Thursday, July 17, 2008

Place Blame for Asthma Here: Stomach Germs and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Yesterday, my co-worker shared with me an article that stated that eating too much peanut butter during pregnancy may increase the likelihood that your child will develop asthma.

Now I know that I craved - and indulged in - many peanut butter sandwiches during one of my pregnancies...but was it child one, child two, or the miscarriage before both? (I know it wasn't child three - I was too busy to EAT during that one!)

It's a theory I can get behind because, having the traditional "mother's guilt", it puts the blame on me. I can take responsibility for my kids' asthma once and for all. Pretty messed up, huh?

But another theory that seems a little sane is this one: A study at the NYU Langone Medical Center found that H pylori, a bacterium that used to be common in the human stomach, seems to prevent pediatric asthma, allergies and hayfever. Prior to WWII, this was a familiar germ, but with the advent of antibiotics and antibacterials, resulting in cleaner homes and schools, it's become pretty rare. Here are some stats and quotes from the study worth sharing:

"In our study we asked the question, is there any relationship between having H. pylori in the stomach and having asthma and other allergic disorders," said lead researcher Dr. Martin J. Blaser, the Frederick H. King Professor of Internal Medicine and chairman of the department of medicine at the New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"We found a strong inverse association between H. pylori and childhood asthma, childhood hay fever and childhood allergies," added Blaser, who's also a professor of microbiology and has studied H. pylori for more than two decades.

Blaser thinks that H. pylori may protect the body against asthma. "When children have H. pylori in their stomach, their immune system is different than if they don't have H. pylori," he said.


Among children in the survey, just 5.4 percent born in the 1990s tested positive for H. pylori. In addition, 11.3 percent of the children under 10 had taken antibiotics in the month before the survey.

Blaser and Chen found that among children 3 to 13 years of age, those who carried the stomach bug were 59 percent less likely to develop asthma than children without H. pylori. These children were also 40 percent less likely to suffer from hay fever and other allergies, such as eczema or rash.

Among children aged 3 to 19, the researchers found that those who harbored H. pylori reduced their risk of asthma by 25 percent.

OK...if there's an experiment related to this study, can I bring my kids?