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Your Baby

Chubby Baby = Obese Child?

2.00 to read

“Look at those cute little rolls of fat and chubby cheeks.” “It’s just baby-fat, he’ll grow out of it.” Common comments when people see a chubby baby. But, what was once thought of as a well-fed and healthy infant might prove to be just the opposite.

Researchers say they’ve found a way to determine if a rapid growing baby will become obese later in life. A new study says that if your baby has passed two key milestones, on a doctor’s growth chart by the age of two, then he or she has double the risk of being obese by the age of 5.  Rapid growers were also more likely to be obese at age 10, and infants whose chart numbers climbed that much during their first 6 months faced the greatest risks.

Children who grew more slowly were less likely to be obese by the same age.

That kind of rapid growth should be a red flag to doctors, and a sign to parents that babies might be overfed or spending too much time in strollers and not enough crawling around, said pediatrician Dr. Elsie Taveras, the study's lead author and an obesity researcher at Harvard Medical School.

Contrary to the idea that chubby babies are the picture of health, the study bolsters evidence that "bigger is not better" in infants, she said.

In an online article on healthland.time.com Dr. Michelle Lampl, director of Emory University's Center for the Study of Human Health, expressed concerns.

“It’s a bad idea that could backfire in the long run,” said Lampl.

"It reads like a very handy rule and sounds like it would be very useful _ and that's my concern," Lampl said. The guide would be easy to use to justify feeding infants less and to unfairly label them as fat. It could also prompt feeding patterns that could lead to obesity later, she said.

Lampl noted that many infants studied crossed at least two key points on growth charts; yet only 12 percent were obese at age 5 and slightly more at age 10. Nationally, about 10 percent of preschool-aged children are obese, versus about 19 percent of those aged 6 to 11.

Taveras said the rapid growth shown in the study should be used to raise awareness and not to put babies on a diet.

The study involved 45,000 infants and children younger than age 11 who had routine growth measurements during doctor checkups in the Boston area from 1980 through 2008.

Growth charts help pediatricians plot weight, length in babies and height in older kids in relation to other children their same age and sex. Pediatricians sometimes combine an infant's measures to calculate weight-for-length _ the equivalent of body-mass index, or BMI, a height-to-weight ratio used in older children and adults.

The charts are organized into percentiles. For example, infants at the 75th percentile for weight are heavier than 75 percent of their peers.

An infant whose weight-for-length jumped from the 19th percentile at 1 month to the 77th at 6 months crossed three major percentiles _ the 25th, 50th and 75th _ and would be at risk for obesity later in childhood, the authors said.

Larger infants were most at risk for obesity later on, but even smaller babies whose growth crossed at least two percentiles were at greater risk than those who grew more slowly.

About 40 percent of infants crossed at least two percentiles by age 6 months. An analysis of more than one-third of the study children found that 64 percent grew that rapidly by age 2.

Dr. Joanna Lewis, a pediatrician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., said she supports the idea that infancy is not too young to start thinking about obesity.

Still, she emphasized that rapid growth in infancy doesn't mean babies are doomed to become obese. "It's not a life sentence," and there are steps parents can take to keep their babies at a healthy weight without restrictive diets, she said.

Lewis said many of her patients are large babies whose parents feed them juice or solid food despite guidelines recommending nothing but breast milk or formula in the first six months.

"The study reinforces what we try to tell parents already: Delay starting solids and don't put juice in a bottle," Lewis said.

Daily Dose

Can Probiotics Boost Immunity?

I have had some travel time in the car so that gave me an opportunity to catch up on my journal reading. I found an interesting article from Pediatrics, August 2009.I have had some travel time in the car so that gave me an opportunity to catch up on my journal reading. I found an interesting article from Pediatrics, August 2009.

This article seemed very timely given that we are into an early flu season with H1N1 already being prevalent throughout most of the country and more colds and influenza on the way this winter. This study was done in China and looked at 326 healthy children ages, three to five years old who were in a childcare center. This was a randomized, placebo controlled, double blind study in which there were three groups of children. The first group received probiotics as lactobacillus acidophilus alone, another group received lactobacillus acidophilus plus bifodbacterium, while the third group received placebo. All of these were given as a powder mixed with four ounces of milk, twice daily (So they were getting dairy too). Surprisingly, significantly fewer children in the two probiotic groups than in the placebo group had episodes of fever, cough and runny nose, as reported by both parents and day care providers.  In addition, significantly fewer children in the probiotic groups received antibiotics. The three groups did have similar numbers of physicians visits, but mean days absent from day care were significantly lower in the probiotic group than in the placebo group. There were no notable adverse effects noted in the children taking the probiotic mixtures. Now, the mechanism as to how the probiotics worked is not clear, but probiotics are being studied for their general immune enhancing effects. At the very least this is an interesting study, and hopefully there will be more studies done to see if these results can be duplicated in other trials in the U.S. With that being said, I am going to start reading some more about probiotics and also buying a few probiotics to take this winter. I can’t see that prophylactic probiotics to prevent cold and flu symptoms can hurt, and along with good hand washing and my flu vaccine I hope to stay healthy this winter. More to come about probiotics as more studies are released, I am happy to be a volunteer! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Child

2 Doses of Chickenpox Vaccine Almost 100 Percent Effective

2:00

Chickenpox is one of the most common childhood illnesses. It is a viral infection caused by the Varicella zoster virus and produces a painful, itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters.

It occurs most often in early spring and late winter and is highly contagious. Typically, chickenpox occurs in kids between 6 and 10 years of age.

A new study shows that among schoolchildren, two doses of the chickenpox vaccine is more effective than one.

Giving the first dose at age 1 and the second dose at ages 4 to 6 is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing the once common childhood disease, researchers have found.

"A second dose of varicella [chickenpox] vaccine provides school-aged children with better protection against the chickenpox virus, compared to one dose alone or no vaccination," said lead researcher Dana Perella, of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Two doses of the vaccine protected against the moderate to severe chickenpox infections that can lead to complications and hospitalizations, she said.

Before routine chickenpox vaccination began in 1995, virtually all children were infected at some point, sometimes with serious complications. About 11,000 children were hospitalized each year for chickenpox, and 100 died annually from the disease, according to the CDC.

One-dose vaccination greatly reduced incidence of chickenpox, but outbreaks continued to be reported in schools where many kids had been vaccinated. That led the CDC in 2006 to recommend a second vaccine dose.

To evaluate effectiveness of the double- dose regimen, Perella and colleagues collected data on 125 children with chickenpox in Philadelphia and northern Los Angeles and compared them with 408 kids who had not had the disease.

They found that two doses of the vaccine was slightly more than 97 percent effective in protecting kids from chickenpox.

"With improved protection provided by two-dose varicella vaccination compared with one-dose only, continued decreases in the occurrence of chickenpox, including more severe infections and hospitalizations, are expected as more children routinely receive dose two between the ages of 4 and 6 years," Perella said.

For children with weakened immune systems that cannot take the vaccine, having their classmates and playmates protected by the vaccine helps protect them against the viral infection.

School vaccine requirements should include two-dose varicella vaccination, Perella said.

"In addition, 'catch-up' varicella vaccination is also important," she said. This applies to anyone over 6 who haven’t had a second vaccine dose, especially if they could be exposed to chickenpox or shingles - a painful condition in older people caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus, she said.

Most healthy children who get chickenpox do not have serious complications from the illness. But there are cases when chickenpox has caused hospitalization, serious complications and even death.

A child may be at greater risk for complications if he or she:

·      Has a weakened immune system

·      Is under 1 year of age

·      Suffers from eczema

·      Takes a medication called salicylate

·      Was born prematurely

The report was published online March 14 and will appear in the April print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Story sources: Steven Reinberg, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20160314/two-dose-chickenpox-shot-gets-the-job-done-study-shows

http://www.parents.com/health/vaccines/chicken-pox/chickenpox-facts/

Your Teen

More Teens Fall Victim to Dating Violence

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The teenage years are supposed to be filled with laughter, fun and testing the boundaries of parental control. It’s also a time when many boys and girls will start dating. For some teens, the beginning of couple relationships is about as far away from fun as it could possibly be.

Some teenagers may think that teasing and name-calling are somehow linked with a fondness for someone, and that might have been true when they were six or seven years old. However, by the time a young girl or boy reaches their teenage years, that kind of behavior can take on a much different tone. What was once an awkward attempt at gaining someone’s attention can turn into physical and sexual abuse.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is happening more than you might think.

Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated.

Ten percent of high school boys also reported being physically or sexually assaulted by someone they had dated.

The authors of the new report noted that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults.

Sadly, teens that have experienced dating violence are at risk for other serious problems as well. Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely to consider suicide. They are also more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine and to have sex with multiple partners. Not the kind of life any parent would want for their teenager or the one that they would truly want for themselves.  

Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the study.

Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

"If there is violence once, there is likely to be violence again," Spinks-Franklin says. "It has to be taken very seriously."

Spinks-Franklin says she has seen violence even among relationships between 10- and 11-year-olds.

"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," she says. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."

Teens often hide the abuse from their parents, Spinks-Franklin says. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.

Some schools have taken the lead in promoting awareness of and education on teen dating violence. Pediatricians can also discuss this important topic with their patients and parents. If time is limited, brochures in the waiting room can offer information and open the door for questions.

"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."

Dating violence may never be eliminated one hundred percent, but can be considerably lessoned when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

One of the best strategies for prevention is for parents and teens to be able to communicate about serious topics without judgmental attitudes or closed-minded opinions. Your teen wants your help even if he or she doesn’t know how to ask. They'll appreciate you being there before and when they need you.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/03/02/teen-dating-violence-study/24127121/

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen_dating_violence.html

Your Baby

No Link Found Between Induced Labor and Autism

1:30

In 2013, a study suggested there might be a link between induced labor using a medication such as oxytocin, and a higher risk of the baby developing autism.  New research out of Boston, Massachusetts says there is no connection between the two.

"These findings should provide reassurance to women who are about to give birth, that having their labor induced will not increase their child's risk of developing autism spectrum disorders," said senior researcher Dr. Brian Bateman. He's an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Induced labor is sometimes needed when a mother’s labor stalls or the infant is endangered. Because of the former study, many women have had concerns about labor induction and the risk of autism.

Bateman's team of American and Swedish researchers, led by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, decided to investigate the issue.

They used a database on all live births in Sweden from 1992 through 2005, and looked at child outcomes for more than 1 million births through 2013, to identify any children diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric condition.

They also identified all the children's brothers, sisters and cousins on their mother's side of the family. The health of the children's mothers was also taken into account.

Eleven percent of the inductions were due to health complications such as preeclampsia, diabetes or high blood pressure. Twenty-three percent were induced because of late deliveries (after 40 weeks of pregnancy).

Results showed that 2 percent of the babies in the study were later diagnosed with autism.

When just looking at unrelated children, the researchers did find a link between induced labor and a greater risk for an autism spectrum disorder. This association disappeared, however, once they also considered the women's other children who were not born from an induced labor.

"When we used close relatives, such as siblings or cousins, as the comparison group, we found no association between labor induction and autism risk," said study author Anna Sara Oberg, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School.

Explaining further, she said in a university news release, "many of the factors that could lead to both induction of labor and autism are completely or partially shared by siblings -- such as maternal characteristics or socioeconomic or genetic factors." Therefore, Oberg said, "previously observed associations could have been due to some of these familial factors, not the result of induction."

Other experts have agreed with the new study’s findings.

"Pregnant women have enough things to worry about," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"If a woman's doctor recommends that labor be induced, the expectant mother should not worry about an increased risk of the child having an autism spectrum disorder," Adesman said.

If you have concerns about a connection between labor induction and autism, speak to your OB/GYN to learn more. 

The study was published in  in the July 25th online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

Story source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/autism-news-51/induced-labor-won-t-raise-autism-risk-in-kids-study-suggests-713155.html

 

Your Child

Probiotics Reduce Diarrhea and Respiratory Infections

2.00 to read

A daily dose of probiotics can reduce the occurrences of diarrhea or respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care according to a new study.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the natural and beneficial microorganisms found in the gut. They are often referred to as “good bacteria.”

In a study in Mexico, researchers tested 336 healthy children ages 6 months to 3 years who were attending day care centers. Half received a daily dose of Lactobacillus reuteri, a beneficial gut bacterium naturally present in many foods and in most people; the other half got an identical placebo.

The children were given probiotics or the placebo for 3 months and then followed for another 3 months without the supplements. During the study, 69 episodes of diarrhea were reported in the placebo group and 42 in the group receiving the probiotics. The placebo group had 204 respiratory tract infections, compared with 93 in those taking L. reuteri. And the placebo takers spent an average of 4.1 days on antibiotics, while the supplement users averaged 2.7 days. The differences persisted during the 12-week follow-up.

“What’s notable here is that they used a specific probiotic in a good design and they also did follow-up,” said Stephen S. Morse, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University who was not involved in the study. “This strengthens the evidence for the value of probiotics, but we still have a lot to learn.”

The research group concluded that a daily administration of probiotics in healthy children in day care centers “had a significant effect in reducing episodes and duration of diarrhea and respiratory tract infection, with consequent cost savings for the communities”.

Probiotics have been added to many food and beverage products making it easier for parents to add them to their child’s diet.

The most common food is yogurt but some manufacturers have added probiotics to ice creams, granola bars, cereals, juices and yes…even pizza.

Some parents swear by probiotics saying that they have eased their children’s symptoms of colic, eczema and intestinal problems.

Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but they can also kill the good bacteria and throw a child’s gut flora out of balance - leading to gastrointestinal distress. Previous studies have shown that adding supplements or foods containing probiotics to a child’s diet can have a positive affect on his or her bacterial balance.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics and was supported by a grant from a manufacturer of probiotic supplements.

Sources: Nicholas Bakalar, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/17/probiotic-eases-ills-in-children/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Nancy Gottesman, http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/healthy-eating/probiotics-the-friendly-bacteria/

Your Teen

Inhaled Steroids to the Rescue

1.45 to read

A new study suggests that the combination of daily-inhaled steroids, with the bronchial dilator Albuterol when an asthma attack starts, may improve mildly persistent asthma in children.

Using inhaled steroids as a rescue medicine along with albuterol may help some children with mild persistent asthma avoid daily inhaled steroid therapy and one of its potential side effects, namely growth restriction, according to a new study. The new findings, which appear in the Lancet, apply only to children with mild persistent asthma that is under control. This step-down treatment is not recommended for children with moderate to severe asthma or uncontrolled mild asthma. Many children with asthma take one or two puffs of inhaled steroids such as beclomethasone, morning and evening to prevent an asthma attack. They also use a bronchial-dilator such as albuterol as a rescue medication to treat any breakthrough symptoms. Such symptom relief from albuterol doesn’t get at the underlying airway inflammation, which is why some people need daily-inhaled steroids. Steroids, inhaled daily, are still considered the gold standard to prevent asthma attacks but are not risk-free. Risks of daily-inhaled steroid therapy in children include possible restricted growth and problems with adherence. “The strategy is to give rescue therapy with inhaled corticosteroids every time you need Albuterol for relief of symptoms,” says study researcher Fernando D. Martinez, MD, the Swift-McNear Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center at the University of Arizona Tucson. For example, “you can use two puffs on Monday and another two puffs on Friday during one week, none during another week, and six puffs every day on another week, depending on how many symptoms you have,” he says in an email. The key is to know when you need help. “If the cold starts causing tightness and shortness of breath, the child will need more albuterol and thus will use more inhaled steroids,” he says. Colds can be an asthma trigger. “The number of inhaled steroid puffs is proportional to how many albuterol puffs are needed, and therefore, to how severe the symptoms are.” Always Discuss Medication Changes With a Doctor First “This is some important and landmark work,” says Harold J. Farber, MD, an associate professor of the pediatric pulmonary section at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children Hospital in Houston and author of Control Your Child's Asthma. “Starting the steroid, beclomethasone, along with albuterol at onset of symptoms gave almost as good of a benefit in prevention as daily inhaled steroid therapy,” he says. But “for it to work, you have to start it early at first sign of an attack,” he says. “If we wait for severe problems, it’s too little too late.” This advice is only good for “folks with mild asthma, not folks with moderate to severe asthma,” he says. “If you have moderate to severe asthma, the use of inhaled corticosteroid every day is better than as-needed use.” “Always talk with your doctor before making any changes to medication,” Farber says. “When used as a rescue modality, inhaled steroids (beclomethasone) do a reasonable job at controlling symptoms without the side effects of reduced growth,” says William Checkley, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “This step-down approach reduces the need to do puffs twice a day.” But “there have to be more studies to support these findings,” he says. Checkley wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

Your Teen

Schools Start Too Early, Teens Sleep Deprived

2:00

It’s a battle that is picking up steam, whether to start school a little later so teenagers can get the sleep they need or keeping schedules as they are for the sake of planning before and after school activities.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that teenagers are biologically programmed to go to bed later than most adults and sleep later in the morning.

Last year, the AAP issued a set of guidelines recommending that school schedules are modified across the U.S. to start at 8.30 a.m. This way, children and teens would be able to meet the recommended sleep hours per night during school days.

Fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the United States start at 8:30 am or later, as recommended, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The same recommendations suggested that indeed, the biological rhythm of teenagers particularly is very different than that of adults. While they need 8 and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, their circadian rhythm doesn’t allow them to go to sleep before midnight or a little after.

School nights are particularly difficult for adolescents because in order to get the rest they need, they have to go to bed earlier than their minds and bodies are set to fall asleep.

The CDC released a new study supporting the recommendations of the AAP. According to the findings, 83 percent of U.S. schools still start before 8:30 a.m. On average, the starting time was calculated at 8:03 a.m., based on data collected from 39,700 combined schools, middle schools, and high schools between 2011-2012.

Depriving teens of that sleep could wreak havoc on their academic performance, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Getting enough sleep is important for students' health, safety, and academic performance," said Anne Wheaton, lead author and epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Population Health.

"Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need."

The issue is driving a heated debate between supporters of later school start times and school administrators.

Safwan Badr, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine stated:

“It makes absolutely no sense. You’re asking kids to learn math at a time their brains are not even awake”.

On the other hand, Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association stated with regards to changing school starting time:

“It’s a logistical nightmare. This has been going on forever, and kids have been graduation from school and going to college. It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt them all these years”.

Some experts note that the long-term consequence of sleep deprivation is hurting our teens and has been for quite some time.

Judith Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital suggests that chronically sleep deprivation characterizes the majority of today’s teens. This results in increased risk of onset depression, substance abuse, unhealthy BMIs. Long-term effects of sleep deprivation result in type 2 diabetes or heart diseases.

There are things that parents can do to help their teens at least rest better if they can’t fall asleep earlier. The first and foremost agitator for sleep is viewing or being on a computer or smartphone right before bed.

Recent studies have shown that the use of any electronic device in the hour before bedtime was associated with an increased risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to fall asleep. In particular, the use of a computer, smartphone or MP3 player in the hour before bedtime was strongly linked with taking longer to fall asleep.

Make your teen’s bedroom a quiet place that can be a retreat at night from busy schedules and social media.

Your teen can take a hot bath or shower before bed to boost deep sleep. Then keep his or her room cool (about 68 F) to cool down the body. One study showed that sleep happens when the body cools. Wakefulness occurs when the body temperature warms up.

Aromatherapy helps some people fall off to sleep. Certain scents are shown to be relaxing such as orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender. You can apply these oils before bed or put them on pillows, sheets or in potpourri. If candles are used, make sure they are put out before getting in bed. 

Having a regular schedule can help the body adjust. Going to bed at the same time each night can assist in adjusting the body’s circadian rhythm.  

More high schools are considering changing their schedules to a later start time, but currently most schools are keeping with the typical earlier schedules. You may not be able to convince the school board to start school at little later, but you can help your teen find what works for them at night to help them get the amount of sleep they need to function at their best.

Sources: Bonnie Gleason, http://www.trinitynewsdaily.com/chronically-sleep-deprived-teens-need-schools-starting-time-changed/3209/

http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/u-s-teens-start-school-too-early-need-more-sleep-study-1.2506322

http://teens.webmd.com/features/8-ezzz-sleep-tips-teens

 

 

 

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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