Our immune system starts out delicate. The first 2 years are critical. Luckily, natural remedies for eczema in infants, toddlers and children are safe and effective.
The phrase to understand here is “immune tolerance.” The immune system is supposed to attack things it is supposed to (like bacteria and viruses) and not attack things it is not supposed to (like our skin, thyroid or gut). This is called tolerance. And it develops very early. Like, “in the womb” early.
A few things are well known to increase the risk of asthma and eczema very early in life.
- Paracetamol (Tylenol) use in pregnancy increases risk of asthma in children
- While nursing is best, if formula is used, hydrolyzed formulas like Nutramagen or Alimentum may lower the risk of eczema and asthma
- Vitamin D intake during pregnancy may lower the risk of wheezing up to 3 years of age
- C-section babies are at increased risk of allergies and asthma
Hold on…C-sections can increase the risk of immune system problems? “How does that happen?” you may ask.
One of the most powerful factors helping newborns, infants and toddlers develop a healthy immune system and good immune tolerance is the presence of a healthy bacterial flora. I would have to venture to say that, based on the evidence, this may be THE most important factor for a healthy immune system. And not just in our younger years, but for the rest of our lives.
Back to the C-section dilemma.
In the womb, a developing baby’s gut is sterile. Nothing is growing in it, although it is a warm and very hospitable environment for bacteria to grow. So, as the baby passes through the vaginal canal, that baby’s first exposure should be Lactobacillus from healthy bacterial flora in the vaginal vault. Now, if mom’s had antibiotics this might not occur.
So think of the C-section baby. Rather than Lactobacillus, the first bacteria to hit that nice warm growing environment is kind of up for grabs. And sure enough, we see differences in the bacterial flora of the gut in infants born vaginally vs C-section. But can the C-section baby be spared the increased risk?
That leads us to this particular study. Researchers found that giving a Lactobacillus supplementation for the first 2 years of a high risk newborn’s life had some pretty amazing effects.
- Risk of having eczema at 4 years was cut 43%
- Rhinoconjunctivitis (think runny nose and watery eyes) at 4 years was a whopping 62% lower
- There were also smaller reductions in the risk of atopic dermatitis (26%)
- Risk of wheeze was down 21%
- Allergic sensitization down 28%
Interestingly, the probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis did not affect the risk of any of these.
These are some pretty massive impacts from such a simple and safe natural remedy for eczema in our infants, toddlers and children. And keep in mind that these effects are likely lifelong–those first 2 years are so critical that they can set up a lifetime of protection or problems.
Looking at the flip side, it becomes clear that antibiotics can be a major contributor to the development of these same problems by killing off the good bacteria.
Given that some 90% of kids are given antibiotics by the time they are 2, did your child’s pediatrician explain some of the problems that might occur with destruction of the normal flora? Better yet, did they recommend probiotics after antibiotics? Feel free to share!