The approach was a creative and unique way to helping children better comprehend math and spelling.  Instead of taking a recess break – exercise was actually incorporated into the lesson.

After two years, children who got the physically active lessons had significantly higher scores in math and spelling than their peers who didn't exercise during class.

"Previous research showed effects of recess and physical activity breaks," said lead study author Marijke Mullender-Wijnsma, of the University of Gronigen in The Netherlands.

"However, we think that the integration of physical activity into academic lessons will result in bigger effects on academic achievement," Mullender-Wijnsma added in an email to Reuters Heath.

Mullender-Wijnsma and colleagues developed a curriculum that matched typical lessons in academic subject matter but added physical activity as part of instruction. They tested it in 12 elementary schools.

Here’s how it worked.

Lessons involved constant practice and repetition reinforced by body movements. For example, children jumped in place eight times to solve the multiplication problem 2 x 4.

Children in the exercise group received 22 weeks of instruction three times a week during two school years. These lessons were up to 30 minutes long, and evenly split between math and spelling instruction.

During the first year of the study, there wasn’t a great deal of difference found between the students receiving exercise during the class and those that didn’t, when speed was the focus in the math tests.

However, after two years, children who received exercise-based instruction had significantly higher scores on the math speed exams than students who didn't. The difference over two years equated to more than four months of additional learning for the students who had physically active lessons.

When the focus was on lesson comprehension, students receiving exercise outperformed students who did not receive the exercise instruction in both the first and second year. Again, the progress amounted to about four more months of learning.

For spelling, there wasn't a significant difference between the student groups after one year. But by the end of the second year they did have significantly better test scores, once again, adding an additional four more months of learning.

For reading, there wasn’t much difference between the two groups. It's possible that physical activities may be more beneficial to learning that involves repetition, memorization and practice of lessons from previous classes, the researchers conclude.

Researchers did point out that there were limitations that could have impacted the results of the study during the first year. The exercise group received specially trained teachers and individual schools administered the tests.

The research team did not examine why exercise might have helped students do better during tests.

 Sara Benjamin Neelon, of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues write in an accompanying editorial that it’s not clear whether these types of classes would work in countries where the population is larger, more diverse and students come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

"However, the take-home message for parents and teachers is that physically active lessons may be a novel way to increase physical activity and improve academic performance – at the same time," Benjamin Neelon said by email.

More and more studies show that exercise appears to help the brain function better in children and adults. Whether all U.S. school administrations will see adding recess or exercise back into school curriculums is anybody’s guess, but according to science – it sure couldn’t hurt and might even help students develop stronger learning skills.

The study was published in the online journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-fitness-learning-idUSKCN0VX26V

Your Child

The Debate: Homework or No Homework?

1:45

Does homework improve a student’s academic achievement or does it interfere with family time and create a negative learning experience? That’s part of the debate that is currently going on over whether homework is a good or bad thing for students.

Brandy Young, a second grade teacher in Godley, Texas, recently made the news when a letter she gave to her student’s parents, went viral on social media.

Young said that she was dropping homework from her curriculum for the new school year.

"Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance," Young wrote. "Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early."

That made a lot of Young’s students very happy.

According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), homework has had a fluid history.

“Throughout the first few decades of the 20th century, educators commonly believed that homework helped create disciplined minds. By 1940, growing concern that homework interfered with other home activities sparked a reaction against it. This trend was reversed in the late 1950s when the Soviets' launch of Sputnik led to concern that U.S. education lacked rigor; schools viewed more rigorous homework as a partial solution to the problem. By 1980, the trend had reversed again, with some learning theorists claiming that homework could be detrimental to students' mental health. Since then, impassioned arguments for and against homework have continued to proliferate.”

The case for homework involves several studies noting that student’s academic achievements improve when they are given meaningful homework and they complete assignments. A number of synthesis studies have been conducted on homework, spanning a broad range of approaches and levels of selectivity.  One such account, known as The Cooper Study, included more than 100 firsthand research reports, and the Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) study included about 50 empirical research reports. Conclusions from their studies stated,  “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement.”

The case against homework also cites several studies that suggest homework doesn’t improve students’ learning but instead overvalues work to the detriment of personal and familial wellbeing.

Some no-homework activists say that extended school hours work better for helping students learn and retain knowledge.

Several popular books have been written taking the no-homework stand; one is The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn. 

If homework needs to be assigned, Kohn suggest teachers should make sure that the assignments are beneficial, ideally involving students in activities appropriate for the home, such as performing an experiment in the kitchen, cooking, doing crossword puzzles with the family, watching good TV shows, or reading. Kohn also urged teachers to involve students in deciding what homework, and how much, they should do. One idea is that family participatory homework exercises can help students learn practical applications with school subjects and receive more bonding time in the process.

Many education experts believe homework provides valuable tools for student learning but also agree that meaningful homework should always be the goal and not assigned as a matter of policy.

Research has also shown that while students are typically assigned homework from Kindergarten to 12th grade, there has been no specific consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels, however, older students do improve their grades with homework.

Many parents are still uncertain about how they feel about homework. Some will tell you that their child has far too much assigned during the week and over the weekends, but they are not quite ready to chuck homework altogether. 

It’s an interesting debate that will continue to garner attention.

Whether you believe homework is necessary for better learning or is an obstacle to student achievement, one thing both sides can agree on is that parental involvement is the key ingredient to a happier and more prepared student.

Story source: Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering,

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar07/vol64/num06/The-Case-For-and-Against-Homework.aspx

 

 

Your Child

“Opt-Out” of Letting Schools Sell Your Child’s Personal Information!

2:00

If your child is in school, you may have unknowingly given the school the right to sell your child’s private information to data brokers and marketing companies. It happens every year and many parents don’t know they could have signed a form preventing the sale.

Schools are allowed by federal law to sell your child’s personal information to anyone unless you fill out an “opt-out “ form. If you don’t fill it out, personal information such as your child’s name, address, email, telephone number, age, gender, height and weight and photo can be sold.

Not only can your child be subjected to a ridiculous amount of advertising from marketing companies, anyone can use that information to locate your child if they really want to find him or her. They can also contact your child through personal emails or phone and have a picture to identify them.

"Directory information may sound innocuous, but it can include sensitive information about each student that is quite detailed," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. "And after the school releases this data, it is considered to be public information and you've lost control of it. I don't think most parents know this."

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), a student's directory information includes home address, email address, telephone number, date and place of birth, height and weight, the clubs or sports teams they've joined - even a photograph.

FERPA was written before the creation of the Internet, when a student's personal information was stored in a file cabinet and privacy was not such a big issue. Today, the data is just what a stalker, abuser or identity thief needs.

FERPA also gives parents the right to see what “directory information” the school has about their children. You have a right to block or limit access to that information. But, the window of time you can do that is short, sometimes just a few weeks after school begins. Once the time frame expires, you cannot stop the release of your child’s personal information until the next school year.

This is especially important for domestic violence survivors who are hiding from their abuser. Information that's released without their knowledge could jeopardize their safety.

"When there are situations where the survivor has left with the child and has custody of the child and they're living elsewhere, they want to know that their abuser doesn't know where they are living," said Kaofeng Lee, deputy director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "If this information is available, the abuser could get access to where this child is going to school which will pinpoint exactly where the family is now living and make it possible to find them."

Many schools do not do a good job in letting parents know about the form. Some have even neglected to provide the form to parents and some schools have worded the forms in such a way as to discouraged parents from signing them.

It’s a battle for your child’s data and parents need to be aware that they have the right and the means to protect that information from getting out to marketing firms and individuals.

Congress is scheduled to review FERPA to see what further privacy protections are needed to keep students and families’ information private in the digital age. Until then, parents have to seek out and make sure that the opt-out forms are signed, sealed and delivered.

A warning to parents; this isn’t a one-time fix either. You must sign these forms every year that your child attends school.

Source: Herb Weisbaum, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/student-privacy-n423466

 

 

 

Your Child

Importance of Breakfast

When your child was an infant, you were diligent about feeding them on schedule. So, why do so many parents let their children skip breakfast before heading out to school? A new study shows that 12 to 35 percent of adolescents skip breakfast and that number increases with age.

“Breakfast is another time to spend with your child,” says pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard. She says a healthy breakfast should have protein, fiber and calcium. “Try and stay away from sugar coated cereals” she advises. Dr. Hubbard also emphasizes that parents need to read cereal box labels and stay from breakfast bars because many of them contain large amounts of sugar. “A good thing as you’re running to the door and getting in carpool is a piece of peanut butter toast on whole wheat grain bread with some milk on the side,” she says. “Breakfast gives your child fuel for the day.”

Your Child

Helping Children Move to a New Place

2:30

Moving to a new city, state or country can be a real challenge for parents. But as difficult as it may be for adults, for different reasons, it can be harder on the kids.  When a move is in the works, kids may need extra attention to help them adjust to and accept this life-altering change.  After all, this isn’t something children typically have any say in.

Sometimes, parents don’t have a lot of say either. Economic necessity is the number one reason families move. New opportunities or better pay can make the decision for you when finances have been tight or non-existent.

What can you do to help your child cope with the transition? Even if you aren’t happy with the move yourself, try to maintain a positive attitude. During times like these, kids will look to their parents for re-assurance and guidance.

No matter what the circumstances, the most important way to prepare kids for a move is to talk about it.

Try to give them as much information about the move as soon as possible. Answer questions completely and truthfully, and be receptive to both positive and negative reactions. Even if the move means an improvement in family life, kids don't always understand that and may be focused on the frightening aspects of the change.

When you can, involve your child in the house hunting and the search for a new school. The more they feel involved in the process, the less foreign and frightening it becomes.

Exploring the new neighborhood will give your child and you the opportunity to see what’s available. Is there a park nearby? A mall? An interesting outdoor venue? Are there community sports or arts programs for kids? A public or community pool? Checking out the neighborhood can give everyone a sense of wanting to belong before the move is actually made.

For distant moves, provide as much information as you can about the new home, city, and state (or country). Access the Internet to learn about the community. Learn where kids can participate in favorite activities. See if a relative, friend, or even a real estate agent can take pictures of the new house and new school for your child.

Children who haven’t started school may be the easiest to move. Your guidance is still important. Here are some transition tips for moving with toddlers and preschoolers:

•       Keep explanations clear and simple.

•       Use a story to explain the move, or use toy trucks and furniture to act it out.

•       When you pack your toddler's toys in boxes, make sure to explain that you aren't throwing them away.

•       If your new home is nearby and vacant, go there to visit before the move and take a few toys over each time.

•       Hold off on getting rid of your child's old bedroom furniture, which may provide a sense of comfort in the new house. It might even be a good idea to arrange furniture in a similar way in the new bedroom.

•       Avoid making other big changes during the move, like toilet training or advancing a toddler to a bed from a crib.

•       Arrange for your toddler or preschooler to stay with a babysitter on moving day.

Children in elementary school may be somewhat open to a move, although leaving their friends will be difficult for them to accept. 

There are two schools of thought about "the right time to move." Some experts say that summer is the best time because it avoids disrupting the school year. Others say that midyear is better because a child can meet other kids right away.

Sometimes the choice is made for you when your job demands a sudden move or there is a family emergency or occurrence that requires relocation. Either way, kids already in school are going to need some help adjusting.

For some children, particularly those who may have experienced academic failure or been rejected by classmates at their old school, the opportunity for a new beginning is an exciting prospect. It gives them a chance to be accepted in a new setting and to make friends free of their former reputations and self-images. If this is the case, talk about and plan what you and your child will do differently in your new community. Be cautious, however, of unreasonable expectations that a move will make things wonderful. Children take their likes and dislikes and personal strengths and weaknesses with them.

It’s important to let your child express his or her emotions about the big changes in their life. Acknowledge their sadness about leaving behind friends and familiar places. Let them know you are sympathetic and that you understand that he or she might feel nervous about what awaits them, whether it is the new people, the new school or the new bus ride. At the same time, tell her your child you will try to make the move as easy as possible for the entire family, and emphasize some of the positive aspects of living in a new place.

This is an opportunity for your family to live in and learn about a new city, perhaps even a new country, and its people. He or she may be exposed to new cultural traditions and interesting and different ways of life. It also is a chance to meet new people and make new friends. Explain how the family can benefit from the move.

A move is probably hardest on teenagers. Your teen has probably invested considerable energy in a particular social group and might be involved in a romantic relationship. A move may mean that your teen will miss a long-awaited event, like a prom.

It's particularly important to let teens know that you want to hear their concerns and that you respect them. While blanket assurances may sound dismissive, it's legitimate to suggest that the move can serve as rehearsal for future changes, like college or a new job. However, also be sure to let them know that you hear their concerns.

Before the move, you may want to consider having a going-away party. It’s good for everyone to have the opportunity to say goodbye and spend time with long cherished friends and family members. Once a move is made, help your children keep in touch with their old friends. When possible, consider planning a visit back to the old neighborhood.

If your child seems to be having a particularly difficult time adjusting to their new school and surroundings, consider finding a family counselor that can help everyone get objective and third-party guidance during the adjustment phase.

Eventually you and your children will make new friends, find new interests and the new place will begin to feel like home again.

Souces: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/move.html#

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Helping-Children-Adjust-to-a-Move.aspx

Your Child

Zip Lining Safety Tips

1:45

From the mountains of Costa Rica to over waterfalls in Hawaii, zip lining has become a vacation acivity destination. Zip lining operations can also be found in  summer camps, zoos, fields in the middle nowhere, people’s backyards and lots of other exotic and not-so- exotic locations.

Here’s how they work. A zip line consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, typically made of stainless steel and mounted on an incline. A rider sits in a harness attached to a pulley. At the top of the slope, the user propels forward and gravity does the rest. Depending on your location, it can be quite a thrilling ride to the base.

One of the keys to a safe zip lining experience is knowing something about the company and the operator of the ride. Before you harness your child into a zip line at camp or during a family vacation, ask the operator questions about the ride’s safety and look around. Not every company follows the same safety rules. Though there are currently no national standards for zip line construction and operation, many states have them, and any legitimate operator should also adhere to the standards set by the Association for Challenge Course Technology or the Professional Ropes Course Association.

Here are some questions you can ask:

·      If the operation is inspected, how often and by whom.

·      What is the company’s safety record?

·      What training the operators have.

·      Is a safety demonstration included?

Check the area out once you arrive. Do the operators look professional? Look at the equipment provided, including carabiners, ropes, harnesses and helmets. Are they well maintained? Look at the course itself. Do the lines look free from wear and tear? How about the platforms? Do they look sturdy? Do they have guardrails?

Once on the course, make sure you're strapped onto a safety line at all times — not just while you're zipping through space. (Some places require that you have two safety lines hooked on.) Many accidents occur by a simple step off a platform. So if you're on the course (which often means many feet off the ground), you should be safely attached to a line that will catch you if you fall. Also, watch out for other adventurers and the guides. Don't get in their way.

Make sure everyone in the family who is zip lining wears a helmet and has closed-toe shoes.

Nearly 17,000 zip line injuries were treated in emergency rooms from 1997-2012, and most of those injuries were in the last four years, according to a 2015 study by Gary A. Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., FAAP, and colleagues at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. About half the injuries involved children under 10 years old. Another 33% involved children ages 10-19 years. The study noted that many zip lines are not regulated, and there are no uniform safety standards.

The increase in the number of zip line injuries in children is “an epidemic by any definition,” according to Dr. Smith, past chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

“If kids are using them, you really need to make sure they’re using them in places where people are trained, they know what they’re doing and the zip lines have been constructed in a way that they’re not going to fail,” said Dr. Smith.

Backyard zip line kits sold online and in stores also have been linked to injuries. Earlier this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled a backyard zip line kit (http://1.usa.gov/1XoHrFs) because of a design flaw that made it easy for the cable to separate from the line, causing riders to fall. Riders suffered head injuries and bruises. Another recall was issued in 2014 for backyard zip line trolleys (http://1.usa.gov/1RT6uaY) that released unexpectedly. No injuries were reported. Authors of the 2015 study warned against buying and installing backyard zip lines.

The AAP does not have a policy on zip lines and children. However, Dr. Smith suggested the following safety precautions:

·      Requiring riders to wear a helmet, harness and gloves;

·      Training operators;

·      Inspecting and maintaining equipment regularly; and

·      Posting rules and requiring participants to follow them.

“If done correctly, these and other types of outdoor amusements that are there for the thrill … can be done in a safe enough way that it’s reasonable for children to use them,” Dr. Smith said.

Story sources: Trisha Korioth, http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/07/07/ZipLines070716

John Donovan, http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/stories/6-things-do-you-go-zip-lining

Your Child

Have A Fun and Active Summer!

1.45 to read

With another school year wrapped up, many kids are looking forward to summer and lots of free time. You might think summer is when kids are more likely to drop a few pounds. But that’s not how it usually goes. Summertime is often when you'll see kids add pounds. Children who are overweight gain more and kids who are on the border of obesity, cross the line. Even children who are at a normal weight for their age and height during the school year tend to put on weight after school shuts down for summer break.

Why the weight gain?

Kids are not active as they used to be.  Instead of playing outdoors, too many kids spend hours in front of the TV or computer. You may have ridden your bike, played tag or hide and seek, climbed trees or splashed in the pool with friends until the sun went down, but a lot of kids today spend their time with friends on the computer or playing video games. It may be fun, but they’re not burning very many calories.

Kids tend to snack more when they are home. It’s easy to grab a bag of chips and a soda throughout the day when the kitchen is only a few steps away. Constant eating becomes a habit. Presently, US kids eat 27 percent of their daily calories in the form of snacks, typically eaten three times a day in-between meals. A yogurt here (110 calories), a freeze pop there (50 calories), a cookie (80 calories), a donut (200 calories), and another juice box. They all add calories above and beyond a child’s needs.

How can you help prevent summer weight gain? Make sure that there are healthy food snacks available. Get rid of sugary drinks in the house. Encourage your child to maintain a normal pattern of eating with breakfast, lunch, a healthy afternoon snack and dinner with the family rather than adopting a grazing style of eating.

Garden together. Besides being great exercise, gardening can be a way to introduced children to healthy foods. The experience of eating a fruit or vegetable they planted and nourished can help teach them about appreciating healthy foods for a lifetime.

Be a part of your child’s activities. Exercise as a family with bike rides, walking, sports, swimming and trips to the museums, parks, concerts, and recreation center.

Day camps may be a good option for some families. It’s probably too late to register for a stay-over camp, but many cities and local organizations provide day camps. These camps offer a wide variety of learning and fun activities for children.

Limit television, video/DVD and computer access to no more than two hours each day.

Maintain structure in your child’s daily schedule. While it’s good to let your child relax from a long 9 months of school, too much unscheduled time can lead to boredom, overeating and long hours on the couch or at the computer. Some kids do better than others with extra time on their hands, so knowing how your child handles unstructured time can help you create a doable schedule.

Having structure in the summer can also help kids make a more seamless transition back into school come fall. They will already be accustomed to meeting the demands of a schedule (and getting up in the morning), whereas if no summer structure was in place, the school routine could be a shock to their systems once the new semester rolls around again.

Summer should be fun. It should be a break from grueling routines and a time for families to enjoy doing things together. Too often it becomes about doing nothing. The best way to help your child (or you for that matter) avoid gaining weight during the summer is to live an active lifestyle throughout the year. Summer vacation offers many opportunities for families to try something new or different. Make this the best summer ever!

Your Child

Could More Dietary Fiber Reduce Food Allergies?

2:00

In the never–ending search for an answer as to why more Americans – from children to adults- are experiencing food allergies, several new studies suggest that the culprit could be too little fiber in our diets.  

According to the non-profit organization, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 15 million Americans have food allergies. That’s a 50 percent increase from 1997 to 2011. About 90 percent of people with food allergies are allergic to one of eight types of foods; peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs, milk, shellfish and fish. 

So, what is going on that so many people are suffering from food allergies, particularly children? That’s what researchers around the world are trying to find out.  Many studies are beginning to suggest that it’s not just one thing but a combination of factors.

A lack of dietary fiber in the diet may be one of those factors. The notion is based on the idea that bacteria in the gut have the enzymes needed to digest dietary fiber, and when these bacteria break down fiber, they produce substances that help to prevent an allergic response to foods, said Charles Mackay, an immunologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

So far, the research related to this idea has been done mainly in mice, and dietary factors are unlikely to be the sole explanation for why allergy rates have skyrocketed, researchers say. But if the results were to be replicated in human studies, they would suggest that promoting the growth of good gut bacteria could be one way to protect against, and possibly even reverse, certain allergies, researchers say.

The modern western diet, high in fat, sugar and refined carbs seems to produce a different kind of bacteria in the gut that may be liked to food allergies.  Fiber such as beans, whole grains, nuts, berries, vegetables and brown rice promote the growth of a class of bacteria called Clostridia, which break down fiber and are some of the biggest producers of byproducts called short-chain fatty acids.

In a 2011 study in the journal Nature, researchers found that these short-chain fatty acids normally prevent gut cells from becoming too permeable, and letting food particles, bacteria or other problematic compounds move into the blood.

An overabundance of antibiotic use may also be contributing to food allergies. Not only are people being over-prescribed, we may also be getting extra doses in some of our foods.

Antibiotics, which are widely used in agriculture and for treating ear infections in babies and toddlers, kill the bacteria in the gut. So the combination of antibiotics and low-fiber diets may be a "double whammy," that predisposes people to allergic responses, notes said Cathryn Nagler, a food allergy researcher at the University of Chicago.

The new findings also suggest a way to prevent, or possibly even reverse some allergies. For instance, allergy treatments could use probiotics that recolonize the gut with healthy forms of Clostridia, Nagler said.

In fact, in a small study published in January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that children with peanut allergies who received probiotics were able to eat the nut without having an allergic reaction, and their tolerance to peanuts persisted even after the treatment.

Many factors may contribute to the rise in food allergies, said Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore. Epidemiological studies have found that having pets, going to day care, having a sibling, being born vaginally and even washing dishes by hand can affect the risk of allergies.

As more and more research is being conducted on food allergies, a bigger picture is starting to emerge about possible causes. Pediatricians and family physicians are keeping a close eye on the new findings to better help their patients. Some of those findings are changing the way physicians are treating food allergies.

For years, doctors told parents of children at a high risk of developing allergies to wait until the children were 3 years old before giving them peanuts or other allergy-inducing foods, Wood said.

"We really thought we knew what we were doing, and it turns out it was 100 percent wrong," Wood said.

If your child suffers from food allergies, you might want to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about adding more dietary fiber or probiotics to your child’s diet. However, it’s not recommended that you “experiment” on your own because some children’s health problems can be made worse from probiotic use or too much fiber. Be sure and check with your doctor first.

Sources: Tia Ghose, http://www.livescience.com/50046-fiber-reduce-allergies.html

http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Count your blessings this Thanksgiving!

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