Finally, researchers are beginning to pay serious attention to the frightening rise in allergies and asthma among children. For too long it has seemed to me to be something that was just accepted and dealt with. We can ban peanuts from airplanes and peanut butter from school snacks; we can turn once again to the drug companies in our search for relief for our children's problems; but better than palliative measures would be to discover and eliminate the cause of this scourge.

What has changed for children, that their immune systems are compromised? Why has peanut butter, that staple of childhood, suddenly become deadly? Could it be pollutants in their environment? Side effects of the greatly-increased number of childhood vaccines? The lack, for so many children, of the immune system boost provided by breastfeeding? Hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals unnaturally introduced into our food? The rise of day care and preschool, exposing infants and young children to a barrage of disease germs? Or—the "hygiene hypothesis"—is our children's environment too clean, too sterile, for proper development of their immune systems?

Whatever the answer—and it's bound to be something complicated, rather than a single solution—it's a question that hasn't had the priority it deserves.

One recent study suggests a link between food allergies, asthma, and vitamin supplements for infants. The increased risk was greater for blacks than for whites, and for formula-fed babies than for those who were breastfed.

The article mentions the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that exclusively breasfed infants receive vitamin D supplements. It seems to me that if breastmilk does not contain adequate vitamin D for infants, it must mean that our children were designed to receive vitamin D from exposure to sunlight—a much more pleasant, and natural, solution to the problem. But the AAP doesn't like sunshine, either....
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 15, 2004 at 5:44 pm | Edit
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I could not agree more on the sunlight issue. If children had been dying for lack of Vit D, natural selection would have addressed the problem. Also, sunlight naturally breaks up excess bilirubin in babies allowing their bodies to excrete it and letting jaundiced babies avoid "bili lights." A couple hours of sunshine a day would do our babies a world of good!

Apparently breastmilk doesn't provide adequate iron for babies, either, which is the primary nutritional reason it is recommended to start babies in on solid foods at five or six months. Provided the mother gets plenty of iron while she is pregnant, the baby should have iron stores to last at least 6-8 months. My midwife said that all the baby needed was breastmilk for the first year of life, and iron deficiency certainly didn't affect my daughter at all. I don't deny that older babies need iron, but how would nature get it to them? Well... babies need to play in the dirt!

I would love to hear more about the asthma issue, though. My four year old has "reactive airway disease," which is asthma, but not in response to allergies, rather in response to any normal respiratory infection. (She's been hospitalized once overnight and visited the emergency room twice.) She has an excellent diet, was never fed supplements regularly, and was breastfed exclusively for the first year of life. We live in a rural area with minimal pollution. I can only assume that sometimes asthma is just plain genetic, but am always open to new info.

Posted by Amber Holmes on Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Welcome, Amber! You have no idea how excited was to discover that you're not a spammer. (Nearly all comments to my older posts are generic, often misspelled, and contain links tempting me to buy things I most certainly don't want.)

From my completely non-professional perspective, I have to agree that sometimes asthma is genetic—I can see it in my own family. I suspect we are all more or less genetically predisposed toward it, with some people always having the problem, some never, and many in the middle who can be pushed one way or the other by environmental factors.

If it's any consolation and hope to you, our youngest reacted badly when young to respiratory infections, but eventually outgrew it.

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, May 02, 2009 at 7:30 am
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